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My Story Helped Create Change.

By August 14, 2023February 14th, 2024Sex Abuse

My name is Kim Bergman and I am a survivor of child sexual abuse.  I was 12 years old when my gymnastics coach, David Byrd, began abusing me.  David had a reputation in the gymnastics community for inappropriate behavior.  Unfortunately, those rumors were ignored and David was granted unlimited access to children.

“My abuser was never prosecuted for abusing me.  I assumed this meant that no one believed me, or that I simply did not matter.”

As an adult, I discovered that Child Protective Services had actually substantiated my abuse.  The abuse I endured had a profound impact on my life, my relationships, and my future career as a social worker in child welfare and legislative advocacy.

Over the years I have learned that my experience was one small part of a culture of abuse within USA Gymnastics.  In 2016, the biggest scandal of child sexual abuse in sports history began to unfold when the world learned of the horrors of Dr. Larry Nassar and his abuse of athletes as the team doctor for USA Gymnastics (USAG).  Hundreds of survivors came forward reporting that they were abused by Nassar.  It was also discovered that USAG had a history of dismissing allegations of child sexual abuse within the sport.

In 2018, my friend told me about an ad she saw on Facebook for A Case for Women and that they were seeking to help women who had been abused in gymnastics.  I figured that this was probably only for survivors who were abused by Larry Nassar, but went ahead and filled out the questionnaire.  I was immediately connected with an intake worker and was referred to my attorney, Kim Dougherty, who represented me as K.B. Doe 17 in the lawsuit against USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee.

A Case for Women and my attorney helped me to work through my abuse and understand that change was needed to make sure that what happened to me would never happen to another child.  I learned that while lawsuits help compensate survivors for damages, they more importantly force organizations to create necessary changes for the future.

During this time, federal legislation was enacted to help keep athletes safe from sexual abuse and the national Safe Sport organization was created.  As a gymnastics coach, I have seen the steps that USAG has taken to make gymnastics a safer place for children.  I believe these changes were a direct result of the lawsuit filed against them.

“Joining the lawsuit helped me to find my voice and become a voice for others.”

My attorney was contacted by a local reporter who was making a story about Safe Sport and abused athletes.  I decided to go public and share my story.  I was re-connected with David Byrd’s last known victim, Tess, and the two of us have become great friends and advocates for other survivors.

Tess and I have learned that we are two of eleven known victims.  Although there are eleven of us, David Byrd was only convicted of abusing Tess due to the statute of limitations.  David Byrd had literally gotten a Get Out of Jail Free Card for what he did to me.

I joined a group of abuse survivors and legislators who were advocating to remove the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse in my home state of Kansas.  I have spent the last two years meeting with reporters, appearing on podcasts, speaking at press conferences, sending thousands of emails, and meeting with legislators to educate the public about child sexual abuse and to advocate for this important legislation.

This year our group passed a bill unanimously in the Kansas Legisture that removed the criminal statute of limitations for child sexual abuse and extended the civil statute of limitations from age 21 to age 31.  Studies show that the average age that a survivor discloses their abuse is 52 years old.  We plan to come back next year to pursue legislation that will completely remove the civil statute of limitations so that survivors can come forward in their own time and seek justice for their abuse.  I feel like I have finally found my calling.

“My lawsuit was settled in the Spring of 2022, four years after I first contacted A Case for Women. A lot has changed for me since the lawsuit began.  I never dreamed that I would be a part of something this big.”

The day I received my award letter was the first time that I felt like I truly mattered, and that someone thought that what happened to me was actually worth something.  I was proud that my story helped create change that would protect future children.  And for me, that was worth more than any financial settlement could ever give me.

-Kim Bergman, LMSW