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Sexual Abuse in Sports: A Growing Pandemic

/ (Plymouth Meeting, PA)—Penn State. Syracuse. Their sports programs have been tarnished in the last year by horrifying allegations of sexual abuse of children perpetrated by their coaches. But they're not the only ones. Sexual abuse is rampant in the sports field, from the pros right down to Little League.

Just look at the news: In his recent autobiography, Sugar Ray Leonard revealed he was molested by an Olympic coach. Former NHL player Mike Danton was also abused by a former coach—Graham James, who allegedly did the same to NHL stars Theo Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy. USA Swimming was the subject of a lawsuit when former coach Chris Wheat was sentenced to ten years in prison for sexually abusing swimmers.

"Those are just the well-known cases," says Peter S. Pelullo, author of the newly released book "Betrayal and the Beast," in which he reveals his own struggles as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. "Think about all the athletes who are too scared to come forward because they are too victimized or because they believe it might put their future career on the line."

According to WomenSport International, sexual harassment and abuse are just as prevalent in the sports world as they are in society at large. It also reports that often sports organizations are ill prepared to assist and protect athletes who might have been sexually abused.

John Mair of the US Olympic Committee's risk management and workplace safety programs has noted there are three types of individuals in the sports world who may be more vulnerable to sexual attacks:

Female athletes younger than seventeen, especially those who excel at their sport.
Those who are often away from home to perform their sport or who relocate to be near their coaches.
Athletes involved in sports that require greater states of undress, such as swimming.

"The mentor-athlete relationship in sports can be intense," says Mr. Pelullo. "It's upsetting that some coaches would use it to satisfy their own pedophilic compulsions. Sadly, those who are violated in this way often don't come forward until years later and fail to receive the help they need when they need it most. It's time the sports world starts to understand the damage that sexual abuse can inflict on its youngest members and put and end to the lifelong suffering of those who are being violated."

Peter S. Pelullo was the founder of Philly World Records and owner of a premiere recording studio in the '70s, where he worked with the Rolling Stones, Evelyn "Champagne" King, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Cashmere, and Eugene Wilde. He is now an entrepreneur and financier focusing on technology startups. During his journey in recovery, he created the Let Go…Let Peace Come In Foundation, which supports adult victims of childhood sexual abuse throughout the world.

For more information contact Gretchen Paules at or visit