U.S. swimmer and Olympic silver medalist Margaret Hoelzer is opening up about being sexually abused as a child. Hoelzer says she was abused by a playmate’s father at the age of 5.
"I was going to their house on a regular basis. I would spend the night at their house from time to time. ... It was definitely a situation where I was taught to trust that person."
The abuse went on for several years until her family moved away. Hoelzer says she wasn’t sure what was going on and didn’t fully realize she was abused until years later when talking about her childhood with a friend. She then confided in her parents who called the National Child Advocacy Center. The family all went through counseling and even though Hoelzer pursued legal action, a lack of physical evidence meant formal charges were never brought.
Now that many years have passed, Hoelzer, who won 3 medals at the Beijing Olympics, says she wants to use her past to help others. She majored in psychology at college and spent time studying sexual abuse cases. She now works with the National Child Advocacy Center and recently returned to counseling.
"I was looking for a sense of peace within myself, and I was looking for a sense of confidence. Since I've been back in counseling, the biggest thing I've learned is that what (sexual abuse) does. It undermines people's value. It undermines their self-confidence. I think that's what swimming was for me for so many years. I was thinking it was something I could control, but it was really a way for me to build confidence."
Statistics show one in four girls and one in seven boys under the age of 18 will be the victims of sexual abuse. Learn more about child abuse.