Sascoc exploited my abuse story, says Hewitt rape victim
As if having to change her identity wasn't enough, she now says the sports body used pics of her without her permission
One of Bob Hewitt’s victims has laid an official complaint against the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), claiming the organisation has violated her right to privacy, shamed her and exploited her story of abuse.
Three years since Hewitt, a former international tennis champion, was sentenced to six years in prison for the rape and sexual assault of former pupils in the 1980s and 1990s, the woman is still in the process of rebuilding her identity. The widely publicised criminal trial and the subsequent harassment she faced led her to change her name, and now when mentioned in the media she is usually referred to just as Olivia.
In her letter to Sascoc president Gideon Sam, Olivia claims the sporting body had used pictures of her in their coach training programme focusing on child protection, without her permission.
“Sascoc has included a recent photograph of me as the victim that Hewitt had raped as a 12-year-old girl and on the same slide Sascoc chose to include my convicted rapist, the ex-tennis coach, Bob Hewitt. The slide is entitled ‘from Hall of Fame to Hall of Shame’,” she wrote.
“Your recent actions of gross callousness to athletes in South Africa who have been sexually abused is distressing and has inflicted heightened levels of emotional stress and has traumatised me greatly.
“When Hewitt applied for correctional supervision after serving two years of his six-year sentence, there was no support from Sascoc and other sporting bodies,” she continued.
In her letter, Olivia said she had no option but to change her identity. “I live two different lives to protect myself, my child and two grandchildren, who also suffered as a result of this abuse, and worst was when I decided to speak out.”
She also calls out Sascoc for failing to support the victims in other criminal cases involving coaches who sexually abused the children they were training.
She refers to the sexual harassment claims against former Sascoc chief executive Tubby Reddy, which ultimately led to his departure from the body, and the ministerial report that revealed the board had failed to deal with harassment within the organisation.
“As the National Olympic body for South Africa you are able to protect and reassure sexually abused women and men that you have an effective policy in place. I certainly would have thought that by now (eight years after we spoke publically about our abuse by Bob Hewitt) that some type of effective policy around sexual offences would have been published by Sascoc,” she wrote.
Sam confirmed the organisation had received Olivia’s letter. “I also personally spoke to her over the phone. The matter is being dealt with by Sascoc and I have copied the two managers on your query. Suffice it to say that the workshop in question was not conducted by Sascoc personnel, but I have asked for the full details, which will be shared with you as soon as it is available,” he said.
On Thursday, Sascoc responded to queries by forwarding a letter it claimed to have sent to Olivia, written by chief executive Patience Shikwambana.
“Sascoc noted the serious concerns and issues you raised about our organisation failing to protect you as an individual in relation to the use of your image after your experience and trauma in tennis. We sincerely apologise that the facilitator of the workshop, in her presentation, failed to respect your privacy and brought back those unpalatable sad moments,” she wrote.
Shikwambana said Sascoc had a clear policy against sexual harassment and would never have permitted the image to be used in a presentation. She said she wished to assure Olivia that the matter was being attended to, and that feedback would be provided. Olivia said she had not yet received the letter.