Former Cal Coach Kristen Lewis Cunnane’s New Book Seeks To Help Other Abuse Victims

by John Durham 19

April 17th, 2019 College, Industry, News, Pac-12

Kristen Lewis Cunnane has had many different titles over the years.

She’s been the Cal women’s associate head coach for national championship teams. She’s been a former Academic All-American at UCLA and has competed at Olympic Trials. She’s a mother and a wife.

And as of this April, she can add published author to that list too.

Cunnane’s book titled Undoing Jane Doe is her account of how she was able to put her sexually abusive middle school gym teacher, Julie Correa, behind bars for an eight year prison sentence. But the book for Cunnane, and for others she hopes, is much more than that.

“I’m hopeful that the book will help people who have been through similar things or have had people in their life go through similar things,” Cunnane said. “But also I think it speaks to the power of a strong swim team and how a team can help members whether it’s coaches, staff, or athletes, how that team can help us all go through difficult things in life that really have nothing to do with swimming fast.”

The book features a forward by Cal women’s head coach Teri McKeever, who Cunnane said came to the preliminary hearing and sentencing during her case. Former Cal swimmers and Olympians Missy Franklin and Natalie Coughlin also wrote testimonials in the book.  

Cunnane has said how much being around those Cal swim teams for so many years has helped here heal from the terrible events of her past. Writing the book has been a healing process for her too.

That writing first began back in the police office when Cunnane went to report what had happened and she was asked to give details and exact memories with specific instances.

“I used those when, my abuse was so thorough and so much that it was hard to go into a therapist office and heal,” Cunnane said. “I came in and I used those instances to explain how severe it was. That’s what, that’s kind of how the book started, just going to police and those were the beginnings of a lot of the chapters.”

The title for her book was sparked by one of the most powerful moments she had throughout this ordeal. While she admitted that when she first came to report of what Correa had done to her, Cunnane said she didn’t mind being classified as an anonymous Jane Doe. But then as she went through the entire process, being a Jane Doe frustrated her.

“I’m hiding behind Jane Doe and it kind of enraged me,” Cunnane said, “I decided that I was going to use my name because I’m not the one who should be ashamed of anything … Just the idea of undoing Jane Doe and undoing the stigma and the silence of sexual abuse for me became kind of my rallying cry. They, the predators, want their victims to be silent, they want us to be shameful, they want us to be Jane Doe.”

While Cunnane is a busy mother with three children who are five years and under, she is going to continue to get up and tell her story in the hopes to help others. She went to a child abuse prevention luncheon on Friday where she was asked to speak.

Recently a friend of hers asked Cunnane if she was nervous to speak in front for a crowd of 300 people. But Cunnane, the mother, wife, former swimmer, coach, and now author, said she wasn’t.

“This isn’t about me, it’s about making this awful thing happen less,” Cunnane said. “We have to do something about this. The amount of people that I’ve had come to me and say this happened to me, this happened to my brother, this happened to my cousin and he ended up killing himself … I’m willing to do anything to help this go away. If an article or a book or a speech, if it helps a teeny tiny bit, if it helps one person, then it’s 100% worth it.”

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Karin O
3 years ago

Kuddos to Kristen for her courage and strength to speak out and share her story. If it helps just one other person that is all you can hope for. Such a strong and amazing women!

CoachB
3 years ago

Kristen, I look forward to reading your book. Thank you for being a voice on this topic and being a strong role model for others to speak out about their own experiences.

jewelindapool
3 years ago

Looking forward to reading her book.

jewelindapool
Reply to  jewelindapool
3 years ago

available on Amazon Prime… mine is on its way

jewelindapool
Reply to  jewelindapool
3 years ago

I have just finished Kristen’s story. It has hit me, to the point of many tears shed. I am a PE Teacher and have coached children for nearly 20 years. Our team is asking our swimmers and parents to do the Safe Sport module that is on USA Swimming’s website. My athlete’s asked me why I said it was very i important for them to do the lesson…. my response to them.. without mentioning names, was very direct on being vigilant and reporting inappropriate behaviors from an individual that they are supposed to trust.
Kristen and family, as a Teacher and Coach, I am so very sorry your were wronged by someone in our profession.

