EDITOR’S NOTE: ABC4 has reached out to Kara Eaker directly and is awaiting her response. The following information was posted through her verified social media accounts and confirmed to be posted by her through a teammate.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — University of Utah gymnast Kara Eaker announced her retirement from both the team and the sport itself Thursday citing “verbal and emotional abuse” while training with the Utah Gymnastics Team.
Eaker’s retirement from the sport may come as a surprise to some due to her impressive career as a gymnast. She was an Olympic alternate for the U.S. team, a four-year member of the USA National Team, and a two-time World Champion as a Team USA member, according to her bio.
Eaker posted on social media announcing her retirement and her withdrawal from the university saying her mental and physical health “rapidly declined” due to the alleged abuse. She said she is now working with a psychologist and has been diagnosed with several mental health conditions, including anxiety-induced insomnia and PTSD.
She said she had hopes of training with a team that felt like family and sisterhood but instead encountered an “unhealthy, unsafe, and toxic environment.”
She then said she is choosing to speak out for all the women who are paralyzed by fear and “can no longer stand by while perpetrators are still allowed in sports and are causing young girls and women to suffer.”
Eaker’s announcement came one month after the university released a review into verbal and emotional abuse allegations toward Coach Tom Farden. The independent review, conducted by the law firm Husch Blackwell, found that Farden’s actions caused some student-athletes to feel an “increased fear of failure,” but were not “severe, pervasive or egregious” acts of abuse as defined by NCAA regulations.
The university said Coach Farden would keep his position but required the implementation of new policies and procedures to improve the team’s environment.
Coach Farden also commented on the review, saying he takes the concerns about his behavior and coaching methods “very seriously” and it has been “painful to learn of the negative impacts that [his] words and actions have created.” He also said he respected everyone who came forward with concerns saying their input “has caused me to humbly reflect and hold myself accountable in order to improve.”
Eaker said this kind of abuse causes suffering and even death by suicide “yet in sports, it is still accepted for a coach to manipulate, bully, and berate an athlete.” She said the university and athletic department failed her by dismissing her concerns. She also claimed the investigation done by Husch Blackwell was incomplete and used inaccurate descriptions.
She said that verbal and emotional abuse is difficult to identify and said the abuse often happened in one-on-one meetings with “an overpowering coach” who used “condescending, sarcastic and manipulative tactics.” She also said she had been degraded and humiliated to the point of tears in front of her teammates.
“I believe in the power of truth and the need for safety and I want to be a part of the solution. I want to stop the cycle of abuse and the men who threaten girls and women in all sports. And I want to help girls and women find their voices, because together we can make a difference,” Eaker said.