LPGA Golfer Madelene Sagström Reveals She Was Sexually Abused at 7: 'That Day Haunted Me'

Gabrielle Chung
·4 min read

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images Madelene Sagström

Madelene Sagström is opening up about a traumatic experience from her past.

In a blog post shared on the LGPA website on Monday as a part of its Drive On initiative, the 28-year-old professional golfer revealed that she was sexually abused at the age of 7.

"Growing up in Sweden, I was so naïve. I thought I could trust everybody," she began. "I hung around a lot with my brother when we were kids and many of our close friends were older people who lived near us in the countryside about an hour from Stockholm."

"One day, I was by myself going over to see my friend, a man I was really close to but who was not a relative," Sagström continued. "I went inside. We hung out. And he sexually abused me. I was 7 years old."

According to the athlete, she went home and proceeded to spend the next 16 years "like nothing ever happened."

"For years, I immersed myself in golf. Golf became my savior. I could lose myself in the game," Sagström wrote. "And when I played well, I was okay. That became a pattern."

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images Madelene Sagström

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"I never wanted to acknowledge the assault, to myself or anyone else," she explained. "Even after I became an adult and could understand that what happened to me was not my fault — that the feelings I had about myself were rooted in the trauma from long ago — it didn't help. Somehow, I thought I'd be okay not talking about it. But I was wrong."

It all came to head in when Sagström joined the Symetra Tour in 2016, when she was "was struggling with [her] emotions on the course."

Sagström said her work with mentor Robert Karlsson at the time helped her dig deep into her psyche, allowing her to speak out about her past sexual abuse for the first time.

"One day, in that hotel room in Greenwood, South Carolina, I told him that I had been sexually abused as a child. As he looked at me, with a mixture of shock and empathy on his face, my entire world broke down," she recalled. "I wept uncontrollably. Sixteen years of secrets poured out with each tear and every heaving gasp."

Continued Sagström, "I had no idea how being sexually abused by a man I trusted affected me. All those years, I blamed myself. I hated myself. I despised my body and hurt myself both mentally and physically. That day haunted me. I had nightmares about it and did everything I could to escape."

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For the golfer, that fateful conversation with Karlsson was the "biggest release" she's ever felt.

"It made me feel free. It's a big reason why I won three times in 2016 and earned my LPGA Tour card," she explained. "I didn't feel like I was hiding anymore. I felt like I could do whatever I wanted. I felt like I would be okay."

Calling it the "best decision I ever made," Sagström said sharing her story with Karlsson eventually led her to open up about her trauma to her parents and others in her life.

"The day I shared my secret, all my walls broke down. Everything I had built up for so many years fell to the ground," she wrote. "For so long, I never thought I'd tell anyone. It was going to be my secret forever. I'm so happy it's not."

"Finding my voice and courage to share my experience has taken time. Survivorship is a continuous process," Sagström concluded the post. "As a professional athlete, I have the visibility to make a difference and connect with others who may have experienced sexual abuse."

She added, "If I touch one life by telling my story, it will all be worth it."

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.