Integrated Approach for the Prevention, Detection and Combat of Sexual
Harassment in Sports
iSports Policy Briefs and Recommendations
Edited by Champions Factory Ireland
The iSports project is a collaborative partnership between 10 participating organisations to develop a holistic approach for the protection of young athletes from any form of sexual harassment, empowering sport professionals, young athletes and sport clubs towards sexual harassment detection, prevention and combat. The iSports project will:
- Design a tailored training programme & delivery through a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for young adult athletes and sport professionals on tackling sexual harassment in sports.
- Provide sport professionals and athletes with the necessary skills and capabilities to prevent and manage sexual harassment cases in the sport environment.
- Provide parents with the necessary knowledge and tools to manage sexual harassment cases, in which their children might be involved.
- Establish and-pilot test the ISports mechanism with the participation of 120 users, using scenarios on how to manage, prevent, combat & reporting sexual harassment cases in sport.
- Train 500 learners (sport professionals, athletes, parents) though the online MOOC on how to prevent, manage & combat sexual harassment in sport.
- Train 175 learners (sport club managers, coaches, sport professionals and athletes) through the training seminars.
- Reach 100 policy makers through the policy briefs and recommendations and contribute to sport-specific policymaking through the development of policy recommendations on the prevention, detection and combat of sexual harassment incidents in sports.
- Reach more than 10,000 sport professionals and young athletes, represented by the project participants, through dissemination actions
- Transform the sport club environment into an inclusive, tolerant and safe community.
Purpose of Policy Briefs
Each partner country of the iSports consortium prepared a policy brief on sexual harassment in sport that is country specific. The policy brief will be presented to relevant policymakers and stakeholders in each country for consideration and if successful – implementation. The purpose of the document is to present enough background information on the topic and offer recommendations to the reader so that they can understand the problem, and to offer suggestions that can be implemented in policy and practice.
The layout of the proceeding policy briefs are as follows:
- This highlights the importance of the topic.
- This is country specific and enables the reader to understand the current situation in each country and identify what are the specific problems that the country is facing.
-Recommendations for Action:
- This section addresses what action should be taken to address the above issues.
Sexual harassment and gender-based violence greatly affects the dignity of athletes and integrity of sport. The European Union (EU), to promote the European Union’s fundamental principle of equality between men and women, which presupposes the confrontation of sexual harassment, took innovative legislative initiatives. Sport is undoubtedly a means of intra-personal and interpersonal development for children and young people.
Therefore, the participants’ personal experiences in sports play an essential role in young people’s positive or negative outcomes. In recent years, research studies have shown that athletes can experience various forms of violence such as psychological, physical, sexual harassment and abuse, and neglect and grooming. Such experiences are related to unwanted, annoying, abusive, offensive acts. They can lead to catastrophic consequences for the individual himself, leading to his early abandonment of the sport, psychosocial and social problems, and negative implications for the sports and the Sports Federations and Associations. Such acts provoke serious and irreversible human rights issues, as well as the values that govern sports. The Cyprus Sports Organisation (CSO) proceeded with its implementation guide through which the recommendations of the European Commission are implemented.
This guide is the central pillar in which various strategies and educational actions will be formed to create the conditions for the elimination of such risks in sport by supporting in practice the sports federations and associations, offering them the necessary support, infrastructure, and knowledge. Additionally, work on sexual harassment is presented in the Manual “Sexual Abuse in Sport: A Handbook for informing, Recognising and Managing Cases of Sexual Abuse and Child Exploitation” by the CSO, which is due to be released in the following months.
The Problem of Sexual Harassment in Sport
Difficulty in proving/making a case when an athlete accuses a person of sexual harassment. It seems extremely difficult to take a case of sexual harassment to court since it happens away from public view, from people who work closely with athletes, such as coaches or federation officials. Sometimes athletes are invited to the coach’s house to discuss the preparation practice plan or schedule the program to enable the athlete to compete in international games. In such a case, it’s just the athlete with the coach, so no witnesses can come forward to the federation or the police to speak about the incident that occurs. Therefore, although accusations have been reported from time to time, not much action has been taken at court level.
