In the eyes of a child, the world of sports is a safe environment that fosters growth and development for young ones. It helps us discover and sharpen our skills in many areas. Learning, enjoyment, and camaraderie are some of the things that entice many people. Unfortunately, it has dark zones where sexual abuse can secretly manifest itself in different ways. Even the gymnasiums and race tracks are not exempted from sexual assault incidents.
There were already some studies on sexual abuse of athletes in elite and leisure sport in the 1990s and 2000s. Even so, it has only captured our interest in recent years. In line with online campaigns such as #CoachDontTouchMe and #SportToo, it had increased media coverage and called the attention of the sports industry. These proved to be effective and resulted in strict observation of no-touch policies. Moreso, other factors such as proximity in the coach-athlete and athlete-athlete relationship piqued the curiosity of researchers in sports violence and abuse. Note that most authors of scientific studies on sports often use the term sexual abuse than assault.
A sport is one of the primary contributors to the positive development of young people. But it has become an area where sexual assault can happen in various ways. Everyone should know that sexual assault in sports can happen at any level. The settings in which it takes place seem to be the same for both boys and girls. The house of the abusers and other places where sports activities are held are the usual spots of SHA incidents. Sometimes it happens at social events not connected to the sport. That is why it is essential to have a keen observation of sports relationships.
With a growing number of SHA incidents, people must be aware of its risk factors and consequences. Sports physicians have a pivotal role in identifying these, given their frequent contact with athletes, coaches, and managers. Sexual encounters through harassment and abuse may take place in different forms such as initiation, homophobia, sexual contact, explicit words and gestures, and even flashing. Some studies use sexual abuse that covers a broad range of harassment, abuse, and transgressive behaviors. Regardless of the intentions, sexual harassment in sports violates the athletes’ rights and is always illegal. The underlying concept of abuse of power and trust is what the victims or bystanders consider unwanted or coerced.
According to a study published in 2020, more than 50% of athletes had experienced various forms of SHA. About 20% of which were considered pounding examples of sexual violence. Up to 10% of which were still minors during the incident. 48% of the victims said that they were affected in their personal and sports life. It just shows that there’s a high overlap and variations of sexual abuse and its effects. More often than not, sexual abuse incidents happened in places and events outside sport. In a study of more than 100 cases, it was found that teachers or coaches committed almost 100% of abuse. Even more alarming is that more than a quarter of them are already married and have children.
The deep bond between the coaches and athletes seems to be one of the prerequisites to achieve sports success. However, it can lead to negative dependencies, unclear boundaries, misuse of trust, abuse of power, and transference. But since it needs more evidence to understand it better, more studies are now gearing towards identifying its role in driving sexual harassment in sports. They aim to conduct several observations on the psychological and sociological perspectives of coaches and athletes.
The perpetrator of sexual abuse must be liable for his explicit and transgressive actions. But it will be avoided if schools thoroughly screen each potential employee and diligently investigate complaints on coaches’ behavior. However, some schools choose to hide these to protect their reputation. This deception includes concealing evidence against sexual abuse perpetrators and giving subtle threats to the victims. Schools that neglect due diligence are considered accessories. Hence, they may be held accountable should sexual harassment and abuse incidents arise.
Coaches and teachers are considered the primary perpetrators since they are in positions of power. In another study, it was found that an abusive coach perpetrated 98% of incidents. According to it, their ages ranged from 16 to 63, averaging to 34. What is even more alarming is that about 25% of abusers are already married and have children. Males comprise the majority of perpetrators. Females are not entirely innocent of SHA in sports. In another study of female athletes, 34% experience SHA from men and 12% from women. But SHA perpetration is not limited to heterosexuals alone. There are reports and known examples of homosexual perpetrators. Nevertheless, one must always understand that it does not depend on gender preference.
Teammates and peer athletes can be SHA perpetrators as well. There are incidents of SHA committed by other members of athletes’ groups. Many athletes have experienced hazing and other forms of initiation by their teammates.
The impact of abusive coaching may affect them for the rest of their lives. More studies show that victims of sexual assault deal with post-traumatic stress disorder months after the incident. As observed, PTSD includes continuing anxiety, a sense of helplessness, persistent fear, depression, mood swings, sleep disturbances, flashbacks, panic attacks, phobias, and paranoia. Many have more work and school problems and are not aware of the primary cause.
Some victims experience withdrawal reactions and even resort to marijuana and addiction. As posted on Rainn, the statistics show that victims are 3.4 times more likely to use marijuana, six times more likely to use cocaine, and ten times more likely to use other major drugs. But the heaviest effect is suicide contemplation and attempt.
According to CBS Miami, sexual assault victims often have these reactions:
|Other Types of Sexual Assault|
|Sexual Assault at Work||Sexual assault happens at workplaces. It is committed by managers, supervisors, colleagues, and even non-employees.|
|Sexual Assault by Clergy||It is a form of sexual violence committed by religious leaders and ministry members.|
|Sexual Assault||Sexual assault covers a broad range of harassment and abuse, from explicit words to forced penetration using a body part aside from a penis or a foreign object.|
[Being a victim of sexual assault can leave you traumatized for a long time. If you want justice for what has been done to you, contact Diamond & Diamond Miami today! We offer a FREE case evaluation.]
“Sexual assault can happen anywhere, anytime. So, always be on the lookout for perpetrators.”
Seeking help after a sexual assault is often a difficult task for victims. If you are a victim or know a victim of sexual assault, reach out and seek assistance from Diamond & Diamond Law Miami. Aside from sexual assault cases, Diamond & Diamond Miami also handles slip and fall and car accidents. So, contact us at 1-800-567 today to schedule a FREE case evaluation and know more about our services.
Yes, gender roles, social norms, and familiarity are some risk factors of sexual assault.
Report the incident to the proper authority immediately.
The easiest way to spot a victim of sexual assault is by observing physical signs such as bruises, vaginal bleeding, difficulty walking, broken or dislocated bones, and soreness. Watch out for other reactions such as panic attacks, exhaustion, hyperactivity, mood swings, and fearfulness.