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Tunisia: former tennis player says ex-coach raped her repeatedly as a child

August 31, 2023 at 12:22 pm

Selima Sfar of Tunisia plays a backhand at the Dubai Tennis Stadium on February 25, 2008 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates [Julian Finney/Getty Images]

Former tennis player Slima Sfar has accused her ex-coach Regis De Camaret of raping her 35 years ago when she was only 12 years old. Tunisian Sfar, who reached number 75 in the Women’s Tennis Association rankings, went public about her sexual abuse for the first time in an interview with French sports daily L’Equipe

Sfar joined De Camaret’s tennis school at the age of 12. The first abuse took place a few months later, on a trip from Tunis to Bordeaux. 

“In the middle of the trip, it was one o’clock in the morning, he stopped on the side of the road and started touching me, doing things to me,” Sfar explained. “At the time I didn’t even know what was happening, I didn’t understand anything. Thirty-five years ago, 12 years is not 12 years now. All I knew was that he was one of the best coaches in the world, a little ‘God’ of tennis in France and, if I really wanted to become a champion, I needed him.”

Once they arrived at the coach’s house, she recalled, he went to his room on the second floor where his daughter also stayed, while she stayed on the sofa bed. “An hour or two later I woke up and he touched me. Then he went from touching to raping, very quickly. Each time it was the same, I was paralysed. It lasted almost three years.”

Sfar’s career spanned from 1993 to 2008, and she broke into the WTA top 100 in 2001. She has never dared to speak out before. 

“At 16 or 17 I started to rebel. I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt a horrible rage, a sadness. I didn’t want to train with him anymore, I couldn’t.” She went to Bordeaux and trained for a year and a half with Henri Dumont. “Then I decided to go to London and not have a coach anymore. It was a radical decision. I trained alone six hours a day. I was disciplined and made it to the top 100.”

Asked about the impact of these violations on her personal life and career, she replied, “I always wondered why I didn’t have the strength to say no… I was a coward and it was very cruel.”

In 2014, Camaret was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the aggravated rape of two underage girls at a training camp he ran in the Mediterranean resort of Saint Tropez in the 1980s and early 1990s. As many as 26 former pupils, including former French national champion Isabelle Demongeot, have filed complaints against him.

“Respect to Isabelle Demongeot and all the women who spoke out,” said Sfar. During the coach’s trial she went into depression. “My parents and the people close to me were saying ‘Thankfully you are strong, you wouldn’t have let that happen’. You have no idea of the pain I felt every time I heard that, the shame that I had.”

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