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.
Frederick University and Center for Social Innovation
Sexual harassment, a social phenomenon and gender-based violence offends the victims’ dignity and appears inevitable in sports. 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 intrapersonal 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 Organization (CSO) proceeded with its implementation guide through which the recommendations of the European Commission are implemented and International Sports Organizations Concerning the Well-Being of Athletes as well as those involved in sport.
The Guide is the central pillar around 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, a more specific workaround for Sexual Harassment is presented in the Manual “Sexual Abuse in Sport: A Handbook for informing, Recognizing and Managing Cases of Sexual Abuse and Child Exploitation” by the CSO, which is due to be released in the following months.
Difficulty in proving/to make a case when an athlete accuses a person of sexual harassment. It seems extremely difficult to take a case of sexual harassment in 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 proof can be forwarded to the federation or the police if anything suspicious occurs. Therefore, although accusations have been reported from time to time, nobody was driven to court to face the law.
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 upon a case of sexual harassment in a female Olympic-level athlete that held the attention of the federation, sports officials, other organizations and the public.
Recommendations for Action:
This report focuses on three recommendations that include the fields of education, procedures and quality control. 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 to the public in the next few months. The context of this handbook could be applied to the following three recommendations for action, described below:
A mandatory training (synchronous and asynchronous, online and face to face) should be set as a prerequisite for all adults that deal with children under 18 years of age and athletes <18 years old. The training should involve examples of good practices, preventing and identifying sexual harassment and ways how to face cases of sexual harassment. The mandatory training could be in the form of systematic seminars (biannually, for example) and provide certification of participation that would then be a prerequisite for all sports personnel (coaches, doctors, managers etc.). Additionally, massive open online courses (MOOCs) could be developed to include good practices, guidelines, FAQs (such as “how to identify sexual harassment”, “what can I do?”), and procedures to be followed by both athletes, sports personnel and sport stakeholders. MOOCs and training could include both gamification and case studies for interactive means.
The following action includes the procedures to be followed from the time a complaint occurs until the legal action is taken, thus providing a specific legal mechanism between sports clubs/federations, Sports Authority (Cyprus Sports Organisation) and the country’s legal framework. The procedures could include a timeline with steps/actions to be made and should be open and known to all sport populations. Particular attention should be given to protecting the victims and possible false accusations. Therefore anonymity and confidentiality should be set clear when a complaint occurs within the country’s legal framework. Additionally, support and guidance must be provided to the victims during and after the procedure to preserve a supportive environment and avoid criticism. This may assign responsible officers and health scientists (psychologists) to overlook and procedure and act when necessary.
C: Quality Assurance
This action is mainly targeted so that all procedures have been followed accordingly and keep data of possible causes. Considering that courses specifically designed to combat sexual harassment in sports are still in their infancy, 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. Moreover, should the procedures followed are dealt with systematically with quality control, this may aid more victims to come out and talk with less fear and criticism, thus enabling a pathway to prevent sexual harassment in sports.
Relevant Policymakers and Stakeholders:
Dr Mary Charalambous-Papamiltiadous, Director General of Cyprus Sport Organisation
Dr Antonis Alexopoulos, Sport Sociology
Dr Maria Papaefstathiou PhD Social Sport Psychology/Sport, Culture, Society
Law 2725/1999 on amateur and professional sports, includes provisions on fighting violence in sports. Violent offenses on the occasion of sporting events could be unprovoked and dangerous bodily harm, serious bodily harm of conflict, illegal violence, threat, disturbing the peace of the home, insult of “sexual dignity” and/or provocation of a scandal by indecent acts. According to Article 2 of Law 3896/2010 – with which the existing legislation was harmonized with the Directive 2006/54/EC on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation – sexual harassment is “any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature occurs, with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”.
Furthermore, according to Article 337 of Greek Penal Code (Law 46/19/2019) “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”. If the victim is younger than 12 years old, then the perpetrator is punished “by imprisonment of up to two years or a fine”. Furthermore, a person “who makes sexual gestures or makes proposals for sexual intercourse to a person who is dependent on him/her for work or who is exploiting the need of a person to work” is punished “by imprisonment of up to three years or a fine”.