No established rules/regulations on sexual harassment in sport in most federations. Although sexual harassment is reprehensible by all federations under CSO, no established rules/regulations are conducted today. Coaches and other sports officials are not trained to identify, prevent, or bring to light such cases, like in other countries. In addition, no set procedures are established providing a specific and legal mechanism between sports clubs/federations, CSO and the country’s legal framework. Furthermore, recording, monitoring, and evaluating the procedure could provide all relevant populations (athletes, coaches, sports stakeholders, etc.) feedback so that future cases could be dealt with successfully and would encourage more victims to come out and talk with less fear and criticism. However, immediate action was drawn by CSO for specific regulations and procedures after a case of sexual harassment in a female Olympic-level athlete that held the attention of the federation, sports officials, other organisations, and the public.
Recommendations for Action
This report focuses on three recommendations that include the field of education, national procedures for reporting and monitoring of the quality of reporting. These recommendations were in line with the context of “Sexual Abuse in Sport: A Handbook for informing, Recognizing and Managing Cases of Sexual Abuse and Child Exploitation”, developed and produced by the Cyprus Sports Organisation, Gender Equality Committee which is due to be released at the end of 2021. The context of this handbook could be applied to the following three recommendations described below:
A mandatory training programme should be set as a prerequisite for all adults that work with athletes. The training should involve examples of good practices, preventing and identifying sexual harassment and highlighting relevant steps to address a case of sexual harassment. The mandatory training could be provided by the governing body of sport and delivered in the form of systematic seminars. Those who completed this training should be provided with certification of participation that can then be used a prerequisite of all sports personnel to work in the sport sector. Additionally, massive open online courses (MOOCs) could be developed by sports organisations and clubs that feature guidelines and define relevant terminology to ensure those working in the sport sector have a greater understanding of sexual harassment and the necessary procedures to be followed should it occur.
Universal Reporting Procedures
Protocols and procedures to report a complaint and a case of sexual harassment should be clearly outlined. A developed framework that outlines the necessary steps that should be taken following a report of sexual harassment should be issued at national level. These procedures should be made known to all institutions working in the field of sport across the country ensuring a universal approach to reporting. Particular attention should be given to protecting the victims and possible false accusations. Therefore, anonymity and confidentiality should be held in high regard. Additionally, support and guidance must be provided to the victims during and after the procedure to preserve a supportive environment and avoid criticism.
Monitoring and Quality Assurance
The above procedures should be monitored to evaluate the effective process of reporting and to monitor the prevalence of sexual abuse in Cyprus. Information of the reported cases should be documented and can be used to evaluate the quality of reporting. Monitoring the situation can also highlight potential contributing factors to the issue at hand. Sports bodies should be held accountable for the safeguarding of their athletes and the procedures taken by sports bodies should be evaluated to ensure that these cases are being dealt with appropriately.
High profile sexual abuse cases such as that of the former Sailing Olympian Sofia Bekatorou has shed light on the persistent problem of sexual harassment in Greece. While there are laws in place to protect against sexual harassment and violence such as Law 46/19/2019 that states that “anyone who, by gestures of a sexual nature, by proposals concerning sexual acts, by sexual acts performed in front of another or by the display of his/her genitals, brutally insults the honor of a person” is punished “by imprisonment of up to one year or a fine” or Law 2725/1999 on amateur and professional sports which aims to address violence in sports, there is a need for further action by the sport sector to protect the safety of athletes and prevent sexual harassment and abuse in sport.
As the national equality body with a mandate to combat discrimination and promote the principle of equal treatment, the Greek Ombudsman receives reports on sexual harassment incidents that may have occurred in public or private sector. Furthermore, the Greek Ombudsman also promotes and protects children’s rights by mediating in cases involving actions or omissions of public services as well as individuals (natural or legal persons), following a complaint filed by citizens (children themselves, relatives or persons who had firsthand knowledge of the violation) as well as ex officio in areas deemed to be of major importance. There needs to be more focused work within the world of sport to limit the potential for abuse towards athletes.
