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Sexual harassment and abuse in sport

Published: 
Monday, May 7, 2018

According to the IOC (2007), “sexual harassment and abuse happen in all sports and all levels.

Prevalence appears to be higher in elite sport. Members of the athlete’s entourage who are in positions of power and authority appear to be the primary perpetrators.

Peer athletes have also been identified as perpetrators. Males are more often reported as perpetrators than females.”

A sporting culture that is rooted in winning at all costs ripens the environment for sexual harassment and abuse of athletes. Sexual harassment and abuse affect victims physically and psychologically.

Some athlete’s performance may decline which may result in dropping out of the sport. Additionally, others may suffer from anxiety, depression and substance abuse (IOC, 2007).

Many “famous” cases of sexual abuse have rocked the sporting world. In 2017, former USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was jailed for 60 years for child pornography after being accused of sexual abuse by more than 100 girls. American swimming coach  Andy King was sentenced to 40 years after being accused of sexual abuse. Penn State University assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to 30-60 years after he was convicted in 2012 of 45 counts of abuse relating to 10 boys. Sporting organisations in T&T through the directive of the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs (MSYA) should heed the call from UN Women in implementing several measures to prevent and address sexual harassment
and abuse:

• Develop policies and procedures for the prevention of sexual harassment and abuses;

• Prepare and implement codes of ethics and conduct for coaches, whether they work with adults or children;

• Monitor the implementation of these policies and procedures;

• Evaluate the impact of these policies in identifying and reducing sexual harassment and abuse;

• Provide training on how sexual harassment and sexual relationships can negatively influence coach-athlete relationships;

• Develop complaint procedures that ensure privacy;

• Protect legal rights of athletesand coaches, and protect against retaliation;

• Screen all applicants for the coaching staff and volunteer positions;

• Foster strong partnerships with parents/caregivers in the prevention of sexual harassment and abuse;

• Promote and support research on these issues;

• Foster a climate of open discussion about the issues of sexual harassment and abuse so that athletes with problems feel confident enough to speak out; and

• Develop athlete autonomy wherever possible including adopting coaching styles which give optimum autonomy and responsibility to athletes.

“I don’t feel it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.”

—Michel Foucault

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