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, 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 first-hand knowledge of the violation) as well as ex officio in areas deemed to be of major importance.
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 score. The 1st Annual Report on Violence Against Women General Secretariat for Family Policy and Gender Equality (2020) may not include data regarding GBV in sports but, rrecently, after formal complaints of the former Sailing Olympian Sofia Bekatorou and numerous other top athletes, it came quite clear that, there is a
complete ignorance not only about the size and dimensions of the problem, but also about good governance rules that a sports organisations can apply to prevent and combat all forms of genderbased violence.
Specifically, children and young athletes in particular are sometimes at a disadvantage when it comes to sexual harassment in sports. Sports federations are in a position to combat sexual harassment in sports through their organizational and ability to enforce laws.
The Ministry of Sports is proceeding with a series of specialized measures aimed at ensuring the protection of children and minor athletes. In this context is included the initiative for the organization of the 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 “.
In particular this online Conference with the participation of international organizations and the Greek authorities aimed to develop good practices to prevent and combat sexual harassment and abuse of children in sports activities.
The conference was coordinated by the Irish journalist and athlete, Karen Leach, who had fallen victim to sexual harassment. The former Sailing Olympian Sofia Bekatorou spoke of her own, similar, experience, as she recently reported incidents of sexual assault.
Recommendations for Action
The host of the Conference, Deputy Minister of Culture and Sports, Lefteris Avgenakis, pointed out, among other things, that “the protection of children is our priority. In fact, indicative of the importance we attach is the fact that the two central issues that we raised, in the context of the Greek Presidency of the Council, are:
- the review of the European Sports Charter, and
- Human Rights in Sports.
However, our country had not made significant progress in recording, understanding and, of course, tackling this problem. “
As Mr. Avgenakis stressed, “from the first moment of taking office in the Ministry of Culture and Sports, we have paid special attention to this issue, which needs careful and substantial treatment and, of course, is not resolved in a simple and immediate way. It requires planning, participation of the society, information and sensitization”.
The Deputy Minister of Sports listed the initiatives taken from his side:
- Discussion of the issue in the European Union Council of Ministers, looking for best practices and appropriate ways of dealing with it.
- Aim to formulate in the Council of Europe, in the context of the Charter of Human Rights in Sport, of a common framework of principles and positions.
- Creation in the General Secretariat of Sports of the Coach Registry, which did not exist, so that there are 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.
- Signature of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Family and Child Care Center (KMOP) on issues of bullying. Because bullying is also a parameter of abuse. As part of this cooperation, development of awareness actions on bullying issues with action “Live without Bullying»
- Development of actions, such as the “Live Athletic” program, with the mission of promoting the Athletic Ideal and Athletic Ethics as a model of daily life, where, among other things, the participating Olympians and World Champions raise children’s awareness on sports issues. and healthy and safe lifestyle.
- Support of the HALT program (under the European Erasmus + Sport Program) and development of partnerships and synergies to raise awareness of harassment and abuse in sport.
- Adaptation and adjustment depending on country’s data, by developing the national framework for the protection of children and young people, the eight (8) international measures for the protection of children in sport:
- Development of national policy.
- Procedures that provide satisfactory answers to doubts, hesitations and concerns.
- Supply of consultancy and support
- Minimize risks for children and young people
- Behavioral instructions
- Prevention, education and communication
- Collaboration with partners
- Monitoring and evaluation
Overall, the shocking allegations of the former Sailing Olympian Sofia Bekatorou, required to activate direct reflexes in the Sports Field and society, with explicit condemnation of such behavior and zero tolerance in order to create a better environment for the next generation of athletes.
- The sports reform, the introduction of limits on management positions that encourage the renewal and prevent long-term retention and development of power behavior, the Coaches Registry, for clear criteria on who is the person to whom we trust the children, who is the person that the children trust and other initiatives developing by the Ministry of Sports, create the conditions to face efficiently such heinous acts and attitudes.
- Last but not least the new sports law was passed, which provides for the following:
Federation sports psychology advisor – Addition of Article 23A to Law 2725/1999
Article 23A is added to Law 2725/1999 (A΄ 121) as follows:
Federation Sports Psychology Consultant
- Every sports federation is obliged to employ a sports psychology consultant as a specialist partner.
