MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Minnesota figure skating coach Thomas Incantalupo was sentenced to 24 years in prison Friday morning for sexually abusing one of his skaters. This is her victim impact statement provided to the court:
Twenty one months ago I told a secret I thought I would never tell. When I was 14 years old, my coach, Tom Incantalupo, started abusing me. The week of my 18th Birthday, Tom got this plea deal and finally admitted to a very small piece of what he did to me. I’m here today to tell you about his mental and sexual abuse, and the impact it’s had on me.
As a young skater, I had the hopes and dreams that many others have, to be an amazing figure skater and one day go to the Olympics. At the young age of nine, I started working with Coach Tom. He had coached other skaters to Nationals and International competitions. I spent countless hours training, trying to achieve my goals. I believed in myself. I did my best to follow Tom’s schedule and rules, even when it meant sacrificing a lot. He scheduled my training many hours a day, 5-6 days a week, all year round. There was never a break. Figure skating is a tough sport. You have to fall hundreds of times to learn a new jump. And no matter how bad it hurts, or how bad you want to quit, you have to get up and keep going. I respected my Coach, and I believed he was helping me reach my dreams. But Tom had different plans for me and after I spent years training, Tom turned my dreams into a nightmare. I was 14 years old when Tom took my innocence. He took what wasn’t his to take. He robbed years of my childhood and I will never get those years back.
People ask “why didn’t you tell” or “why didn’t you quit skating”? The answer really is quite complicated. It wasn’t just sexual abuse, it was also mental abuse. Tom had so many people that loved him, and looked up to him. Tom acted like he cared about all of us, and by the time he started abusing me, he knew everything about me. I really believed he cared about me, and I cared about him too, Tom was like another parent to me. But then, he began tearing me down. Even before Tom sexually assaulted me, he started crossing my boundaries and invading my privacy. He would take my phone and look through my messages. He was harassing me about social media. He would yell at me until I cried. By the time he started sexually abusing me, he already had control of me. And, he was like part of our family by that point. But after he started sexually abusing me, it got much worse. He demanded my silence and he also told me I was a disappointment to my parents and family. And after being sexually abused by Tom, I believed what he was telling me. Because being sexually abused made me hate myself. During the years of his abuse, Tom told me he had close family and friends that were police and fire men, and they could “take care” of any situation. He knew who I was sitting with at school lunch, and I still have no idea how he knew. He told me he knew where my friend lived, and that he drove by my friend’s apartment. He followed and messaged my friends on social media. He told me he started a fake instagram account, as a teenage boy, then started a group chat with kids from my school saying horrible things about me and I tried to tell, but Tom just lied about it. When I had plans but didn’t tell Tom who it was with, he would send me pictures of their social media. He knew everything I did, even when I wasn’t with him. There was no escaping Tom.
He never approved of my friends, telling me that my best friend was a “piece of shit”, and all of my other friends were “white trash”. He told me HE was the only one who truly cared about me. Yet, there were countless days that he would tell me I was fat and needed to lose 10-15 pounds in order to be a good skater. He would yell at me until I cried. But there were also days where I would come into the rink and he would completely ignore me, but he would be in a good mood with everyone else. Sometimes he wouldn’t give me lessons, and refused to let me compete. Sometimes he threw water on me when he didn’t like the way I was skating. I knew he was talking bad about me and my family to people. I have many memories of having to get off the ice because I was having a panic attack. Memories of crying in the bathroom because of the things he would say to me, or the way he would treat me. Trying to hide all my feelings so no one would see my pain. His words burned into my head. I had to think through everything I said to Tom, starting from the moment I woke up every morning. I learned that if I didn’t try to make him happy, I would pay for it.
I have some very vivid memories of things Tom said to me. I remember the morning after the first time he assaulted me, I was fourteen. I was upstairs at Steve and Svetlana’s house, sitting in a chair waiting to leave to go to the ice arena. Tom walked upstairs, and came over to me. He looked down at me, kissed me and said “good, I thought last night was a dream. I’m so happy it wasn’t”. And all I could do is scream inside. He had told me I couldn’t tell anyone and I didn’t think anyone would believe me. I wondered if it was my fault, even though I was pretending to be asleep - hoping he would go away. It was easier to pretend it didn’t happen. Then I got really sick with mono and hepatitis, they were watching me for liver failure and I had to have liver biopsy. Through those five months of being sick, Tom was extra nice to me, and I thought he must have felt bad. That he knew it was wrong and it wouldn’t happen again. More months had gone by and I was still working hard to get my skills back after being sick. We had travelled and he was still treating me nice. I was excited about my invitation to Argentina, and I felt safe going. I was wrong. The country of Argentina is beautiful, and the people were amazing and so kind to me. But behind closed doors, no one knew the hell he was putting me through. This is where things got horrific and never stopped. I was still 14. Crying and saying no didn’t stop him. I was thousands of miles away from home and everyone in Argentina loved Tom. I had to shut it out to survive, but this was the beginning of the nightmares and anxiety, the headaches and the stomach pain. After I got home, I said I wanted to quit skating. My parents thought I was traumatized by a bad car accident we had been in. They thought I would regret giving up all my years of hard work and then told Tom I wanted to quit. I was scared and I felt trapped… nobody would believe what he did to me, and what would he do if I told? My parents knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t find the words to tell them. They made me go to therapy, but Tom knew. He told me I couldn’t say anything, and I didn’t. I learned to split my life in two.
