A couple of days ago Tatiana Gutsu wrote on Facebook that she does not want to talk to the media because they only care about scandals and sensations and not about people’s feelings and specifically expressed her outrage at Pryamoy Efir show (a tabloid type talk show on Russian tv) which treated her badly.
The show aired last night and here I will share some of the details from it. First of all, it is important to note that this is the kind of trashy talk show that would try to pit guests against each other, cause shouting matches and even physical fights in the studio. It’s the kind of show that thrives on scandals, whether real or artificial. I am assuming that Tatiana Gutsu was not aware of the show’s reputation and thought that a show on Russian national television would treat her better. It is a pity that this is the medium she decided to talk to because she received absolutely horrific treatment. She was watching via a video call how the guests on the show (most of them some random people with no connection to gymnastics) blamed her for the rape, called her a liar, and said that she did it for fame or to get back at Scherbo who refused her advances. In addition, the guests included Leonid Arkayev who was the national team head coach at the time of the alleged rape. Arkaeyv, who’s been accused of inappropriate behavior towards underage gymnasts, claimed that he maintained strict discipline on the team and never allowed gymnasts to drink. However, Gutsu’s not the first gymnast who talked about national team gymnasts drinking after competitions. Even Svetlana Khorkina wrote in her book that she got drunk and passed out on the plane back from Atlanta and that the coaches drank together with the gymnasts. Khorkina was 17 at the time, below the legal drinking age in Russia.
The producers also interviewed Gutsu’s ex-husband, who has been sentenced to 90 days in prison for assaulting her. The ex-husband claimed that Gutsu is a liar and lied about his assault, too (as if we lived in a magical world where women were automatically believed and men could be imprisoned just on the basis of a woman’s statement with no other proof). Gutsu commented that her ex-husband was sentenced for, among other things, putting a gun to her head.
Gutsu was also asked to comment on Sharipov’s and Toropova’s statements that they did not know anything. She said that she’s not sure if Sharipov knew and it might be that he left earlier and wasn’t aware of what was happening. however, she insisted that Toropova was in the room and saw the state Gutsu was in afterward. However, since both were drinking, Gutsu acknowledged that Toropova might have been too intoxicated to remember the details.
The show was absolutely horrific and a blatant example of how rape culture is alive and well in Russia and how people don’t even understand the concept of rape. I will not be translating the comments that Gutsu received there because it’s enough that these things are being regurgitated in the Russian media right now.
However, I want to translate one very important thing. At the beginning of the show, they aired a video of Tatiana Gutsu describing the rape in details. It’s incredibly brave of her to talk about this and she deserves to be heard.
Here’s her description:
This man took away my feelings, he took away my voice, he took away my joy.
I was a child. I was a child. In 1991, I only turned 15 years old at the World Championships*.
We finished the competition. My coach told me that I competed great even though I was a bit upset with my performance, I lost the first place. But ok, second place was also nice. That night, when we were already in the hotel, Vitaly Scherbo came to our room with champagne. I don’t know how much I drank and I don’t know how much I smoked** because I was smoking and I was coughing.
When I came to [long pause, barely holding tears] it was very dark. It was scarily dark. My hands were held like this [puts hands together as if bound] with such strong force. I was lying on my stomach, my face was slammed into the pillow like this. I don’t know for how long he’s been doing it to me, but when I came to and he realized that I’m conscious, he pressed his hand to my mouth like this [presses her hand to her mouth], so that I wouldn’t be able to say anything. I gathered all my strength, everything I had, to get away, but I couldn’t, I couldn’t, I was trying. I couldn’t even scream.
I couldn’t get away, I was trying, I was trying to get away. I came to because everything [in my body] was burning, and because I was hurting and because I was scared and I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. [cries]
When he finished what he was doing he only whispered one word “Nikomu”***. I was lying on my bed, I was just waiting for the door closing shut so that he wouldn’t be there.
I ran to the toilet. While I was running I peed myself, I peed myself because of fear, because of pain. I wasn’t wearing clothes, I was only wearing a top, a t-shirt, I was in socks and a top. I felt sick all night and all morning.
The next morning, we had to go to another city. And while we were on the bus, I was hearing his laughter, his disgusting laughter, his disgusting voice. Everything irritated me, absolutely everything. I was lying in the back of the bus, I was sick all day long. I was throwing up. I was throwing up because I was hurt, because I was afraid to tell my coach that I was abused, because I was alone. Somehow I felt that I was alone, that I couldn’t tell anyone, share my pain, because suddenly… I had everything [before], I used to laugh, I used to smile, and suddenly I had nothing at all.
We arrived in another city, we checked in the hotel and I went to bed. I covered myself with a blanket because I was afraid that he would come [to my room] again and something would happen, I just covered myself with a blanket and cried, cried, cried from pain, cried because I was molested.
The scariest thing was that all the competitions we went in 1992 – he was there.
*The competition in Stuttgart took place sometime after the 1991 Worlds.
**She refers here to cigarettes, not weed.
***”Nikomu” literally means “to no one”, here it means a threat “you can’t say anything to anyone”