- The sports psychology consultant provides the athletes with counselling and situation management services in the sports environment, contributing to their psychological empowerment, in collaboration with the National Sports Research Centre and the Health Committee of the General Secretariat of Sports.
- TThe sports psychology consultant is a psychologist, who holds a degree or diploma from a national higher education institution or an equivalent foreign university, or a degree or diploma that has been recognized as professionally equivalent by the Autonomous Department for the Implementation of European Legislation (A.T.E. E.N.) of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs or holds recognition of professional qualifications based on Directive 2005/36/EC by A.T.E.N. and has a license to practice the profession of psychologist.
- The sports psychology consultant must enter into a written contract with the sports federation, to which he provides his services under a full-time, part-time or periodic employment, dependent work or independent services contract. The relevant contract, in order to be valid, is required to be registered in the ERGANI Information System (ERGANI), if it is an employee contract or to be filed and considered by the competent Public Financial Service (P.O.Y.) or to be posted on the TAXISnet information system.’
Without prejudice to paragraph 2 of article 104, with general or special regulations, which are voted by the general meeting of the members of each sports federation of the relevant sport or the relevant sports branch, the rules applicable to all matters concerning the organization and the conduct of the sport or sports that fall under it, as well as any other relevant detail. For the preparation of the above regulations, the applicable international Regulations are taken into account. Observance of these rules is mandatory for sports clubs and sports associations that belong to the jurisdiction of the relevant federation. The sports federation must draw up and observe at least the following seven (7) regulations: a) competitions, b) national teams, c) registrations and transfers, d) disciplinary, e) ethics, f) anti-doping and g) arbitration . The regulations of the fourth paragraph and their amendments are subject to a legality check by the Minister responsible for sports, to whom they are submitted under the responsibility of the board of directors of the federation within three (3) months of their approval by the general assembly.
Examples of National Policy Recommendations:
- University Schools of Physical Education and Sport Science and Sports clubs/associations together with experienced on GBV issues CSOs and with the support of Ministry for Culture and sports, organize and deliver – on a regular basis – training and awareness activities for sports professionals on measures and good practices to prevent and tackle sexual harassment and GBV in general in sports sector.
- In the aforementioned context, organize relevant activities targeting athletes on ways to identify sexual harassment and other forms of GBV, 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 as well as all University Schools of Physical Education and Sport Science declare that they are sexual harassment and GBV free spaces and shall not tolerate such behaviors, thus discouraging (potential) perpetrators and encouraging GBV survivors that they are not alone.
- All sports clubs, associations, federations as well as all University Schools of Physical Education and Sport Science provide and promote information by all means (e.g., in their websites and/or in printed form) regarding relevant legal framework, recording options and available supports services with relevant contact info for sexual harassment – and GBV in general – victims, in simple and understandable language.
Relevant Policymakers and Stakeholders:
|1||Deputy Minister of Culture and Sports||Anastasios Lagas|
|2||Prime Minister||Kyriakos Mitsotakis|
|3||Deputy Minister of Education & Religious Affairs –|
Responsible for Higher Education
|Prof. Angelos Syrigos|
|4||Secretary General for Demography and Family Policy and|
|5||Deputy Ombudswoman for Equal Treatment||Kalliopi Lykovardi|
|6||Deputy Ombudswoman for Children’s Rights||Theoni Koufonikolakou|
|7||President of the Research Centre for Gender Equality|
|Theodosia Tantarou –|
|8||President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee and IOC|
|9||President of the Hellenic Archery Federation||Elsi Skafida|
|10||President of the Hellenic Association of Amateur Athletics|
|11||President of the Hellenic Badminton Federation||Yannis Kapos|
|12||President of the Hellenic Basketball Federation||George Vasilakopoulos|
|13||President of the Hellenic Boxing Federation||Charilaos Mariolis|
|14||President of the Hellenic Canoe Kayak Federation||Ioannis Skourtis|
|15||President of the Hellenic Cycling Federation||Vasilis Diamantopoulos|
|16||President of the Hellenic Equestrian Federation||Kostas Karakasilis|
