In a study that was conducted in 2020 by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, it was found that 91% of those who had experienced sexual abuse in a sporting environment had been victims at the hands of a sporting coach or volunteer in a sports organisation.
Extracurricular activities a breeding group for child sexual abuse?
Survivors of child sexual abuse who completed the study reported that coaches were able to carry out the abuse under the guise of physical contact that is necessary in certain sports. Swimming instructors and gymnastics coaches were among those named as guiltiest of child sexual abuse in a sporting setting.
Many also describe how the abusive actions started slowly throughout the years before becoming full-blown attacks on the daily. This grooming tactic is used as a way to normalize abusive behaviour in the more vulnerable. One victim in the study described that:
It was step by step and grooming. So there wasn’t the immediate transition where you think: ‘Oh, my God, that’s completely abnormal.’ He sort of built it. But as a kid, you’re not taught what’s abnormal.
And in particular, he recalls moments where the abuse was carried out publicly:
You’d be on any sort of residential trip, they’d be running in showers, taking pictures of the children naked, whilst they were having a shower. And it was all done out of like a laugh and joke.
News laws to protect sexually-abused children
Now, new plans are looking to expand child sexual abuse laws to abolish the loophole that currently exists in enabling this type of abuse to occur. Peter Wanless, the chief executive of the NSPCC, said:
We are delighted that after relentless campaigning, the government has finally listened to our calls and agreed to close this legal loophole.
This landmark step sends a clear message that children and young people can return to the extracurricular activities they love without being at risk of grooming by the very adults they should look to for support and guidance.