The Issue of Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Greece
With 52.2 out of 100 points, Greece ranks last in the EU on the EIGE’s Gender Equality Index for 2020. Greece’s score is 15.7 points below the EU’s average. This Gender Equality Index can suggest existing inequalities in other areas of society such as in the world of sport. The first Annual Report on Violence Against Women in Greece was conducted by the General Secretariat for Family Policy and Gender Equality in 2020 and did not include data regarding violence in sports. However, after formal complaints made by the former Sailing Olympian Sofia Bekatorou and numerous other top athletes, it was evident that sexual harassment and abuse in sport is an ongoing problem that is not fully understood. It is known that children and young athletes are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment in sports. Sports federations need to act to combat sexual harassment in sports. The Ministry of Sports has begun a series of specialised measures aimed at ensuring the protection of children and minor athletes including an online conference ” Start to Talk / Break the Silence – Speak, Do not hold back” with the participation of sports organizations of the country, under the Council of Europe program on “Child Protection in Sport “. The conference aims to develop good practices to prevent and combat sexual harassment and abuse of children in sports activities. Other initiatives set out by the Minister of Culture and Sport include the Creation in the General Secretariat of Sports of the Coach Registry, which previously did not exist. This registry lays clear criteria for who undertakes to coach the children, who is the person to trust the children and who is the person the children to trust. While protective measures are beginning to be rolled out, much work is yet to be done.
Recommendations for Action
The host of the Conference, Deputy Minister of Culture and Sports, Lefteris Avgenakis, pointed out while “the protection of children is our priority… our country had not made significant progress in recording, understanding and, of course, tackling this problem. “
Overall, the shocking allegations of the former Sailing Olympian Sofia Bekatorou should highlight the severity of the issue in Greece and should encourage the sports sector to act. Greece should explicitly condemn such behaviours and demonstrate zero tolerance for such behaviours to create a safer environment for athletes. Initiatives such as the Coaches Registry is a start to challenging power relations that can lead to the potential for abuse in sport settings. Further initiatives at policy level can create the conditions to face efficiently such heinous acts and attitudes. The following are examples of some recommendations that could be introduced at a national level:
- Universities of Physical Education and Sport Science, sports clubs and associations together with CSOs experienced on Gender Based Violence (GBV) issues can organise and deliver training and awareness activities for sports professionals on measures and good practices to prevent and tackle sexual harassment and GBV in the sports sector. This initiative can thus be financially supported by the Ministry for Culture and Sports.
- The institutions mentioned above could also develop activities for athletes on ways to identify sexual harassment and other forms of GBV and on ways seek for support and report incidents.
- Establish safe reporting procedures for sexual harassment victims in sports, coordinated by the Ministry of Culture and Sports in collaboration with the supporting network for GBV survivors of the General Secretary for Demography and Family Policy and Gender Equality.
- All sports clubs, associations, federations and Universities of Physical Education and Sport Science declare that they are sexual harassment and GBV free spaces and shall not tolerate such behaviours, thus discouraging (potential) perpetrators and encouraging GBV survivors that they are not alone.
- All sports clubs, associations, federations and Universities of Physical Education and Sport Science can provide and promote information regarding relevant legal framework, recording options and available supports services for sexual harassment in a simple and understandable language.
Sexual harassment and abuse in sport continues to be prevalent in Ireland and around the world and remains underreported in various sports settings. As such, the lack of research and data on the current situation of sexual harassment and abuse in sport on a national and international level allows the problem to exist in our society. The latest report on sexual harassment in Ireland (Vallieres et al, 2020) found that approximately one in three people have been sexually harassed and one in seven people had been sexually assaulted in their lifetime (p.13). High-profile sexual abuse cases over the past decade have sparked the growth and spread of social movements such as #IBelieveHer and #MeToo concerned with the rights of victims in sexual assault trials and the judicial handling of these trials. Within the world of sport, organisations and federations have reviewed their children protection policies and safeguarding procedures following the child abuse allegations against an Irish swimming coach in the 1990s, to ensure the provision and safety of children in sport. However, beyond the provision of children, not much has been done to prevent and address sexual abuse and harassment more generally in the world of sport.
What are the symptoms of the problem?
The Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) survey in 2001 was the first study dedicated to the exploration of incidents of sexual harassment in Ireland (McGee et al., 2002). For two decades following the SAVI survey, there was an absence of research on sexual harassment in Ireland. Vallieres et al. (2020) ended this silence with a study examining the prevalence of sexual harassment at various stages in an individual’s life – childhood, adolescence, adulthood and then across one’s lifespan. Ireland’s lack of data on the prevalence and effect of sexual harassment and violence limits the country’s ability to address and combat this issue within Irish society at large. There is no standardised or universal strategy or approach within Irish sport to combat sexual harassment in sport in Ireland. There is currently an absence of regulation or policy that solely focuses on addressing this issue in Irish sport. Extensive research is needed to better understand the current situation in Ireland.
Sporting cultures can contribute to the observed failures and lack of reporting of sexual abuse in sport. Relationships formed between athletes and their coach in sport settings are illustrative of power imbalances in which athletes lack agency over their own lives. Within some sports contexts, coaches have a high level of control over an athlete’s weight, food intake and social life. These normalised behaviours can facilitate the conditions whereby a coach can abuse power, trust, and position (Brackenridge, Bishopp, Moussali & Tapp, 2008). Sport has also been reported to create spaces in which grooming behaviour is normalised (Nielson, 2001). The normalising of deviant behaviours within sport can be disrupted by the introduction and implementation of educational programmes for coaches, athletes, and their parents to identify, address and report sexual harassment and abuse in sport settings.
Absence of Universal Policy and its Subsequent Implementation
The procedures in handling and addressing sexual harassment in Irish sport is not universal and has not been given much focus. Currently, the primary approach of sports clubs and organisations in addressing sexual harassment in Ireland is through the implementation of their respective Code of Conduct and Safeguarding policy. Often these policies state that ‘inappropriate’ behaviour including harassment will and should not be tolerated (SwimIreland, 2020:4; Basketball Ireland, 2013:13). Sexual harassment is not explicitly mentioned in these policies. Where there are policies in place, the implementation of these policies is largely the responsibility of volunteers in sport (Hills, 2011, 10). Furthermore, Fintan Canavan(2019) found while guidelines were implemented correctly at the top, they were often not implemented at grassroots level.
Institutions at various levels of civil society have a role to play in tackling sexual harassment and abuse in sport in Ireland. Given the lack of universal policy and absence of research on this specific issue, the following are some policy recommendations to address this prevalent issue facing our society:
Enactment of Universal Policy Provision
There should be explicit policy that addresses sexual harassment and abuse in the sport sector. The Department of Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media working closely with Sport Ireland should mark the protection and safeguarding of all athletes at all levels as a high priority. This can be demonstrated through development of policy that specifically addresses the issue of sexual harassment and abuse in sport. However, it is not in the development of policy alone, that will tackle this issue but in ensuring its proper implementation. According to Brackenridge (2001) ensuring policy implementation at grassroots level will control the risks for sports organisations and help minimise the coach risk. There is a need for universal policy that holds all sports institutions accountable for the protection of their athletes. This can eliminate any ambiguity of acceptable and appropriate behaviours in sport that could be fostered by existing sport cultures.
Comparative Research to Monitor Progress
There is limited research on the prevalence of sexual harassment in Ireland and even fewer studies considering it within the context of sport. As such, further research into the prevalence of sexual harassment and abuse in sport is needed. It is important to take a standardised approach to this research that would allow for comparative analysis to monitor the situation over time. The research should inform and support the development of education programmes that aim to prevent sexual abuse in sport.
Development of Educational Programmes
Education on sexual harassment and abuse should be built into sports programmes. Education and training programmes for athletes and coaches would develop an awareness of sexual abuse and could offer effective strategies to prevent and intervene when abuse takes place. Brackenridge also suggests that education programmes addressing sexual abuse in sport that empower athletes can help reduce their vulnerabilities. In recent years, there has been successful implementation of child safeguarding training developed to coaches across the sports sector. This safeguarding training should be extended beyond children to include the protection and provision of all athletes. It is necessary for such educational programmes to also feature an evaluation element to assess the effectiveness of such programmes and can help inform the development of future programmes.
Basketball Ireland (2013). Basketball Ireland: Code of Ethics for Children’s Sport. Retrieved from:https://www.dlbb.ie/Documents/pdfs/BI_Code_of_Ethics_for_Childrens_Sport_2013.pdf Brackenridge, C. (2001). Spoilsports, understanding and preventing sexual exploitation in sports, London: Routledge.
