While sport is often considered to be a safe, healthy environment that contributes to the positive development of young people, it is also an area where violence can manifest itself in various ways, including sexual assault.
“The studies we currently have at our disposal show that between two and eight per cent of minor age athletes are victims of sexual abuse within the context of sport,” states a report on Sexual Abuse of Young People in Sport by the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec. “To date, available statistics have shown that most of the victims of sexual abuse in sport are young female athletes, although a large proportion of boys are also victimized.
“Researchers have noted that young people who have been sexually abused in the context of sport often have low self-esteem, strained relationships with their parents, and eating disorders. In addition, they are often high performance athletes.”
It is essential to not tolerate behaviour in sport that would be considered unacceptable in other contexts, such as day-care centres or schools, continues the report.
“Parents can also play a role in prevention by finding out what preventative measures are in place in the organization their child attends and by choosing sports organizations that give priority to the well-being of young people.”
The decision to report to law enforcement is entirely yours, states Erinn Robinson, director of media relations, Rape, Abuse & Incest Network (RAINN).
“Some survivors say that reporting and seeking justice helped them recover and regain a sense of control over their lives,” says Robinson. “Understanding how to report and learning more about the experience can take away some of the unknowns and help you feel more prepared.”
RAINN notes several options for reporting sexual assault:
- Call 911. If you are in immediate danger, dial 911. Help will come to you, wherever you are.
- Contact the local police department. Call the direct line of your local police station or visit the station in person. If you are on a college campus you may also be able to contact campus-based law enforcement.
- Visit a medical center. If you are being treated for injuries resulting from sexual assault, tell a medical professional that you wish to report the crime. You can also choose to have a sexual assault forensic exam.
To learn more about the options in your area of the United States, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673). You’ll be connected to a staff member from a local sexual assault service provider who will walk you through the process of getting help and reporting to law enforcement at your own pace.
In most areas, there are specific law enforcement officers who are trained to interact with sexual assault survivors. Service providers can connect you to these officers, and might also send a trained advocate to accompany you through the reporting process.
There is no limitation on when a victim can report a crime to police, notes information from RAINN. However, in many states, there is a limitation on when charges can be filed and a case can be prosecuted. This is called the statute of limitations and varies by state, type of crime, age of the victim, and various other factors.
Anyone affected by sexual assault, whether it happened to you or someone you care about, can find support on the National Sexual Assault Hotline. You can also visit online.rainn.org to receive support via confidential online chat.
For more information on the telephone and online hotlines, visit https://www.rainn.org/about-national-sexual-assault-telephone-hotline and https://www.rainn.org/about-national-sexual-assault-online-hotline
Trained counsellors with Childhelp are available to talk through child abuse situations. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline can be contacted in the United States or Canada by telephone, texting or online chat. The number is 1-800-4-A-CHILD )1-800-422-4453. Further information, and online chat, is available at childhelphotline.org.
Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only 24/7 e-mental health service offering free, confidential support to young people in English and French. The Peer-to-Peer Community at Kids Help Phone is a bilingual, online, mental health support forum available across Canada. In the community, youth can anonymously share their personal experiences, offer inspiration and ask questions to connect, comfort and cheer each other on.
To contact Kids Help Phone, call 1-800-668-6868, visit www.kidshelpphone.ca, text CONNECT to 686868 or connect through Facebook Messenger at KidsHelpPhone.ca/Messenger. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, contact 911 or the emergency services in your area right away.