Lolita was 12 years old when Humbert Humbert first saw her with an obsession that could fill a book. "Lolita" became a best-selling novel about a perverted older man, a pubescent girl and a tragic tale of sexual abuse, dissected with the insights and illuminations of a brilliant writer.
But Lolita was a novel.
When such things happen in real life, we try to align the law with the act. The sports world was roiled by a similar scandal at Penn State. A coach was sent to prison for abusing boys, and one of the legends of college football was tarnished, probably permanently.
Dealing with such scandals isn't easy. It took Kelley Davies Currin, once one of the top swimmers in her sport, almost 30 years to summon the courage to tell authorities how Richard J. Curl, her coach on a suburban Washington team and a trainer of gold-medal athletes, began a sexual relationship with her when she was 13 years old. He was 33. The relationship continued for four years, until she was about to leave home for college. That was in 1987.
The lurid facts cover a multitude of sins, perpetuated by a man who had the responsibility of a child in his care. His task was to help a young woman reach for her dream, to become an Olympic competitor. Unlike the fictional Humbert Humbert, Curl was a real-life hero loved by the child he abused.
"I loved, trusted and cherished him as much as a young girl's heart and mind could," says Kelley, now 43, who has finally spoken out in newspapers and radio interviews, and in a Maryland courtroom.
As a girl, Currin pursued her dream at the Curl-Burke Swim Club in Washington, one of the largest amateur clubs in the nation, where many Olympic athletes have trained. The coach took her under his wing, and she says, "He had my ticket to being the swimmer that I wanted to be."
She enjoyed the attention he gave her in front of her teammates, the public hugs and kisses on the cheek that made the other girls watch with envy. But this didn't arouse her suspicions that it would lead to anything more. Suddenly, one of the hallway kisses turned passionate; he called her at home that night to tell her he was on "cloud nine." After the call, she "would have done anything he told me to do." And so she did.
He took her out for lobster at a chic Washington club and stayed overnight at her house -- he was often a guest of her parents -- and summoned her into his bed in the middle of the night. She learned "what it meant to be sexual with a man." Frequent sexual adventures followed, at her house, in his private school office, in hotel rooms when they were on the road to swimming meets.