Yozhik
3 years ago

You can’t even imagine how painful and embarrassing it is for a child to learn from others such a thing about his mother. It took her time and significant efforts and getting used to the thoughts that she can go openly with her own name. The child doesn’t have such a luxury

Jimbo
Reply to  Yozhik
3 years ago

So you wanted her to keep quiet? Yeah absolutely not

WhatisWrongWithPeopleOnHere
Reply to  Yozhik
3 years ago

It would be strange for a child to be embarrassed of a parent who is speaking out to fight an injustice

Most parents try to teach their kids to be honest and forthright, and especially to stand up to injustice. Most parents try to teach their kids to do some good in the world to make the way easier for others who will follow. This parent is not only teaching, but modeling.

Most people read “to kill a mockingbird” as a complicated but uplifting tale of a privileged man standing up to defend a target of popular hatred. Yozhik think scout’s dad shoulda shut his trap?

Yozhik, what kind of an arse would make someone feel embarrassed that their parent… Read more »

Admin
Reply to  WhatisWrongWithPeopleOnHere
3 years ago

Since you brought it up…there’s a growing chorus of progressive voices that believe that To Kill a Mockingbird, while quite valuable in its own time, doesn’t hold up to the test of modern civil rights. That includes Aaron Sorkin’s latest restaging on Broadway, where Atticus Finch is far less romanticized than we all remember him, eschewing the excuses he made for Bob Ewell.

I agree with the rest of your comment, though. I think this idea of “shame” is an antiquated notion. By the time Kristen’s children are of age to fully comprehend what’s going on here, any lingering ideas that there’s something to be ’embarrassed by’ for someone who is sexually assaulted will have been marginalized to people who… Read more »

anonymoose
Reply to  Braden Keith
3 years ago

although i hope youre right about this change of era.. im very doubtful that young kids (10-14y.o.) wouldnt use something like this for bullying. nonetheless, i definitely think cunnanes made the right decision

Admin
Reply to  anonymoose
3 years ago

There will always be outliers when it comes to hate and bullying. But, those people would have found another reason if not for this one.

jeanne lewis
Reply to  Yozhik
3 years ago

I am the proud mother of this brave girl. I had recent brain surgery and a few weeks later a mastectomy. Who do you think supported me in my fight for life? She was there for me every day. I guess some people fight for what they know is right!

Kate
Reply to  Yozhik
3 years ago

There is nothing embarrassing about being a victim of abuse, or the child of a victim of abuse. She is teaching her kids by example that you can be strong in the face of adversity, stand up for what’s right, and use your story to help others. They’re lucky to have a mother with such wonderful qualities.

Yozhik
Reply to  Kate
3 years ago

Well, as Mr. Keith noted above: different times – different moral values, different behavioral patterns. The way I was brought up i cannot imagine the girl at her first day of dating bravely announcing that she was sexually abused.
If it is your daughter being sexually abused will you make her story public?
Abused child can be psychologically traumatized to the unbearable level. Knowing of her parents being abuse often happen to be even stronger trauma.
This woman had her own concern not to expose her name originally and decided later that it would be a coward thing to do. I wish her to bring up her young children the way they won’t be hurt learning one… Read more »

Josie Warneke
Reply to  Yozhik
3 years ago

Her children will only see the benefits of standing up for justice and against fear/shame/abuse. They will see that speaking out and shining a light on the darkness is the best way to heal and fight evil. Kristen does not need to feel guilty for her kids.

Kate
Reply to  Yozhik
3 years ago

Strawman Fallacies all over the place in your response.

1. Yes, times are different now, in that we are finally starting to believe victims instead of blaming them. If someone confided in you about abuse they experienced and you respond with anything but compassion, that says a lot about your character and nothing about theirs.

2. No, I would not make my hypothetical daughter’s hypothetical abuse public, which is also not any part of this story. But, since you asked, it’s different because it would be the daughter’s choice when and how to share her story in a way that allows for healing.

3. Adverse childhood experiences and trauma are of course detrimental, but there is no truth to… Read more »

Hint of Lime
3 years ago

Thank you Kristen, and all other survivors, for your bravery and strength in sharing your story and continuing to positively impact others.

Pack Mack
3 years ago

Good for her. Promote awareness & healing.

googoodoll
3 years ago

Well written article about a strong woman!