The close-knit NSW junior basketball community was shocked on May 25 when well-known coach Grant Cole was charged with two counts of aggravated sexually touching the 16-year-old after a three-month investigation by the State Crime Command’s Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad.
By then the 58-year-old Cole had moved from Orange to Maitland, where he was set to coach a women’s team.
Police were to allege in court on June 11 that Cole sexually touched the teenager while performing massage treatment at two properties in Orange between June and September 2019.
The victim went to police to protect other victims from further suffering and to encourage them to come forward.
After he did so, at least three more potential victims came forward to police.
The boy’s mother told The Sunday Telegraph the aftermath of her son speaking out had been extremely difficult, as the basketball community, largely unaware of the detail of the charges, used social media to publicly support Cole.
She expressed anger at NSW Basketball for its handling of the case and called for more transparency “to protect victims and children who have been exposed to a perpetrator within their organisation”.
“Our son has suffered more than a child should ever have to at the hands of someone he trusted and respected,” she said.
“He (Cole) has killed himself to prevent everyone knowing he was a sexual predator after admitting it, apologising for it and promising us he would get help. But instead he moved to a new area, continuing his association with basketball.”
Seeing the funeral notice containing the words “respected coach” made her physically sick.
“Respected by who? Only the people who are not aware of who he truly was, because when they are fully informed of his heinous crimes, respect will be nowhere to be found,” she said.
“You cannot be a paedophile and a great man. These words can never work together.”
The boy’s father said adults should put themselves in the place of a victim and their family.
“Stop defending the undefendable just because they can’t believe it is someone they thought they knew,” he said.
Cole was well known throughout NSW for his involvement with state-level junior basketball and has travelled abroad with Australian representative junior teams.
He had worked with children of all ages and locations all over state, however The Sunday Telegraph understands parents and children at other associations were not notified.
Once the news broke, NSW Basketball held a meeting at Orange and one other country location.
Nearly a month after Cole was charged, Basketball NSW issued a generic child safety media release on June 24, asking for any inappropriate conduct including any physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or sexual misconduct to be reported.
“The basketball community was not informed about Cole or the nature of the charges, so parents have no clue of the circumstances of what’s gone on and what to talk to their kids about, how to help and protect them,” the victim’s mother said.
“By Basketball NSW not directly attacking this on a NSW and even an Australian level considering his connections, they send a message that upholding his reputation is more important than protecting the children affected by his heinous crimes.”
She said her son’s story needed to be told as “predators parading as respected coaches in sport need to be exposed”.
“Parents must understand that not only do they groom the child and the child’s family, but they groom everyone around them to ensure a child cannot speak out.”
The boy’s parents said their son is a brave, courageous and admirable young man, who made the decision to speak out to stop this happening again to another child.
“We all have an obligation to protect our children who look to us for safety and guidance and parents and BNSW must stand up for victims to allow children to feel safe and protected to come forward early in any situation of abuse in the future.”
Basketball NSW CEO Maria Nordstrom told The Sunday Telegraph the organisation was “shocked and horrified by the disturbing sexual abuse allegations” levelled against Cole.
“We are devastated by the allegations. We didn’t have any knowledge of his alleged misconduct,” Ms Nordstrom said.
“Our priority is supporting the alleged victims and their families, and we have offered our ongoing support through professional counselling services.
“We have made all associations where he coached aware of the situation. We have offered support for players, families and association parents through Headspace, local ministers, councillors and the employee assistance program.
“We will implement additional recommendations and safety measures above and beyond current industry practice so parents can be assured children are as safe as possible. We are working with Basketball Australia on the Redress scheme. We don’t have any pending cases in basketball in NSW.
“We have assisted police with their investigations, and urge anyone with any information about abuse or misconduct to please come forward and report it to NSW police.”
Originally published as Parents hit out at tributes to man who allegedly abused son
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