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Solheim Cup star Madelene Sagstrom has revealed that she was sexually abused as a child.
The Swede shared details of the harrowing ordeal she was subjected to as a seven-year-old in a post on the LPGA website.
Sagstrom, now 28, revealed that she was abused by a male family friend at his home in her hometown of Enkoping, Sweden. Afterwards, she went home and spent the next 16 years trying to forget that it had happened.
“For years, I immersed myself in golf,” wrote Sagstrom. “Golf became my saviour; I could lose myself in the game. And when I played well, I was okay.
“That became a pattern. If I could just play a little better, I thought I’d be happier. Then I carried it a step further. If I could just be a little skinnier, a little nicer, a little more likeable…
“What I didn’t realise is that I simply did not like who I was. I felt insecure – never thinking that I was worthy enough or good enough. I didn’t like who I saw in the mirror. I couldn’t even put body lotion on my legs because of how much I hated my body, hated myself, all because of what someone else did to me.”
Sagstrom, a member of the European team that contested the 2017 Solheim Cup and the defending champion at this week’s Gainbridge LPGA tournament, kept the abuse to herself until she joined the Symetra Tour in 2016.
It was then that she summoned the strength to confide in fellow Swedish tour pro and mentor Robert Karlsson.
“Telling Robert was the biggest release I’ve ever had,” she continued. “It made me feel free. It’s a big reason why I won three times in 2016 and earned my LPGA Tour card. I didn’t feel like I was hiding anymore. I felt like I could do whatever I wanted. I felt like I would be okay.
“Robert understood the pain that I’d been carrying for so many years. On the golf course, we experienced so many of the same thoughts. He knew where I was coming from as a player, so I felt really free to speak to him. He was my ally. He was someone I could trust 100% and provide the counsel and support I needed.”
With Karlsson’s support, Sagstrom told her parents of the abuse she had suffered.
“It was the start of a new chapter in my life, of me feeling okay just being me,” she added. “The day I shared my secret, all my walls broke down. Everything I had built up for so many years fell to the ground.
“For so long, I never thought I’d tell anyone. It was going to be my secret forever. I’m so happy it’s not.
“Finding my voice and courage to share my experience has taken time. Survivorship is a continuous process. As a professional athlete, I have the visibility to make a difference and connect with others who may have experienced sexual abuse. If I touch one life by telling my story, it will all be worth it.”
• If you or somebody you know has been affected by this story, call the 24-hour freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, on 0808 2000 247. Alternatively, call the Rape Crisis national freephone helpline on 0808 802 9999.
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