Child protection expert calls for survey into gender based violence in sport

Dr Melanie Lang

One of the country’s leading experts in child protection in sport is calling for a UK survey to reveal the magnitude of gender based violence in sport.

Melanie Lang, Senior Lecturer in Child Protection in Sport at Edge Hill University, is calling on sports funding bodies to commission the survey.

It follows the publication of research Mel carried out as part of a European Commission report into gender based violence across all 28 member states.

The report, which looked at violence directed at sports men and women across Europe because of their gender, found high levels of sexual harassment, sexual assault and violence.

All forms of violence, from verbal/non-verbal to physical abuse and sexual harassment/abuse were prevalent in sport in all member states with sexual harassment higher for elite athletes and women and young girls in general.

Within the UK, Mel studied data from over 45 different sports and found almost a third of young people had experienced sexual harassment, with the majority saying their team mates were responsible. Mel said:

“My research within the UK was four fold, looking at the current situation of gender based violence (GBV) in sport at elite and amateur level, existing legal frameworks, best practices and finally providing recommendations to combat GBV.

“Whilst the UK has significant measures in place to fight GBV particularly in relation to sexual violence in young people and has many examples of prosecutions in sexual child abuse in and beyond sport, the same is not true for adult athletes.

“As with all the other EU countries we just don’t have the data to reveal the extent of GBV and we lack a specific national policy on the issue.

“Public awareness and policy development to address GBV are targeted at sports organisations with implementation neither mandatory nor their impact followed up.

“It’s vital that we have accurate information on GBV so we can then set about creating a Europe- wide policy to prevent and reduce GBV in sport.

“That’s why I’m calling on sports funders to commission a study on the magnitude of gender based violence in sport among National Governing Bodies.

“Any such study would benefit from being supported by key sports organisations such as the British Olympic and Paralympic Associations, the British Athlete’s Commission, sports funders, affiliated National Governing Bodies and the Child Protection in Sport Unit.”

Following publication of the final report ‘Study on gender-based violence in sport’ the European Commission is calling on all member states to define GBV in the same way and commission regular research on boys and men as potential targets of gender-based violence as well as women and girls.

The report is available online here.