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I’d like to first acknowledge all those who've responded to this article, your opinions are certainly respected. To those who have been directly affected by what's taken place, you have my CONDOLENCES AND COMPLETE SUPPORT. My name is Eric Assata, my daughter and step daughter were former Undercurrent swimmers who under the tutelage of Ben Sheppard and his assistant coaches were very successful. I trusted Ben to a point where I would allow her to go on trips, film commercials, do anything necessary to further promote the mission of the Undercurrrent program. I was a staunch supporter of Ben Sheppard and his method of coaching which was stern but provided the state of mind necessary for the children to reach their full potential. I was and still am a staunch supporter of the Undercurrent program which is a wonderful program that provides a much needed avenue for inner-city children to explore and experience something new.
I wanted to include the previous statement to show that I had no ax to grind with Ben Sheppard and up to this unfortunate disclosure of events, recommended him to anyone looking for a positive place for their children including my own granddaughter who will be 5 next month.
With that being said, one night last month, my fiancée and I were awakened at 1:30am by step daughter who came in our room frantic and crying hysterically over a Facebook message received from Ben indicating that he wished that they could love all over each other’s body. They message did not show any flirting on the part of my step daughter only leading statements meant to peak the natural curiosity of a person. Are you alone? I have something to tell you but I don't think I should. Can you keep a secret? Etc. After an angry response from her mother, he responded back dumb founded indicating that he didn’t know what was going on and that he was going to get to the bottom of the matter as if he just walked in. After contacting some other former parents and swimmers, it became apparent that this wasn’t an isolated incident and that he had contacted them via face book and attempted to lure them in the same way using the same type of rhetoric, asking the same questions...are you alone? I have something to tell you? before telling the girl/girls something of a sexual nature. Upon contacting USA swimming, an investigation into other allegations of which they would not disclose was already in progress and after reviewing the previous comments generated by this article, their seems to be more than enough evidence to indicate that Ben has been involved in this type of behavior for quite some time. I know everyone reacts to situations differently but Ben understanding the positive relationship he shared with both myself and the mother of my step daughter should have contacted one of us immediately to explain what he thinks happened giving us an opportunity to give the benefit of doubt...instead, he continued to contact our step daughter attempting to defend his actions, he didn't contact the adults, he continued to contact the child??? There are too many consistencies and too many people coming forward for these claims not to be legitimate, I saw the messages with my own eyes, I’ve known some of the other children and their families for years and trust what I SEE in text on my step daughters Facebook account and the messages that were kept by the other children. I believe the statement of account from those who have commented on this story and for those who want to continue to protect his actions; I hope you never have to experience your child traumatized and having to sleep with you at night for days after an experience such as this. To those who had personal experiences and have commented, your privacy and not wanting to come forward is sincerely understood and respected but if you ever have a change of heart and want to try and stop him from being able to do this again, you have my full support and can contact the Berkeley police at firstname.lastname@example.org I will be checking for additional comments and looking for those who might want to unite and help bring this to an end. If not, I wish you well and hope you find peace...this is not your fault and know that you have been failed by those who were responsible for your protection as minors.
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