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Elite Taekwondo coach convicted of sex assault sentenced to 6.5 years in prison

The Canadian Press logoThe Canadian Press 2021-01-22
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TORONTO — Two former elite athletes who were sexually abused by their taekwondo coach as teenagers told an Ontario court Friday that his actions robbed them of a normal life, tainted the sport they once loved and left them unable to trust anyone in a position of power.

The two young women laid out the lingering trauma caused by Shin Wook Lim, 47, as the former high-level coach was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison in connection with a series of incidents that took place between 2013 and 2017.

Reading their victim impact statements over video conference, each described grappling with debilitating anxiety in the years since the incidents, and seeing their personal relationships and their studies suffer as a result.

CAUTION: The following paragraphs contain graphic content some readers may find disturbing.

"No amount of therapy, counselling, will ever fix what you did to me. There will always be a part of me that is broken because of you," said Anya Ettinger, who waived her right to anonymity Friday.

She recalled having her virginity "stolen" at the age of 17 while in South Korea for a training camp and being unable to seek help because she couldn't speak the language.

"Imagine getting raped, then having to wake up the next day and look your rapist in the eye. Have your rapist deny you medical attention, probably because you were afraid that they would ask me too many questions and find out what you did," she said.

Even now, hearing her boyfriend talk about taekwondo is enough to trigger her post-traumatic stress, Ettinger said.

"When I try to look back on my days doing taekwondo, rather than remembering all of the good times I had and the love I had for the sport, I can only remember the countless number of times that you sexually assaulted me," she said.

Another complainant, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban, said she has difficulty maintaining close relationships due to the constant fear of "being betrayed and let down" by others the same way she was by her coach.

She said Lim turned the sport she loved into something she "had to run away from."

"You won’t be able to take back the extreme fear I felt as a 13-year-old girl who had no idea what was happening to me or how to process it. You won’t be able to take back the loneliness I felt while keeping this all to myself for what felt like a lifetime," she said.

The young woman said that while neither complainant became an Olympic champion -- the vision of success held up by Lim -- they instead grew into "strong and empowered women who have made sure of the fact that you will never hurt a young girl again the way that you hurt all of us."

Lim was found guilty last week of 10 charges, including sexual assault and sexual interference, in connection with a series of incidents involving Ettinger, a high-level athlete who trained with him at the Black Belt World martial arts studio in Toronto.

He was set to be tried separately later this year on five charges related to the other complainant, but instead pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of sexual interference in that case.

Three more counts were withdrawn, and three related to Ettinger were stayed because they overlapped with other charges.

An agreed statement of facts read out in court Friday laid out the incidents involving the second complainant, who reported them to her parents and police in 2019, years after they occurred.

The young woman began learning taekwondo at age four, and started training with Lim in Toronto at 12, commuting from her home in London, Ont., on Saturdays.

Lim praised her, "telling her that she was a beautiful girl who would make the Olympics one day," and the two frequently exchanged messages that he later told her to delete, court heard.

While attending the Cadet Pan Am Games in Mexico in 2013, the student pulled a muscle in her groin, and Lim -- who was the head coach of the Canadian team at the time -- told her it would be "easier and more comfortable" if he massaged her injury instead of taking her to a doctor, court heard.

Alone in his hotel room, the student lay on her stomach as he massaged her groin area, court heard. Lim then went under her underwear and digitally penetrated her. They never spoke of the incident even though the student experienced pain the following day, court heard.

Back in Toronto, Lim told her she should start training on Fridays as well and could sleep over at his apartment, the statement said. She usually slept on a pullout couch in his room.

But one night when his wife was away, he had the teen and another student sleep in his bed, court heard. The girl woke up to find him sitting on the side of the bed so she pretended to be asleep. He then touched her stomach and breasts under her shirt, court heard.

Lim was close to her family and regularly stayed at their home while visiting London, court heard. Once he came into her room during the night and kissed her on the lips while she pretended to be asleep, the document said.

The young woman decided to quit taekwondo in 2015 and when she told Lim, he got on his knees and begged her not to, saying she could move in with him once she turned 16.

Court heard last week that Lim gradually took control of Ettinger's life and engaged in a series of escalating sexual assaults, including rape.

Ettinger's mother, who also trained with Lim, read a victim impact statement Friday, saying she felt victimized and manipulated after discovering her daughter had been abused by the man who praised her Olympic potential.

Prosecutors noted several aggravating factors, including Lim's position of trust and the fact that the complainants were underage at the time of the incidents, in presenting the joint sentence proposal.

Defence lawyers, meanwhile, highlighted Friday's guilty plea as well as Lim's willingness to go into custody immediately despite several outbreaks of COVID-19 in correctional facilities as mitigating factors.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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