|17||President of the Hellenic Fencing Federation||Ioannis Lignos|
|18||President of the Hellenic Federation Wrestling||Stergios Leonakis|
|19||President of the Hellenic Football Federation||Theodoros Zagorakis|
|20||President of the Hellenic Golf Federation||Thomas Tokas|
|21||President of the Hellenic Gymnastics Federation||Athanasios Stathopoulos|
|22||President of the Hellenic Handball Federation||Konstantinos Gadis|
|23||President of the Hellenic Judo Federation||Dimitris Michailidis|
|24||President of the Hellenic Karate Federation||Theodoros Sietis|
|25||President of the Hellenic Modern Pentathlon Federation||Dimitris Papalexopoulos|
|26||President of the Hellenic Rowing Federation||Ioannis Vrampas|
|27||President of the Hellenic Sailing Federation||Androniki Anastasiou|
|28||President of the Hellenic Shooting Federation||Thanasis Papageorgiou|
|29||President of the Hellenic Swimming Federation||Kyriakos Giannopoulos|
|30||President of the Hellenic Table Tennis Federation||Konstantinos Papageorgiou|
|31||President of the Hellenic Taekwondo Federation||Michael Fysentzidis|
|32||President of the Hellenic Tennis Federation||Dimitris Stamatiadis|
|33||President of theHellenic Volleyball Federation||George Karabetsos|
|34||President of the Hellenic Weightlifting Federation||Anastasios Lagas|
|35||President of the Hellenic Winter Sports Federation||George Nikitidis|
Sports improve health and quality of life. Globally, sport encourages social inclusion and cooperation. Negative stereotypes discourage women from playing sports and must be eliminated to achieve gender equality. It also involves promoting women’s advancement as sports leaders and athletes. (Sport | EIGE, 2022) According to research, women are underrepresented in athletics because they lack self-confidence, self-worth, opportunities, and role models. We must highlight female athletes as role models to address underrepresentation. Role models influence our behavior. They can inspire us to reach our full potential, raise sensitive issues, and raise our standards. Every Athletics Ireland committee, club, and member is urged to highlight athletes, coaches, and administrators. We can help the next generation of female role models by recognizing our own potential as athletic role models or by highlighting current female role models’ achievements. (Diversity and gender equality’s importance) Ireland 2020 Athletics) People in authority must set and support high behavior standards as role models for the community. The Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI) has created a Gender Equality Commission to promote gender equality in sports and strengthen its commitment to the cause. According to OFI Board member Lochlann Walsh, the Gender Equality Commission will focus on “female representation in high-performance coaching” and “visibility for women’s sport.” (Irish Olympic Federation Launches Gender Equality Commission, 2022)
Sport Ireland developed the Women in Sport (WIS) Programme in 2005 in response to a 2004 study by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) that found less than one in five women completed 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days per week as recommended by the WHO. This Program aimed to “raise overall physical activity levels and support women’s roles” Women inSport has invested over €19m in NGBs and LocalSports Partnerships. This investment supported sports participation initiatives and the employment of women in a variety of roles.
One of the pitfalls of gender inequality is the resulting sexual harassment in many sports activities. Because women are underrepresented, the rights are concerns of women are kicked to the curb. Despite the Irish Government’s willingness to tackle the issue of sexual harassment in sport, cases remain hidden and women are reluctant to speak out. This can be attributed to a lack of support, as well as sports governing bodies failing to implement policies that would prevent harassment and assault. Currently, Ireland has no specialized sports-related supports for victims of sexual violence. Furthermore, many people are not aware of their rights when assaulted while participating in sport. The focus of this policy should be on the current situation in Ireland, as well as possible solutions for them.
The Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI) has created a Gender Equality Commission to promote gender equality in sports and strengthen its commitment to the cause. According to OFI Board member Lochlann Walsh, the Gender Equality Commission will focus on “female representation in high-performance coaching” and “visibility for women’s sport.” (Irish Olympic Federation Launches Gender Equality Commission, 2022) Girls quit sports twice as fast as boys by age 14. 1 The Women’s Sports Foundation has spent 25 years researching this alarming statistic. Learn how these factors affect girls’ sport experiences and why they should play. (Do You Know the Factors Influencing Girls’ Participation in Sports? – Women’s Sports Foundation, n.d.