Brackenridge, C.H., Bishopp, D., Moussalli, S., & Tapp, J. (2008). The characteristics of sexual abuse in sport: A multidimensional scaling analysis of events described in media reports. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 6, 385 – 406.
Canavan, F. (2019). NI: BLM partner urges sporting bodies to take steps to protect against allegations of abuse. Irish Legal News.
Hills, K. (2011). An exploration of Swim Ireland Club Children’s Officer to protecting children. Retrieved
McGee, H., Garavan, R., de Barra, M., Byrne, J., & Conroy, R. (2002). The SAVI report: Sexual abuse and violence in Ireland. A national study of Irish experiences, beliefs and attitudes concerning sexual violence. Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.
Swim Ireland. (2020). Codes of Conduct. Retrieved from: https://www.swimireland.ie/files/documents/Codes-of-Conduct-June- 2020_200628_210836.pdf
Vallières, F., Gilmore, B., Nolan, A., Maguire, P., Bondjers, K., McBride, O., Murphy, J., Shevlin, M., Karatzias, T., & Hyland, P. (2020). Sexual Violence and Its Associated Psychosocial Effects in Ireland. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
Today, sexual harassment and abuse continues to be a serious social problem globally. Sexual harassment is defined as a human rights violation by researchers in various disciplines. In its most basic definition, sexual harassment includes non-physical and non-consensual sexually explicit words, attitudes, or other forms of behaviour.
According to Özen, Emir and Koca (2018, p. 159) sexual harassment is closely related to power relations between individuals. The Health Commission of the International Olympic Committee similarly argues that sexual harassment and abuse in sport stems from power relations and abuse of power (International Olympic Committee, 2007). Stating that sexual harassment and abuse can occur in all sports branches, the International Olympic Committee Health Commission shows that sexual harassment behaviours are encountered at higher rates in elite sports. Research shows that sexual harassment and abuse in sports negatively affect the physical and psychological health of athletes and may cause a decrease in performance (International Olympic Committee, 2007).
Koca (2008) stated that the power inequality and dependency relationship between the coach and the athlete are among the conditions that pave the way for sexual harassment. Studies show that athletes are under threat from coaches/trainers/teachers, peers, masseurs, counselors, administrators and even spectators/fans (Çetin & Hacısoftaoğlu Közleme, 2018, s. 86). In their study, Alexander et al. (2011) state that sexual harassment such as sexist jokes, sexual comments, forced kissing, disturbing touching, physical contact, forcing and forcefully engaging in sexual intercourse are common acts of sexual abuse seen in sports (as cited in Çetin & Hacısoftaoğlu Közleme, 2018, p. 86).
Data on sexual abuse and sexual harassment in the field of sports in Turkey exist only as “case studies” in academic studies. Therefore, there is no comprehensive data on sexual abuse and harassment in the field of sports (Koca, 2008, p.118). Academic literature illustrates the various contexts in which sexual harassment abuse can take place. From a study of 194 female and 178 male athletes from different sports 27% of male athletes stated that they experienced sexual harassment in the locker rooms, 26.3% of female athletes stated that they experienced sexual harassment in sports fields. 24.2% of female athletes stated that they reacted to sexual harassment by warning, 24% of them stated that they did not react. While 27% of male athletes stated that they perceived sexual harassment as a joke and ignored it, 11.2% stated that they showed a physical reaction. The findings of the study reveal that, in general, male and female athletes experience sexual harassment in Turkey (Özen and Koca, 2014, as cited in Koca, p. 147).
Sexual Abuse Situation in Turkey
In Turkey, sexual abuse behaviour is considered as a crime. In the Turkish Penal Code of the Republic of Turkey, articles of law regarding sexual assault, sexual abuse of children and sexual harassment are in effect. These are included in articles 102-103 and 105 of the Turkish Penal Code.
