Violence in the sports community

 


Physical abuse

Physical abuse is the intentional use of physical force which creates or strongly risks creating real harm to the health of a child or a teenager, his or her survival, development and dignity. It can also involve the use of inappropriate training methods which can cause or aggravate an injury. This type of violence is often more visible! [1; 5; 12; 41 E]
 
Examples of physical abuse in a sports environment 
    • To shake, push or hit a young person
    • To force an athlete to train even though he or she has injuries that the coach knows about
    • To pinch an athlete
    • To kick an athlete with one’s feet
    • To compel an athlete to do additional training which leads to exhaustion or sickness
    • To ask an athlete to execute movements or technical manoeuvres that are too difficult for his or her capacities and which could have negative impacts on his or her health
                  

 Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is an intentional and repeated behaviour, without physical contact, that has the potential to inflict emotional or psychological damages on a young person. Such behaviour without contact includes acts of verbal, non-verbal and physical violence. [1; 5; 15; 16; 18; 28; 39; 40]
 
Examples of emotional abuse in a sports environment
    • To yell insults (e.g. swear words), say mean things or make humiliating comments to an athlete
    • To hit or throw things (e.g. to throw a hockey stick, hit a garbage can, etc.)
    • To threaten to physically hurt an athlete or pretend to throw something at him or her
    • To expel or exclude an athlete from training
    • To reject or ignore voluntarily an athlete (always ignore his or her presence)
 

 Sexual abuse  

“A sexual assault is when a sexually connoted gesture, with or without physical contact, is perpetrated by an individual without the consent of the person targeted by this gesture and, in certain cases like those of children, through emotional manipulation or blackmail. It is an act aiming at using another person to fulfil one’s own desires while abusing one’s authority, or using strength or constraint, or explicit or implicit threats. A sexual assault violates a person’s fundamental rights, which include that person’s physical and psychological integrity along with his or her security. 

This definition applies no matter the age, gender, culture, religion or sexual orientation of the victim or the assailant, no matter the type of sexually connoted gesture and the location or the environment in which it was perpetrated, and no matter the existing relationship between the victim and the sexual assailant. [O]

Sexual assault perpetrated on a child under 18 years of age constitutes sexual abuse, and it is a type of ill-treatment described in the Youth Protection Act (YPA Article 38). It is described as when a child is subjected to gestures of a sexual nature by the child’s parents or another person, with or without physical contact, and the child’s parents fail to take the necessary steps to put an end to the situation; or when the child runs a serious risk of being subjected to gestures of a sexual nature by the child’s parents or another person, with or without physical contact, and the child’s parents fail to take the necessary steps to put an end to the situation. [E] A person in a position of authority (a coach, a teacher) cannot commit acts of a sexual nature toward a minor(Consent to sexual activities—Éducaloi)

Sexual harassment is also identified in Brackenridge’s Sexual Exploitation Continuum in Sport (2001) where it is defined as unwanted attention which can take the shape of verbal or written threats, sexual jokes, sexually connoted comments or innuendos, sexual or homophobic graffiti, sexually intimidating comments, proposals, invitations or informalities. New methods of communication (social media, texts, etc.) are also used to harass. [13]

Examples of sexual abuse with physical contact Examples of sexual abuse without physical contact
    • To encourage an athlete to touch someone sexually or to be touched sexually
    • To suggest an exchange of favours or privileges against sexual activities
    • To kiss an athlete on the mouth or any other part of his or her body
    • To have sexual relations with the athlete (oral, vaginal or anal)
    • To force an athlete to have sexual relations (rape)
    • To exhibit one’s genital area in front of an athlete
    • To ask an athlete to undress or get naked
    • To make an athlete watch sexually explicit images or movies
    • To make sexually connoted calls, or to send sexually connoted texts, sexts or emails
    • To use the Internet to communicate online with underage children and teenagers and to attract them outside of their homes for sexual, pornographic or criminal purposes
 

 

Violence leads to serious consequences on the physical, emotional and social development of children and teenagers who suffer from violence in their daily lives or within the practice of their sport. Some of the various consequences include:

