Sexual harassment and assault

‘Speaking up is my birthday present to myself,’ Hong Kong hurdler says of sex abuse revelation

The day she turned 23, star athlete Vera Lui made a Facebook post about how a former coach sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager. Here is a her full account

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 November, 2017, 4:19pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 November, 2017, 4:30pm

I was sexually assaulted by my former coach.

This summer, when I read about the case of Taiwanese author Elizabeth Lin Yi-han, I felt an impulse [to reveal] the unhappy experience I had when I was little. But I didn’t have the courage.

A few months ago, McKayla Maroney, the American gymnast who won gold medals at the London Olympics revealed on social media that she was sexually assaulted by her team doctor. It brought the impulse to me again.

After so many years, I finally found the courage to tell the truth for three reasons:

To increase public awareness of sexual assault against children.

To encourage victims to bravely speak up.

To let the public understand that sex is not an embarrassing, shameful or taboo subject.

Police to investigate after Hong Kong hurdler Vera Lui says coach sexually assaulted her when she was 13

I feel grateful to McKayla Maroney. Because her actions made me willing to revisit the past courageously in hope that it would affect more people positively.

More than a decade ago, when I was about 13 or 14 years old, I met my former coach during extracurricular activities organised by my school. [The coach] taught me attentively, and my trust in him gradually grew. We had afternoon tea or lunch from time to time. He was both a mentor and a friend.

After a year, my performance on the field indeed improved, which made me believe more firmly that this coach could help me achieve more.

I still remember that it was a Saturday afternoon. I was just out of my tutoring class and received a call from him. He asked if my muscles felt tight after the previous week’s training and said he could help massage and relax them. From an athlete’s perspective, there was nothing strange about a massage. I didn’t sense anything wrong at that moment because he had been a professional trainer in my mind.

He asked me to meet him at a stadium. Soon after we met, he said it would be difficult for him to do the massage there and suggested going to his home. I agreed without a second thought. Again, I didn’t think there was any issue because I was only a secondary school pupil. Because he was a respectable coach in my eyes.

When we arrived at his home, he asked me to lie prone on the bed. After pressing the back of my thighs three or four times, he said my jeans were in the way and suggested that I take them off. I trusted him, as I had never thought he would do anything despicable to his students. Then he went on with his so-called “massage”. In the end, he took off my jeans and my underpants and touched my private parts. Even at the point my underpants were removed, I still wasn’t able to respond.

That’s what happened. About two years ago, I told a very close friend about this incident for the first time in my life. Until now, she was the only other person who knew about it.

Human beings are confusing creatures. I remained in contact with this coach over the years. For better or worse, he had taught me for a period, so I celebrated my birthday with him every year. Was I crazy? How could I celebrate my birthday every year with a coach who sexually assaulted me? I don’t know. Maybe I could lie to myself, tell myself that nothing had happened. The mouth can deny, but the body is too honest. After that day, my body would tell me to step back every time he approached me. Our physical contact from then on was limited to a pat on the shoulder. As I grew up, every time I ran into him, I would brace myself to exchange brief greetings before trying to run away as quickly as possible. As a result, I became the subject of gossip, with people criticising me for being rude and ungrateful.

After I decided to tell the public what happened, I spent a lot of time thinking about how detailed my account should be. On the one hand, I didn’t want public attention on my case. On the other hand, I wanted to make people understand that the offender would justify everything by making use of the victim’s trust.

It was not my fault, or my parents’, or my school’s. It was the offender’s fault. I am not ashamed as a victim. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. I want you to applaud my courage.
Vera Lui

In the Hong Kong’s sports circle, I have never heard of any case of sexual assault or harassment, but I believe that cases similar to mine do exist. If unfortunately you encountered what I have, I hope you can gather your courage and seek help from people close to you, instead of tolerating the evil. In Chinese culture, sex has long been an embarrassing, shameful or taboo subject.

Speak up – your courage will affect many people with similar experiences, just like how McKayla affected me.

As for my family and the people who care about me, please do not blame yourselves. You may think that if you had found out what happened earlier, I could have been protected from the assault. But I would like to tell you that there is no need to feel guilty, because we were in the same boat – our trust was abused. It was not my fault, or my parents’, or my school’s. It was the offender’s fault. I am not ashamed as a victim. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. I want you to applaud my courage.

“I am not broken. It was not my fault. I am growing strong. I refuse silence.” This is a quote from a #metoo survivor. So is what my heart is trying to say.

Today is my 23rd birthday. Telling the truth is a relief, transforming me from a victim to a survivor. This is a birthday gift I prepared for myself. If you want to send me your best wishes or express your concern, please share this piece and keep the flame of #metoo burning bright, so that more victims can be moved to unmask the culprits.

“Is it possible to put an end to this type of abuse? Our silence has given the wrong people power for too long, and it is time to take our power back. And remember, it is never too late to speak up.” – McKayla Maroney, 2017

Finally, I would like to share a very meaningful article: “Wish Me a Happy Birthday: My Experience of Being Sexually Assaulted and My Reflection on Sex Education” [She posts a link to an online article.]

Lui Lai-yiu

November 30, 2017

*For the time being, I will not respond to any questions regarding the incident, and I hope my friends in the media will understand.”