Özen, Emir and Koca (2018)’s study of 372 athletes (194 women and 178 men) from different provinces of Turkey, explored reasons for athletes’ not filing formal complaints when they experience sexual abuse. According to the study, the reasons stated by female athletes were: not wanting to drag it out, not believing that anything will be done, being afraid that others will hear, being afraid that it will not be believed, not being sure whether there was sexual harassment, not having a place to turn to, fearing that their future in sports will be affected, being terrified, being afraid of removal from the team, being ashamed to tell it and being ashamed because it happens too often. The reasons stated by male athletes were: not wanting to drag it out, not believing that anything will be done, not being sure if there was sexual harassment, getting used to it because it happens too often, fearing that their future in sports will be affected, being afraid of removal from the team, being afraid that others will hear it, being afraid of not being believed, being ashamed to tell, being too afraid and not having a place to turn to. Such studies show that sexual harassment and abuse are experienced in the field of sports in our country to a considerable extent. In this context, the lack of institutional support shows that victims of sexual harassment are prevented from coming forward and reporting abuse. This lack of support can result in victims learning to accept sexual harassment.
After the Council of Europe opened the Lanzarote Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse for signature on 25 October 2007, it was published in the Official Gazette on 10 September 2011 and entered into force in Turkey. The Convention called for a comprehensive international document focusing on the preventive, protective and criminal law aspects of combating all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children and to establish a special monitoring mechanism. It asked of each signatory party to enact the following preventive measures:
- Recruitment, training and awareness raising of individuals working in contact with children
- Education for children
- Preventive intervention programs and measures
- Measures for the general public
- Participation of children, the private sector, the media and civil society
Ünker (2020) states that although the Lanzarote Convention, of which Turkey is a signatory, completed its 13th year, the legal regulations against child abuse can be insufficient and remain on paper. According to the Network of Lawyers Working in the Field of Children (ÇAÇAV), the Lanzarote Convention brought important obligations to Turkey such as preventive services, cooperation with non-governmental organizations, and providing the necessary infrastructure and finance. However, the regulations regarding sexual crimes in the penal code are still insufficient. Victims who do report require various supports such as legal and psychological supports which are still not offered. Athletes cannot easily and openly state that they have been sexually harassed or abused. Hence, it is important to raise awareness and inform athletes about sexual harassment and abuse in sports. It is the responsibility of all institutional structures in society to address the issue of sexual harassment. Some of the policy items that can be developed by decision makers are as follows:
Ministry of National Education
According to Yıldız(2009), it was observed that sports are not sufficiently supported especially in schools (the rate of doing sports among students is 2%), and elite athletes are not given enough attention in Turkey (p. 14). It is important to raise children as individuals who know their bodies, can express themselves, their needs, expectations and limits. This is something that should be made available for young girls and boys alike. This education should also include institutional protocols in terms of preventing, noticing and reporting sexual abuse, and should be made available to young athletes and their parents.
Ministry of Youth and Sports
Ministry of Youth and Sports should clearly define the terms of sexual harassment and sexual relationship in institutional policies developed for preventing sexual harassment in sports, and it is the most significant institution that can lead the creation and implementation of institutional sexual harassment policies. Özen, Emir and Koca (2018) having conducted research with athletes on sexual abuses, urges for the development of a mechanism that those who have been exposed to sexual harassment can resort to. In this regard, the Ministry of Youth and Sports can establish an independent mechanism to which athletes can report the incidents they are exposed to. Furthermore, in Turkey’s sports institutions there is no sexual harassment prevention policy or an effective institutional complaint unit which may be an important reason why there is an absence of formal complaints from athletes.
Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services
In many studies on sexual harassment in sports, the fact that athletes’ families entrust their children to coaches as “a family elder” or “father figure” is considered among the risk factors that can cause sexual harassment in sports (Koca, Spor Camiasında Cinsel Taciz, 2008). Therefore, it is important to raise awareness and inform athletes’ families on sexual harassment and abuse in sports environment. In this way, families will be conscious of seeking their rights and athletes will gain the confidence to express themselves easily and clearly in a possible abuse/harassment situation.
Çetin, E., & Hacısoftaoğlu Közleme, İ. (2018). Sporda Çocuk İstismarı Üzerine Genel Bir Değerlendirme. Batman Üniversitesi Yaşam Bilimleri Dergisi, 8(2/1), s. 80-90.
(2007). Çocukların Cinsel Suistimal ve Cinsel İstismara Karşı Korunmasına İlişkin Avrupa Konseyi Sözleşmesi. Lanzarote.
