Kylie McKenzie was 19 at the time, and she and her attorneys say that her sexual assault was entirely preventable because they claim there's a pattern of USTA turning a blind eye to these kinds of allegations.
"My confidence and self-esteem was gone, on and off the court," said the now 22-year-old while sharing her story on March 29. She claims the USTA failed to protect her from a known sexual abuser.
McKenzie's lawyers said in the filing that USTA did not disclose that her coach, Anibal Aranda, had assaulted one of its employees years before the alleged incident involving McKenzie.
"USTA knowingly assigned a predator coach to then 19-year-old Kylie with no warning or safeguards whatsoever. This was analogous to sending a wolf to a sheep," her lawyer said.
She says she reported the crime to the United States Center for SafeSport. After the investigation, they accepted her allegations and ordered a two-year ban against her coach.
Even with the ban, McKenzie said it became almost impossible for her to train anymore as her mental health suffered greatly after her assault.
"Following the crime, I experienced anxiety, panic attacks and depression. I felt sick and overwhelmed," she said.
McKenzie and her lawyers are demanding a comprehensive review of the USTA's athlete safety program and Congressional hearings for those who turned a blind eye to athletes being sexually abused.
"I hope to bring positive change and hope to bring awareness to these issues so that other young athletes don't have to worry about being sexually assaulted at practice," McKenzie said.
It's been extremely tough getting back on the court, she says, but is making progress and plans to start competing again this summer.
Chris Widmaier, USTA Managing Director of Communications, released a statement saying, in full, "Prior to the incident reported by Ms. McKenzie, USTA and USTA Player Development had no knowledge of prior harassment or inappropriate conduct by Anibal Aranda. USTA and Player Development followed its established procedures in acting swiftly to report the incident and protect and support Ms. McKenzie. We cannot and will not comment on a witness statement referenced in a U.S. Center for SafeSport investigative file. Such disregard for confidentiality requirements deprives the privacy expected by participating witnesses, potentially jeopardizes SafeSport’s ability to investigate reported incidents, and is prohibited by federal law. We can, however, state that USTA and Player Development employees, as well as volunteers and vendors engaged by USTA and Player Development, are made aware of multiple avenues of reporting misconduct, harassment, and unethical behavior. These non-exclusive avenues include the individual’s supervisor, the Office of USTA Human Resources, the Office of the USTA Chief Ethics Officer, online reporting through www.ethicspoint.com, and a whistleblower hotline established in 2006. Training and materials regarding these resources are made available by USTA on an annual basis."
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