Recommendations for Action:
Support women’s and girls’ sports as a fan or player. Attend all levels of women’s sporting events. Participate in a sport if you are an athlete. By watching their sports on television or by following them on social media, you can show your support for female athletes.
Develop gender equity policies. The gender equality goal has to be pursued by sports groups. Women who put in an equivalent amount of effort should be entitled to the same participation possibilities, financial support, pay, and perks as males.
Avoid sexist language in communications. Never use sexist or demeaning references to female athletes’ appearance or non-sports activities while writing about women in sports. In discussing the feats of both male and female athletes, use equally colorful language.
Establish a whistle blower program. In order to record incidents of discrimination and harassment in your sports organization, you need a system that is simple, safe, and anonymous. It might be scary to speak out about wrongdoing, therefore it’s important that those who do so be protected.
Hire more female sports executives. Getting more women involved in sports as players, coaches, trainers, executives, and journalists may help bring about gender equality in the industry.
Do You Know the Factors Influencing Girls’ Participation in Sports? – Women’s Sports Foundation. (n.d.). Women’s Sports Foundation. Retrieved September 03, 2022, from https://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/do-you-know-the-factors-influencing-girls-participation-in-sports/ participation-in-sports/
Ireland – Sexual Harassment | European Institute for Gender Equality. (2022, January 1). European Institute for Gender Equality. Retrieved September 03, 2022, from https://eige.europa.eu/gender-based-violence/regulatory-and-legal-framework/legal-definitions-in-the-eu/ireland-sexual-harassment
Olympic Federation of Ireland launches Gender Equality Commission. (2022, March 10). Olympic Federation of Ireland Launches Gender Equality Commission. Retrieved September 03, 2022, from https://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1120319/ofi-gender-equality-commission-launched
Sport | European Institute for Gender Equality. (2022, January 1). European Institute for Gender Equality. Retrieved September 03, 2022, from https://eige.europa.eu/topics/sport
Why Diversity and Gender Equality is ImportantAthletics Ireland. (2020, September 1). Athletics Ireland. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://www.athleticsireland.ie/news/why-diversity-and-gender-equality-is-important
In Türkiye, the field of sports emerges as an area where the voices of non-governmental organizations are almost not heard because sexual harassment is a relatively new area of study in Turkey. The problem has existed in Türkiye due to social perceptions, attitude differences, and the socialization process, but it has not been studied in detail. When considering the damage it causes to a person, a club, and the sports community, the significance of the situation becomes apparent. In contrast, the sports field is primarily managed by state institutions (General Directorate of Sports Services, Sports Federations), sports clubs, and commercial sports centers. In addition, the policies that will be realized with the cooperation of non-governmental organizations and state institutions that play a role in developing gender equality policies in sports are necessary to reach the wider masses and their applicability. The Sports and Physical Activity Association for Women is the only non-governmental organization in Turkey that carries out rights-based activities regarding the participation of women and girls in sports and physical activity.
Lawyer Mert Yaşar stated that the Truth and Research Commissions established in Norway and Australia work with academics and NGOs to create policies. In addition, Yaşar noted that there is a Board of Combating Sexual Abuse in Sports in England; He said that in the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Germany, sexual abuse is fought through the Ministries of Sports. According to Yaşar, if such an institution is not to be established in Turkey, it is necessary to decide which ministry will carry out the studies in this field.
There is no prevalence data on sexual abuse. However, some information comes from research, media reports, interviews with former athletes, and criminal trials. A survey of female athletes in the United States found that 19% of female students surveyed had experienced sexual harassment. In the UK, 21% of her athletes in women’s clubs have experienced sexual harassment. In a survey in Turkey, 200 of her 356 female athletes (56%) said they had been sexually harassed in sport.
The sports field is full of risks; It requires different institutions to establish child protection programs to protect children from various dangers and take all kinds of precautions. Stirling and Kerr (2008) state that the four main points of child protection programs are based on an athletecentered approach; policy, education, research and advocacy.