International Olympic Committee . (2007, February 8). IOC Adopts Consensus Statement On “Sexual Harrasment & Abuse In Sport”. 2021 tarihinde Press Realise: https://stillmed.olympic.org/Documents/THE%20IOC/OFFICIAL%20SHA%20Statement.pdf adresinden alındı
Koca, C. (2008). Spor Camiasında Cinsel Taciz. Bianet.org: https://m.bianet.org/kurdi/toplumsal-cinsiyet/110161-spor-camiasinda-cinsel-taciz adresinden alındı
Koca, C. (2018). Sporda Toplumsal Cinsiyet Eşitliği Haritalama ve İzleme Çalışması. Ankara: CEİD Yayınları.
Özen, G., Emir, E., & Koca, C. (2018, Şubat). Türkiye’de Sporcuların Cinsel Taciz Algıları ve Deneyimleri. Spor Bilimleri Dergisi Hacettepe Üniversitesi, 29(4), s. 157-177.
Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Cumhurbaşkanlığı Strateji ve Bütçe Başkanlığı. (2019). Sürdürülebilir Kalkınma Amaçları ve Değerlendirme Raporu.
Ünker, P. (2020, 10 29). Çocuk istismarına karşı yasalar etkin uygulanıyor mu? Deutsche Welle (DW): https://www.dw.com/tr/%C3%A7ocuk-istismar%C4%B1na-kar%C5%9F%C4%B1- yasalar-etkin-uygulan%C4%B1yor-mu/a-55429246 adresinden alındı
Yıldız, Ö. S. (2009). Sporda Cinsel Taciz ve İstismarın Belirlenmesine Yönelik Bir Pilot Çalışma. Yüksek Lisans Tezi. İstanbul: İstanbul Üniversitesi Adli Tıp Enstitüsü Sosyal Bilimler Anablim Dalı.
Yüksel, M. (2014, Eylül). Cinsiyet ve Spor. Tarih Okulu Dergisi(19), s. 663-684.
Harassment of female athletes in sports continues to be a problem around the world today. Although different criminal and legislative mechanisms have been developed to improve their protection, there are still much work to be done. COVID-19 has exacerbated some of the issues faced by women, including issues in the world of sport. In Italy, cases of sexual harassment are alarmingly high, and in recent years, thanks to some surveys that have shed light on the phenomenon, many previously unspoken episodes have emerged. The policy brief will cover the problems of sexual harassment towards women in sports and will provide different solutions and recommendations so that women can partake in these sports in a safe environment where they are protected.
The Problem of Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Sport
Sexual harassment has become one of the main scourges of contemporary society, with various existing power structures that make the risk of abuse possible. One of the latest known studies on sexual harassment of sportswomen in Italian sports is the report by the CONI (Italian National Olympic Committee) prosecutor’s office, which confirmed in 2019 the record of 86 cases of sexual harassment in more than 44 federations in the country, especially kids and girls. However, it was started that out of 100 cases that occur, only 35 are reported, which suggests that most cases go unreported. The lax response of justice, accompanied by the sense of impunity felt by the aggressors, means that this situation continues to occur today, with both women and minors who practice any sport being direct victims.
This situation for women in sport may be worsened by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The reductions of budget, salary and repercussion in women’s can affected the sports federations and clubs’ capacity to protection the safety of its players. With women’s
sport receiving less coverage and seen as secondary to the equivalent men’s game, this can affect the awareness of issues arising in women’s sport.
Recommendations for Action
Recommendations to reverse the situation of sexual harassment of women in sport include reinforcing not only their rights within sport, but also reinforcing their leadership and role in decision-making, that is currently dominated by men. Strengthening women’s presence and security in the world of sports is necessary to reduce the inherent machismo in society and address the sexism that women faced in sport that can lead to the risk of sexual harassment and abuse in sport.
There are existing good practices that can be replicated nationally to address the problem of sexual harassment and abuse in sport. This includes “Il Cavallo Rosa – Change the Game”. It is a leading Italian association in preventing and fighting sexual abuse and harassment in the world of sport. The association is volunteer-led and was founded, the journalist Daniela Simonetti. It promotes actions such as:
-The reduction of sexual harassment and abuse in sports environments through proposals such as the introduction of compulsory courses for coaches, managers, athletes, and family members.
– Launching public initiatives to raise awareness.
