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Sexual violence is one of the main challenges facing young people today. While the problem has been explored in various areas, the sports industry has remained under wraps. However, according to experts, sexual violence in sports is not a foreign thing. Abuse in sports cases has been floating around since the ’80s however, these claims are just now beginning to get publicized. As a result, many sports associations, as well as schools, are implementing measures to protect children and also raise awareness. Sexual violence in the sports industry is a pressing issue that should be prioritized. After decades of remaining hidden, the abuse in sports was brought to light when the abuse scandal in English football blew the cap, and more cases spilled out.
Many victims of abuse have remained quiet due to fear for their careers, as well as the stigma attached to sexual violence. Many victims are, however coming out to speak against their abusers, raise awareness, and encourage others to speak their truth. In a survey conducted by Safe Sport, where children and teenagers in sports were interviewed, 45% of the 1800 interviewees claimed to have been victims at some point. Most of those who’ve been victims of abuse are below 18 years old. Of this 45 %, less than 10% had reported their abuse with most of them still working close to their abusers. Many athletes had also claimed to have been victims of abuse, especially before they were 18. Most of these abusers take advantage of the vulnerability of teenagers.
Besides sexual assault, some other young athletes have also experienced physical violence. 60% of these victims suffer from psychological issues as a result of the abuse. Some other forms of abuse in the sports industry include being stared at, catcalling, and even being forced to watch others have sex. According to studies, 1 in 3 athletes has experienced some form of sexual abuse. 1 in 9 athletes has suffered severe abuse or recurring sexual violence at some point in their life. Majority of athletes experience this when they’re below 18 years. According to the Department of Child and Youth Psychiatry and the Ulm University Hospital, about 5% of female athletes and 1% of male athletes have suffered sexual abuse in sports. This is in young athletes, although the figures are almost the same for adult athletes. In Canada, a CBC investigation uncovered instances where sports coaches have committed sexual offenses against minors. The investigation found that this is a widespread occurrence, especially for teenagers in competitive sports. Since 1998, at least 222 coaches have been convicted of sexual offenses against more than 600 young victims. At the time of the investigation, 34 coaches were facing sexual assault charges.
According to experts, there is no specific sport that is prone to sexual abuse since there are assault claims from most games. In Canada, the convicted coaches and those facing trial come from over 36 different sports. Also, according to the CBC investigation, there is a discernible pattern of abusers. 213 out of the 222 were male perpetrators. The Head of the Coaching Association in Canada said that the findings are worrying. They are also discouraging parents from having their kids participate in sports at an early age.
According to studies, 23% of sexual assault victims don’t even know they’ve been assaulted. This is a sign that there isn’t adequate awareness and language defining sexual assault and what happens after. However, researchers claim that even with sufficient information, less than 40% of sexual abuse victims come forward. According to statistics from self-reported sexual abuse cases in the UK, 1 in 20 children has been sexually abused. In schools and universities, 27% of female students have been victims of attempted and completed sexual abuse as teenagers. Out of these, 60% of these assaults were perpetrated by someone close, 20% by an acquaintance and only 10% by a stranger. It is alarming, however, that in sports, these numbers are higher for people close to the victims. Many of these assaults are perpetrated by coaches, managers, trainers, and recruiters who take advantage of young kids. 55% of sexual assault victims are comfortable, saying, “I believe I was a victim of rape.”
With the increased policing against sexual abuse, the sports industry is now beginning to show the skeletons in the closet as more victims come forward. With these statistics on the rise, sports associations are investing in ensuring the safety of children in competitive sports, as well as other athletes. Implementing prevention measures and hotlines for athletes to report abusers are some of the steps taking shape to ensure that abusers don’t get away with these crimes. According to studies, stringent punishments for child molesters and encouraging victims to speak up will help curb this problem.
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