Sexual and physical abuse is a critical issue in our society and in sport. Current statistics show that approximately one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. Through discussions with professionals and organizations, it is agreed that the majority of these incidents go unreported and/or undocumented.
Sexual and physical abuse can be complicated in sport due to the unique relationships between athletes and authority figures. Athletes often develop personal relationships with coaches and/or other authority figures that create substantial barriers for reporting incidents. Athletes may leave incidents unreported due to fear of repercussions or the desire to protect authority figures. Additionally, the physical environments in many sports provide an opportunity for abuse to occur due to higher levels of physical interaction and increased level of one-on-one contact between athletes and authority figures.
Current events in religious organizations, sport organizations and other youth-serving organizations suggest that sexual and physical abuse is an issue that needs to be addressed across multiple fronts.
While nearly all participants in sport have the utmost integrity in promoting the safety of their athletes, a small percentage of participants use sports venues as a means for perpetrating abuse. Unfortunately, this dynamic diverts attention to the situations where some athletes are not always provided the safe training environments and professional stewardship that we should expect within sport. This small group of ill-intentioned participants can have a dramatic impact on victims, individual sport organizations and – more broadly – all sports.