-Adoption of codes of conduct with a sanctioning system for offenders.
-Modernisation of Sports Justice with the introduction of the disciplinary offense of sexual violence and sexual acts against minors.
-Promotion of manifestos and codes such as the “Manifesto contro la violenza sessuale e gli abused su minori nello Sport” or the “Codice di Comportamento per Istruttori, Allenatori e Tecnici Sportivi”
These actions taken by Change the Game can be implemented by sports federations and clubs to prevent the prevalence of sexual harassment and abuse in sport in Italy and around the world.
Concluding Observations and Final Remarks
While each participating country in the iSport project raised varying issues specific to their country, there was commonality in the lack of data collected, research conducted and legislation in place on sexual harassment in sport. Each country has legislation that addresses sexual abuse and harassment in its most basic form, with few countries offering focused legislation on sexual abuse in the sports context. The legislation needs to account for and consider the complexity of socio-cultural norms in sport that can allow sexual harassment to permeate into the world of sport and go unreported, undocumented, and unpunished. The existing power structures within sport between an athlete and their coach, and the normalised control of coaches over aspects of an athlete’s routine can offer a space in which sexual harassment can occur. As such, there is need for specific legislation that calls sports bodies to account and holds them responsible for the provision and safety of all athletes.
Some countries have begun to mandate sports bodies to undergo preventative measures to ensure the safety of children in sport such as the requirement of Irish coaches and staff to complete a vetting process with the Garda Síochana, the police service, and child protection training prior to commencing work with children under the age of 18. This vetting process and safety training requirement of all coaches and sport staff working with athletes is a recommendation that the Italian partner country is asking of their government and sports bodies and is already being in action by Il Cavallo Rosa – Change the Game. Greece has introduced a similar provision, the Coaches Registry that lays clear criteria for who undertakes to coach the children. While Ireland’s vetting and child protection training is not specific to sport and is implemented across civil society for work with children, Greece has taken specific measures to ensure the safety of children in sport. Turkey has stated that the legal requirements for the provision of children against sexual crimes is still insufficient. Progress is needed in terms of addressing sexual harassment more general if there is to be development of the provision in the world of sport. However, much of these advancements
are specific to the protection and provision of children in sport. These preventative measures and strategies need to extend beyond children to ensure the safety and protection of all athletes in sport.
All participating countries call for the development of an educational training courses or programmes that raise awareness of sexual harassment in sport. Turkey seeks the involvement of the Ministry of Education in this development of this education programme for it to be effectively implemented. The development of an educational programme can thus be offered to schools, clubs and institutions to educate children, their parents, athletes, coaches and sports staff of risky and inappropriate behaviours they might observed that can escalate and lead to sexual harassment or abuse. Enabling individuals to recognise these behaviours can act as a pre-emptive strategy to addressing sexual harassment. It is vital that these educational programmes feature reporting procedures so that individuals are aware of how to report incidents should they encounter these behaviours or sexual harassment scenarios. The Cypriot Sports Organisation (CSO) is in the process of developing a manual addressing the recognition and management of sexual harassment cases in sport, however it is yet to be implemented.
All partner countries have called for standardised and universal regulations for sports governing bodies and federations that require these institutions to report, record and act on sexual harassment incidents in sporting spaces. An issue lines in ambiguity on the topic, leaving institutions to decide the procedure in which they document and respond to cases of sexual harassment brought forth in their clubs. As a preventative strategy implemented nationwide, the national sport governing bodies need to create regulations that all institutions must abide by. Documenting the reported cases of sexual harassment in these spaces allows each country to monitor the progress in tackling this issue at hand. More streamlined monitoring strategies are needed, whether this monitoring and evaluation is conducted by government departments or within the sports sector, without continuous
monitoring and evaluation of the situation it is difficult to know whether the issue of sexual harassment in sport is worsening.
Sexual harassment continues to exist in the world of sport, threatening the safety, security, and well-being of athletes across Europe. Development in education, legislation and research can act as means of addressing this problem and improving the conditions in sport. Through the sharing of good practices such as that of Il Cavallo Rosa – Change the Game and the proactive development and implementation of preventative strategies by sports and civil society institutions and organisation, each country will be taking a step towards combating sexual harassment in sport.