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Sexual harassment and abuse of children in sport

October 26th, 2007 by Morten Romby · 1 Comment

Where children and youngsters gather it always attract sex offenders and paedophiles. Ph.d. Jan Toftegaard Støckel from Denmark believes that sports associations around the world could do a lot more to prevent this.

By Morten Romby

When is a friendly gesture from the coach just a friendly gesture, and when is it sexual harassment or abuse? It can be difficult to draw the line and even more difficult for children to know when their trust is being exploited.

Jan Toftegaard Støckel is Ph.d. and assistant professor at University of Southern Denmark Institute of sport & Biomechanics. He has conducted research in this area for several years. On the basis of his studies he estimates that the extent of sexual harassment among children in sports clubs is far bigger than the public knows. According to him the main obstacle is getting the sports associations to recognise and act on the problem.

»The associations should have a strategy for the prevention of sexual harassment, but most have not even defined what sexual harassment is,« Støckel says.

An expert committee under The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has produced such a strategy. Jan Toftegaard Støckel has participated in the concensus from IOC, that urges sports associations around the world to adopt the strategy.

»It is essential that sexual harassment and abuse is being debated in sports associations. They have to develop prevention strategies and specifically, so everybody knows where the line is,« Støckel says.

Many sports clubs have basic guidelines for proper behavior regarding sexual harassment and abuse, but they aren’t sufficient in their current state, Støckel claims. For instance many clubs have a mainrule saying that a male coach should stay out of female locker room.

»But two third of the cases of harassment in Denmark is of homosexual natur, so what good is a rule about male coaches and female lockerroom,« Støckel says.

At the moment there are no clear overview of the extent of sexual harassment of children in sport – and it will stay that way, Støckel predicts, if the associations doesn’t engage 100 percent to prevent sexual harassment and uncover the extent.

Facts: Read the statement from IOC on sexual harassment and abuse in sport

Debate: Do you know if your sportsclub have a strategy for preventing sexual harassment and abuse of children?

Tags: Theme: Children in sport

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