Multiple women have come forward alleging that late legendary equestrian coach Jimmy A. Williams sexually abused them while under his tutelage, in a story broken in part by the New York Times Tuesday.
Williams, who is estimated to have taught 37 professional riders and Olympic medalists, died in 1993 at the age of 76. In 1989, a lifetime achievement award was named in his honor.
An earlier report posted on the Chronicle of the Horse quoted five women who said that Williams abused in a number of ways, from discussing his sex life with them, to forcing them to kiss him, to attempting to force their faces onto his genitalia.
The Times corroborated that story with accounts from 38 “former students, trainers, grooms, equestrian officials and members of the Flintridge Riding Club,” where Williams worked.
Allegations mirror those of other Olympic sports
Both the Times and Chronicle stories reflect the sentiment of the abuse victims that have emerged in a number of sports, including USA Gymnastics and USA swimming. Those featured in the stories confirm that Williams’ power over them was a result of his success, and that they worried about retribution if they were to speak out. Some also noted that because Williams was so well-regarded as a coach, their parents may have ignored warnings signs of the abuse.
The Chronicle reports includes details from a number of Williams’ former students. One recalled that he would force her into horse stalls for “kissing sessions, and would say that “You’re going to need to learn this for the big world.” Another student said that he started kissing her when she was 11 years old, and told her not to tell. Others added memories of “inappropriate sexual advances,” and one recalled being forced to hear about his sex life:
“I’d be riding in the ring, and [Jimmy would] come up alongside of me and walk alongside—he’d always be on a horse in the ring—and he’d tell me horrible sexual stories about how to turn on a woman and his own sexual experiences,” she recalled. “For me, I had to get to the point where I would shut that part of my brain down when things were happening. I didn’t allow it to penetrate me. I’d already been molested by [my previous trainer], and I’d learned how to shut that part of my brain down. You knew things were going on, but you didn’t feel them. He kissed me, told me foul sexual stories, and touched me in places that he shouldn’t have.”
The Times report raises questions as to why it took so long for the allegations to arise; Some subjects interviewed dismissed the cases as “mores of a different era.”
However, then-United States Equestrian Federation VP Jane Forbes Clark did tell the Times that she had heard about the allegations before Williams was awarded the lifetime achievement award, called a friend to ask for an opinion on the situation, and then did not investigate further.
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