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Piper Weiss grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She went to an elite prep school. She took private tennis lessons. Her coach, Gary Wilensky was referred to as "the tennis instructor who taught New York's most privileged daughters" by the New York Times. Then came the attempted kidnapping. Weiss was only 14 in 1993 when news broke that "Coach Gary" killed himself in a police chase after having attempted to kidnap his 17-year-old student. "I was with him as a student for about a year, and within that year he became fixated on a former student and attempted to abduct her," Weiss told Refinery29.
For years, Weiss was in denial about who her tennis coach really was. While Coach Gary was well-known, trusted and liked by parents, had a remote mountain cabin filled with smutty videos, secrete photos, and torture devices.
"I protected him. At the time I thought he was just misunderstood. I didn't really understand his grooming tactics and what his intentions truly were," Weiss said.
Weiss only started to process the shocking information about the man she trusted so much at age 30, when her mother gave her a folder full of articles about his heinous actions. Now an adult, Weiss reflects on her relationship with Wilensky in her memoir, You All Grow Up and Leave Me. She is candid about her experiences with Wilensky and the "culture of silence" so prevalent surrounding cases of sexual abuse towards women and girls in the '80s and '90s.
Her story is deeply personal, but Weiss knows the size of role she should take in the greater conversation surrounding abuse. She recognizes that the experience of the girl Wilensky attacked was "not (her) experience," and the great amount of privilege and coverage this case got due to the financial status and race of the the victims. "If it could happen to us, then it happens everywhere."
Still, her story is one that must be told.
Check out my conversation with Piper in The Ladies Room above. For more important conversations, make sure you follow Strong Opinions Loosely Held here!