Disclosure of Sexual Abuse in Sport Organizations: A Case Study

Sylvie Parent of Laval University examined 3 Quebec sport federations and 3 Quebec sports clubs each affiliated with those organizations respectively to examine the interventions used in cases of sexual abuse and the perceptions of 27 stakeholders within these organizations regarding this issue.  Several factors were identified which impeded the process of disclosure and caused victims to remain silent:  prejudice, beliefs, and myths that seemed to perpetuate a culture of inaction and silence.

Athletes and other stakeholders minimized and trivialized the problems experienced by the victims, blamed the victims for the acts perpetrated against them, or even challenged the victims credibility.  Athletes feared that they wouldn’t be believed and that, if they didn’t have concrete evidence, they would not have credibility.  Athletes also believed that sport administrators were more likely to believe coaches.  Administrators were concerned about false allegations and were more likely to wait for situations to blow over rather than be faced with knowing who to believe.  Few policies existed with regard to prohibited coach behaviors and administrators admitted to lack of knowledge regarding sexual abuse.  Few local clubs adopted the athlete welfare policies of their federations and the federations were only able to police coaches of provincial teams.  Administrators felt that enforcing policies required legal skills they didn’t have.  Parent, S. (2011) Disclosure of Sexual Abuse in Sport Organizations:  A Case Study.  J. of Child Sexual Abuse, 20-322-227, 2011.

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