Voices for truth and dignity: Combatting sexual violence in European sport through the voices of those affected

Voices for truth and dignity:

Combatting sexual violence in European sport through the voices of those affected.

Recently BBC Radio 5 Live in the UK broadcast and hour long special investigation into surviving abuse in sport. In the presentation former Spanish gymnast Gloria Viseras recounted her harrowing story of how she was sexually abused by her former coach over a period of time and how she felt totally powerless to stop him.

Gloria has now become involved in a European funded research project to help bring this subject matter to light and to thoroughly research how prevalent sexual violence is in sport. During the programme Gloria revealed how isolated and powerless she felt to stop the abuse despite coming from a good home with caring parents.

This highlights the power that some sports coaches have over their young charges. In todays sporting arena and the media frenzy that currently surrounds our sports stars along with the wealth that some can accumulate is a very motivating factor for young people to become involved in sport and it can also be a motivator to not report abuse. The risk of reporting abuse can end dreams of Olympic glory or other sporting futures and we should also not over look the fact that boys and young men are also being abused.

The full extent of sexualised violence in sport is unknown but we know it exists, there has been high profile cases in England, Ireland and America concerning swimming coaches being convicted of abusing young swimmers. From 2000 until 2010, 36 swimming coaches were disciplined in America for abusing young swimmers, just recently there have been several allegations from cyclists from the GB cycling team complaining about abusive behaviours from some coaches. Although non has identified sexualised behaviours as being present it is still worrying that they such abusive behaviours are still present in 2016. However abusive behaviours are wrong and should not be used in sport as a means of control, manipulation or as a behaviour strategy.

One of the key outcomes from this research is to help identify people who are victim/survivors of abuse within sport and to hear their stories so all sporting communities from Europe can learn from them, we need to develop a change in culture where our young athletes are safe and free from any forms of abuse and if they are concerned they should have the confidence and freedom to report things that our young athletes are not happy about.

Gloria’s radio broadcast is still available on-line at http://bbc.in/1qAoYXL please do have a listen to this remarkable lady.

Kevin Murphy

NWG Education and Community Development Officer