Second Utah gymnast alleges abusive environment

Days after Kara Eaker announced she was retiring from gymnastics due to alleged abuse as a member of the University of Utah gymnastics team, another former gymnast from the school has come forward with her own accusations about the program.

Kim Tessen, who competed with the team from 2017 through 2020 and was the Pac 12's Specialist of the Year during her senior season, said the program fostered an "abusive and toxic environment" in a lengthy Instagram post Tuesday.

"I was verbally attacked without any signs of sympathy several times," Tessen wrote. "My physical boundaries were also violated several times because these aggressive interactions would often occur with him yelling and pointing uncomfortably close at my face. Because of these types of interactions towards myself and witnessing it happening to others, I experienced even more fear."

In the post Friday, Eaker said she was a "victim of verbal and emotional abuse," said she had been diagnosed with severe anxiety, depression and anxiety-induced insomnia, and said she experienced panic attacks, PTSD and night terrors. Eaker, who has also withdrawn from the school, did not name head coach Tom Farden but did say many of her issues stemmed from interactions with "an overpowering coach."

Tessen did specifically reference "Tom" throughout her post. She said she had "crippling depression and anxiety" during her time on the team and had "suicidal ideation," which she shared with Farden in a written message.

"Tom decided to address the group instead of me individually," Tessen said. "We were told, 'If you don't tell us what's going on, then how do you expect us to know?' I was never offered any real support individually or directly from him. I was only ever asked periodically if I was 'getting help.'"

A team captain for the Red Rocks, Tessen said Farden asked her to step down from the role during preseason of her senior season because she was "visibly struggling and that's not what a real leader does" and called her a "failure."

Tessen said she was motivated to share her story to support Eaker and "all other survivors of abusive coaching."

Farden and the team's culture were the focus of an investigation that concluded last month. Husch Blackwell, an external law firm, found that Farden "did not engage in any severe, pervasive or egregious acts of emotional or verbal abuse of student-athletes" and "did not engage in any acts of physical abuse, emotional abuse or harassment as defined by SafeSport Code." He was determined to have made a derogatory comment to a member of the team, but other similar reported comments could "not be independently corroborated and were denied by Coach Farden." He also "more likely than not threw a stopwatch and a cellular telephone in frustration in the presence of student-athletes" but the investigation said such acts were "not repeated or severe."

Eaker said the investigation was "incomplete at best." Tessen did not mention the investigation but did address those defending Farden's behavior and encouraged those people to "at least hear the voices of people asking for change."

A Utah spokesperson declined comment to ESPN about Eaker's and Tessen's posts and said there is no statement at this time.