Organized by the Hacettepe University Faculty of Sports Sciences and Sports and Physical Activity Association for Women in 2019, the “The Second Women and Sports Workshop”, the following problems and solution suggestions were developed in the participation in performance sports working group.
Harassment and abuse are a violation of human rights that damage both individual and organizational health. This situation impacts athletes and other people, while the legal, financial, and moral liabilities fall onto sports organizations. These issues are inevitable in all sports and athletes of various professional levels.
In sports institutions in Turkey, there are no sexual harassment prevention policies or effective corporate complaints units. There is no corporate complaints unit functioning in this way. This is a fundamental reason athletes’ reactions to sexual harassment and assault are primarily passive and do not make formal complaints. The trainers’ and athletes’ lack of knowledge about sexual harassment and abusive behaviors are also significant problems in the sports field. Both of the parties do not know the boundaries of the behaviors. Female athletes lack awareness about “good touch-bad touch” and have problems limiting these touches. There is a problem of fear and reluctance to formally present human rights violations, discrimination, and all forms of abuse to official institutions, fearing that female athletes will receive backlash and be excluded from the field.
The other problem is about the languages of the media tools. Attitudes to report sexual violence cases can sometimes be in a way that blames the victim because national newspapers and some media agencies present the victims as perpetrators. This situation causes different perceptions in people and raises doubts about the reporting status of abused people. A victim who sees these examples may consider not reporting the perpetrator. This is a big problem that needs to be solved.
The lack of research about sexual harassment in the sports field in Turkey. The inadequacy of the control mechanisms regarding harassment in the federations and the ineffectiveness of the existing tools. Lack of preventive and deterrent penalties for sexual harassment and abuse in sports institutions. Lack of preventive and deterrent penalties for sexual harassment and abuse in sports institutions.
Sports institutions should collect data on sexual harassment and abuse in the field of sports and keep records.
Legal procedures to prevent sexual harassment and abuse in sports institutions should be developed and implemented.
Criminal sanctions for sexual harassment and abuse in sports institutions, especially federations, should be clarified.
Functional harassment reporting, prevention and harassment and abuse units should be established.
Managers of sports institutions should act in accordance with legal procedures when sexual harassment and abuse cases/complaints occur.
Coaches and managers who are subject to sexual harassment and abuse complaints, and an investigation is being carried out, should be dismissed.
Additional codes of conduct should be prepared for trainers, and sexual harassment and abuse behaviors should be included. Trainers must undertake to abide by these rules when hiring.
Additional behavioral rules should be prepared for athletes, and sexual harassment and abuse behaviors should be included. Athletes must undertake to abide by these rules when signing contracts.
Sexual harassment and abuse prevention training should be included in trainer training seminars.
Trainings for preventing sexual harassment and abuse should also be given to managers and athletes.
It is necessary to prevent the victim from being blamed by controlling the language used while reporting harassment and abuse in the media. Therefore, the media language should be checked.
Sexual harassment prevention policies in sports institutions will ensure that sports environments are safe for all individuals and that especially athletes have the opportunity to perform in a safe environment.
Obstacles preventing individuals from doing sports without being exposed to violence and abuse should be removed both legally and through training.
A person should be appointed in the sports institutions. This person should guide the athletes about which institution to apply to regarding the incidents and complaints received; act on behalf of the athletes within the sports institution; act as a spokesperson, guide the communication; serve as a bridge between the judicial and administrative units and the sports institution by initiating the procedures regarding complaints and denunciations.
- 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
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- Koca, C. (2018). Sporda Toplumsal Cinsiyet Eşitliği Haritalama ve İzleme Çalışması.Ankara: CEİD Yayınları.
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Harassment of female athletes in all sports is still a stigma around the world today. Although different criminal and legislative mechanisms have been developed to improve their protection, there are still many duties to be done, especially in the time we are going through, affected by COVID-19 and by the different cuts that women can suffer in the sports disciplines they practice. In Italy, the numbers in this area are alarmingly high, and in recent years, thanks to some surveys that have shed light on the phenomenon, many previously unspoken episodes have emerged.
In the following policy brief we will develop the main problems faced by women in sports, and finally we will provide different solutions and recommendations so that women can exercise these sports professions in the safe way they deserve.