Consequences in their sports Physical and psychological consequences Social consequences
    • Decrease in athletic performance
    • Abandonment of a sport
    • Difficulties trusting people in a sports context
    • Changing of sport
    • Absence at training sessions
    • Lack of concentration
    • Compulsive training
    • Increase of injuries
    • Eating problems
    • Sleeping problems
    • Addiction (alcohol, drugs, gambling)
    • Various physical symptoms (headaches, weight loss/gain, digestive problems, etc.)
    • Self-harm
    • Psychological problems ( Post-traumatic stress syndrome)
    • Depression
    • Decrease in self-esteem
    • Self-image problems
    • Loss of family ties
    • Social development problems
    • Suicide
    • Tendency to isolate oneself
    • Difficulty to develop social relationships
    • Decrease in school performance
    • Behavioural problems
    • Absence at school
    • Difficulties trusting other people
If a person has valid reasons to believe an underage person is in danger, that person is legally obligated to report it to the Director of Youth Protection (DYP)[E]
 
In what circumstances is a child considered in danger?
    • The child is abandoned.
    • The child is neglected.
    • The child is subjected to psychological ill-treatment.
    • The child is subjected to sexual abuse or there is a serious risk of sexual abuse.
    • The child is subjected to physical abuse or there is a serious risk of physical abuse.
    • The child displays serious behavioural problems.
 
Youth Protection Act, excerpts
 
Article 39: Every professional who, by the very nature of his profession, provides care or any other form of assistance to children and who, in the practice of his profession, has reasonable grounds to believe that the security or development of a child is or may be considered to be in danger within the meaning of section 38 or 38.1, must bring the situation to the attention of the director without delay. The same obligation is incumbent upon any employee of an institution, any teacher, any person working in a childcare establishment or any policeman who, in the performance of his duties, has reasonable grounds to believe that the security or development of a child is or may be considered to be in danger within the meaning of the said provisions.
 
Mandatory reporting: Any person, other than a person referred to in the first paragraph, who has reasonable grounds to believe that the security or development of a child is considered to be in danger within the meaning of subparagraphs d and e of the second paragraph of section 38 must bring the situation to the attention of the director without delay.

Discretionary reporting: Any person, other than a person referred to in the first paragraph, who has reasonable grounds to believe that the security or development of a child is or may be considered to be in danger within the meaning of subparagraph a, b, c or f of the second paragraph of section 38 or within the meaning of section 38.1 may bring the situation to the attention of the director.
 
Professional secrecy: The first, second and fourth paragraphs apply even to persons who are bound by professional secrecy, except to advocates or notaries who, in the practice of their profession, receive information concerning a situation described in section 38 or 38.1.
 
Intimidation is defined as: “Any and all behaviours, words, acts or gestures intended or not and repeated, that are directly or indirectly expressed, including in cyberspace, in a context where relationships of power between the concerned parties are unequal, and that aim at arousing feelings of distress and injury, hurt, oppression or exclusion.” [M] (MEES)
 

Young victims of intimidation suffer. They can be frightened and have a tendency to isolate themselves. Young people can also be quite uncomfortable when they witness intimidation. In your role as a child mentor, you have to act when you witness intimidation or when you are informed of such a situation.

How can I intervene?

 

Physical Intimidation

Verbal* Intimidation

Social* Intimidation

Material* Intimidation

    • To make someone fall
    • To bump into someone intentionally
    • To force someone to do something
    • To hit someone
    • To sexually assault someone
    • etc.
    • To make fun of, insult or ridicule someone
    • To threaten someone
    • To make sexist, homophobic, transphobic or racist comments
    • To make discriminatory comments based on age or other personal characteristics
    • To make sexually connoted comments
    • etc.
    • To spread rumours or lies about someone
    • To belittle or humiliate someone
    • To give someone a contemptuous or threatening look
    • To isolate or exclude someone
    • etc.
    • To destroy something
    • To vandalize something or a place
    • To take possession of someone else’s things (including, for example, private pictures in cyberspace)
    • etc.
 
*These can also occur through communication and information technologies like social networks, texts, blogs, websites, and so on.