Tom started taking me to hotels when I was fifteen. He would lie to my mom about my schedule and also lied to other skaters, parents, and coaches. I started cutting myself because it was easier to deal with that pain then what he was putting me through. His hands would graze over the cuts, my body completely exposed, and he wouldn’t care. I was getting migraines to the point where I would be curled up in the dark. I had stomach cramps so bad I would be sobbing on the ice because it hurt to move. I started hating the sport I once loved because I knew that every day I went, there was a possibility that he would take me to a hotel and do unexplainable things to me. The few times I felt brave enough to challenge Tom were in public, couldn’t people see something was wrong? I felt like no one cared about me, but now I know it was his abuse that isolated me. Tom knew every move I made, and wanted me to believe that he was the only person I could trust, the only person who cared about me. When he wasn’t being horribly mean to me, he was saying he loved me… and I felt like I was crazy.
There is another specific time I would like to speak about, and that is the last Argentina trip we went on. Tom told me and my parents that he was working with the Federation so I could skate for them. He told me I would get a Junior or Senior Grand Prix assignment. He told us the Federation was paying for me and they had paid for my other trips too. I felt like I had to go, or I’d let everyone down. I worked up the courage to tell Tom the day before we left that the abuse needed to stop. And he told me it would stop but we got there and he pretended like I never said anything. So while we were there, I told him again. I explained how I wanted to have a normal life, I wanted to go to school dances, and have friends, and that I wanted it to stop. That night, I had to watch a 46 year old man as he cried. The next day, nothing changed. These were not the only times I asked him to stop. I hated him, but I hated me more, because I couldn’t find a way out. I didn’t want to ruin everyone’s life, and I didn’t want the other skater’s to hate me for losing their coach. I had so much fear about what would happen if I told. And it just continued.
There were other trips, when I thought I’d be safe because other people were with us. But I was wrong. Tom just manipulated everyone and kept abusing me. During one of our trips, Tom made me take a pill that caused cramping. He didn’t explain what was happening, and I thought for a long time that I had an abortion. I can’t explain the overwhelming feelings I had. And when I tried to get out of going on a trip it didn’t work, because Tom manipulated everyone. I felt like I was never going to be free of him. There were many times that I just didn’t want to be alive anymore, and would think of every way I could kill myself. I sat in my bed at night thinking about what would make it easier – slitting my wrists, hanging myself, jumping in front of or off of something? All of my hope and trust was gone. I had nothing left, because he took everything. But my little brother started taking lessons from Tom, and I couldn’t risk him being hurt like I was. I couldn’t leave my little brother behind, he had never failed me. I couldn’t kill myself - not because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t put my brother and parents through that. But I would go to bed hoping I wouldn’t wake up in the morning because I knew that when I did, I would have to text Tom and do my best to make him happy, and deal with whatever mood he was in that day, or I would pay.
After my 16th Birthday I tried to get away from Tom again but it didn’t work. I said I didn’t want to work with him anymore, but I couldn’t say the real reason why. My parents called a meeting with Tom and thought we should work things out. So after, hoping that my attempt to get away might make a difference this time, I asked him again to stop… and he said he would. But he didn’t, and it just got worse. Everyone looked up to Tom – my parents, the skaters, all the other coaches and parents. He knew how to play everyone. I wasn’t the only one he took advantage of. He robbed us all of our ability to trust and believe in someone. I tried quitting skating and was told not to give up. I tried quitting Tom and was told to give him another chance. I was supposed to respect and be grateful to my Coach. I asked Tom so many times to stop. He kept giving me gifts and gift certificates, like that could make up for robbing me of everything I had. I was full of fear but I realized that if I stayed silent, I was never going to be free.
A million pounds of weight was lifted by telling the secret. And I was so relieved that everyone who mattered to me, believed and supported me. But I’m not free. I still have memories and nightmares of hotel days and trips where Tom sexually abused me. I still have to fight my own mind, because I don’t want to trust anyone. I can’t fully trust anyone because of what Tom did to me. I want to have a family one day, but I’m scared I will end up alone. I will forever be battling with nightmares and trust issues. I’ve had sights, sounds, smells, and even the air temperature bring anxiety and horrible memories. I struggle with feeling tense, it’s hard for me to relax. While he’s been free, I’ve had anxiety about just going out shopping, what if I see him? I’ve had anxiety driving. What if I’m alone on the interstate and look over and he’s in the car next to me? Does he still try to follow me on social media with a fake account? I was accepted to the College I wanted, but didn’t feel safe moving away from home. I will forever be scarred with what he has put me through, and I have to live with that, because a forty five year old man decided it was okay to rape and mentally abuse a child for over two years. It took a while for me to understand that I didn’t deserve this. And that I didn’t ruin Tom’s life. Tom did this. Tom has told people I was a troubled child, and we were a troubled family. But TOM was the trouble. And now by the Grace of God we are healing. But I pray that he never does this to anyone ever again.
This process has been very hard. I had to mentally prepare myself to testify over and over, because the trial kept getting delayed. It felt like Tom was still in control, all the way into the week of my 18th Birthday. Once again, he took something important, that was mine, and pushed himself in. I feel like he has taken 9 years of my life, and now I will always be on guard.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m grateful for the help and support I’ve been given. I’m thankful for the people who defended me. I want to thank the investigators and their teams – Officer TJ Henderson from the Eden Prairie Police Dept., and Special Agent Brad Murkins from the FBI, and the Prosecutors Amy Blagoev, Erin Lutz, and my advocate Amy. And thank you Your Honor, Judge Cahill. I know you have a hard and important decision to make today. You all make the world a safer place, and I hope to make a difference like all of you one day.