Image Of Trainingpeaks Coach Christine Schirtzinger On A Bridge Warming Up For Running Talking About Dealing With Sexual Assault

Dealing With Sexual Assault

BY Christine Schirtzinger

Two out of three sexual assault cases aren’t reported. Speaking up is the first step towards a safer future for all.

One in three women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. 

On December 12, 2020, I became part of that statistic. My assault happened somewhere I felt safe. I responded in a way I never would have imagined, and the process was nothing like I ever expected. I’m sharing my experience in hopes that it helps even one woman — because the only way to stop sexual assault is to hold those who are responsible accountable for their actions. 

My Story

As a triathlete and coach, massage has been part of my life for more than 20 years, and having a massage therapist who truly “gets” athletes is something I’ve always sought out. For four years, I had been working with a male masseuse, who understood that competitive athletes need deep tissue massage for recovery. Additionally, I liked that he worked at a reputable massage chain that was located in a popular shopping district.

I walked into the massage room that day just like it was any other day. He asked me if he could work on my hip flexors, and I said yes. Two-thirds of the way through, he violated me, and I froze. I see myself as a strong and assertive woman who can hold my own in most any situation, but the moment was so surreal that I couldn’t even comprehend what was happening to me.

I told him to stop, and he did. I left. I didn’t scream. I didn’t call the police. I didn’t go to the emergency room to be examined. I went home. 

I thought about what would happen if I chose to ignore the situation. I thought about how I could bury this forever in my mind and not go through the embarrassment, time, and emotional energy it would take to report it. I also thought of this man’s young children and what a felony charge would do to his life. I pictured being ruthlessly questioned by men in uniform in a dark room with bright lights. I thought of what it would feel like to be humiliated and not to be believed. 

But then, I thought of my two daughters. I thought of my friends, and how no one should ever have to endure being touched without consent. I thought of all the brave gymnasts who have come forward. I decided to talk to a friend about what had happened, and when I said the words aloud, I knew what I needed to do.

When I walked into the police station, I didn’t know if they would believe me or if they would even care about what had happened to me. I certainly didn’t know that the detective who ended up working on my case would become my biggest ally during this journey. He was kind with every interaction, listened to every word I said, and followed up almost every day to see if I was alright. In the end, the States Attorney’s office charged my assailant with six counts of felony sexual assault, and, 17 months later, he plead guilty. 

I must be honest that it was an incredibly grueling process. There were 14 separate hearings, and each one filled me with tremendous anxiety. But, after over a year since the case was opened, there is now one less massage therapist assaulting women. He is on the sexual predator list and will never be in the position to violate again. 

Unfortunately, there are many more assailants out there. Sexual assault can happen anywhere, anytime. 80% of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. And athletes, especially, are at risk of being violated

What to Do in the Event of Sexual Assault

If you are assaulted, get out of the situation as quickly as possible and get to someplace you are safe. If you can, scream. Here’s what else you need to know.

  • Going to the ER isn’t just for rape victims — it’s for all sexual assaults. They can help collect evidence, treat any injuries you’ve incurred, and prescribe counsel. Evidence collection does not require you to report the incident to the police or even press charges, it just preserves these options for you. If you can, do not shower, change your clothes, or even comb your hair before going to the ER, as this helps with accurate evidence collection. 
  • Report the assault to the police as soon as you can. The sooner a crime is reported, the easier it is for the police to investigate.
  • Most police detectives have special training to be respectful of what victims of sexual assault have endured. They will listen. They will allow you space and time to share what happened to you, often over many days, if needed. 
  • If you choose to report the crime, you will be asked to recount what you experienced many times. The truth is powerful. Trust it, and allow it to be your strength. 
  • If you feel the system isn’t working for you or you aren’t getting the answers you need, consider working with a victim’s advocate or hire a private attorney to represent you. These professionals know the system and can help you navigate it. 
  • Dealing with the aftermath of rape or sexual assault can be overwhelming. Know you are not alone. Talk with your friends and family. There are many resources for survivors, including specially trained professionals to help you in your path forward. 
  • Consider sharing your experience. Sharing your experience allows others to know they are not alone. 

Two out of three sexual assaults are not reported. We must empower women with the knowledge and support they need to come forward — it is the only way to bring persistent sexual assault out of the shadows. Perhaps then we may create a safer, healthier future for all.


Gutowski, C. (2022, November 30). Kane County triathlete sues Massage Envy after 2020 sexual assault complaint. Retrieved from 

Lange, J. (2020, June 24). Athlete A and the tragedy of women in sports. Retrieved from 

RAINN. (n.d.). The Criminal Justice System: Statistics. Retrieved from 

RAINN. (n.d.). Perpetrators of Sexual Violence: Statistics. Retrieved from 

Reel, J.J. & Crouch, E. (2019). #MeToo: Uncovering Sexual Harassment and Assault in Sport. Retrieved from (2021, August 20). Sexual Assault / Rape. Retrieved from

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About Christine Schirtzinger

Christine Schirtzinger is an endurance coach based near Chicago, Illinois. Christine’s passion is empowering athletes with knowledge and working with them to refine their physiologic adaptions to reach their full potential as endurance athletes. She is recognized as one of the founding coaches of the MAF certification and has worked extensively to maximize endurance performance by utilizing polarized training. Christine is also an Ironman athlete, racing age group elite. She has qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships six times and also has many other running podium finishes, BQ marathon finishes, and several age group and overall female wins.