France 2 is offering an evening event around the documentary next Wednesday 11 May “Such a long silence” describing the career of speed skater Sarah Abitbol, the victim of sexual assault by her trainer. The film returns to the extraordinary impact her revelations about the sexual assaults she suffered had on the French sports world. This exceptional documentary is followed by a debate led by Julian Bugier.
The evening continues with Infra-red and another new documentary: ice therapy† The film follows former figure skating champions, injured by intensive practice of their sport, who try to rebuild themselves after a sudden end to their careers.
Sports and sexual violence: the end of the silence?
21.10 — What a long silence
Young Sarah has been promised a champion career at a very young age…
Like all little girls her age, Sarah Abitbol has only one dream: to become a figure skater. From the age of 5, she trained intensively and possessed all the qualities to become a great skater and find glory. Moving to Paris and disrupting family life, this is the price you have to pay to become a champion!
It will be her, as a couple. Ten-time champion of France, vice-champion of Europe and bronze medalist at the World Championships. In the 1990s, speed skating was one of the most popular sports in France and around the world. All matches are broadcast in prime time on national channels and the champions of the discipline are real popular stars. Katarina Witt, Philippe Candeloro, Surya Bonaly, the Anissina/Peizerat, Abitbol/Bernadis couples… Ice and glitter make all of France dream.
When a champion breaks the omerta in French sport
However, the skate world hides some of the horror: ubiquitous sexual harassment and violent assaults on minors. Despite the rumours, the victims’ voices are muffled, muzzled by a system that protects itself. It is the lordship of omerta. Sarah’s, raped when she was between 15 and 17 years old, was also asphyxiated for thirty years. Until 2020, when she finds the courage deep within herself to break the ice and open up about the attacks she has undergone in the book. Such a long silence†
The publication of his book led to an unprecedented upheaval in the world of speed skating and French sport as a whole. The other testimonials from victims are not long in coming. Sarah Abitbol paved the way for free speech.
22.45 — Debate hosted by Julian Bugier
The revelations about Sarah Abitbol’s rape during her adolescence and early career sent shockwaves across the sports world. They have helped with freedom of expression for some victims. But is this the end of the silence? Are some still quiet? What are the roles and responsibilities of the various sports bodies that are supposed to monitor the practices and protect sportsmen and women: sports federations, the state, institutions such as the International Olympic Committee? How to support the victims? But above all: how can this violence be prevented? And how can we make children and their parents aware of the risks of violence?
Julian Bugier receives on set:
- Sarah Abitbol
- Emmanuelle Anison, L’Obs journalist and co-director of the documentary
- Roxana MaracineanuMinister (or ex according to news) of sports
- Sebastien Boueilh, association Colossus with feet of clay, victim of sexual violence as a teenager
- Philippe Liotard, sociologist and anthropologist specializing in sexual violence in sports
- Greg DecampsPresident of the French Society of Sport Psychology.
23.45 — Ice Therapy
Marina, Lison, Camille and Aurea are former figure skating champions, they are between 16 and 24 years old. They devoted their childhood and adolescence to their practice until a sudden stop for physical and psychological harm.
Today they have to learn to live without the skates. During a course organized by choreographer Benoît Richaud, they will try to reclaim their bodies through ice, understand things from the past through skating and give words to things they would rather not think about until now. Sharing their buried memories together, they come out of their loneliness and gradually affirm new desires.
Such a long silence, followed by ice therapy, next Wednesday, May 11 on France 2. To be seen or reviewed on france.tv.