Sexual harassment has become one of the main scourges of the society in which we find ourselves, and that is one more extension of the power relations that occur in the patriarchal world in which we live. In the current, women face the possibility of being physically and sexually harassed or violated by their male colleagues and coaches, living in unsafe environments that Instead of accompanying them, he attacks them and gives them a feeling of perpetual insecurity.
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, applying the parameter of the dark number (where out of 100 cases that occur, only 35 are reported), there could have been around 300 and 400 cases of sexual harassment, therefore the majority were not reported to the authorities. 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.
The situation of women in sport, on the other hand, may be increasingly affected by the consequences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this case, sports federations and clubs can be forced to reinforce the sports disciplines that we mentioned above, since they
present more benefits, have a greater pull on social networks and have higher attendance records, relegating women’s sports to reductions of budget, salary and repercussion. This can also affect the reinforcement of these security mechanisms that women deserve, like all people who practice federated and non-federated sports, again having an impact on their safety and their continuity in the exercise of these sports. We recall, according to the FIFPRO Global Employment Report report, that in 2017 only 18% of female footballers were federated, data that may remain stagnant if their rights continue to be curtailed.
Recommendation for action
Our recommendations to reverse the situation of sexual harassment of women in sport go through reinforcing not only their rights within the same panorama, but also reinforcing their leadership and role in decision-making, dominated mainly by male people and environments. Strengthening your presence and security in the world of sports is necessary to continue on the road to recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic, to reduce the inherent machismo in society and to leave no one behind.
At the same time, we would like to bring up and show our support to different dynamics and proposals that different organizations have already developed, such as “Il Cavallo Rosa – ChangeTheGame” https://www.changethegame.it/. It is a leader italian association born to prevent and fight sexual abuse and harassement in the world of sport. The association is volunteeer based and It was founded by the journalist Daniela Simonetti, author of the book “Impunità di gregge” (2021), and 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
-Modernization 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”
-Abuso sexual en el deporte, el polvo sigue bajo la alfombra | Noticias VD (vdnews.tv) https://vdnews.tv/article/abusi-sessuali-sport/
-Acoso y abuso en el deporte: una lacra a erradicar | Revista Deportes (sportmagazine.it) https://www.sportmagazine.it/altri-sport/2021/03/22/molestie-abusi-nello-sport/
-Sport e abusi sessuali, un libro inchiesta rompe un tabù | Giulia (globalist.it) https://giulia.globalist.it/attualita/2021/03/13/sport-e-abusi-sessuali-un-libro-inchiesta-rompe-un tabu-2076275.html
-Molestie sessuali nello sport: poche denunce: “Regna l’omertà, chi parla viene emarginato” (msn.com) https://www.msn.com/it-it/notizie/italia/molestie-sessuali-nello-sport-poche-denunceregna-l-e2-80-99omert-c3-a0-chi-parla-viene-emarginato/ar-BB1c4PhY
-“Impunità di gregge”: ovvero come nello sport gli orchi agiscono indisturbati – La Voce di New York https://www.lavocedinewyork.com/arts/libri/2021/02/27/impunita-di-gregge-ovvero-comenello-sport-gli-orchi-agiscono-indisturbati/
-Acoso sexual en el deporte (endvawnow.org) https://www.endvawnow.org/es/articles/30-acososexual-en-el-deporte.html
Relevant Policymakers and Stakeholders
CONI The Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI), is the public body that provides, provides discipline, regulation and management of national sports activities in Italy, by authority of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Il Cavallo Rosa/Change the game – https://www.changethegame.it/
At local level: Municipality of Milan (area sport, tourism and quality of life)
At regional level: Lombardy Region (sport department)
At national level: National Ministry of sport
Concluding Observations and Final Remarks
iSports is an initiative to promote the European Union’s fundamental principle of equality between men and women, which presupposes the confrontation of sexual harassment in sport. The iSports consortium has prepared a policy brief that is country specific and will be presented to relevant policymakers and stakeholders for consideration and if successful – implementation. Partners believe that this project will initiate stakeholder discourse to tackle sexual harassment in sport.