Waiving Anonymity: I’m a survivor of sexual abuse in football. Should I waive my anonymity?

Waiving Anonymity PDF

As an abuse survivor, the decision whether to retain or waive the right to anonymity can feel like a minefield. This document highlights the considerations, to help those who have experienced childhood abuse in sport to make an informed decision. With an introduction by co-author Ian Ackley: a former youth footballer who was abused by his coach.

Ian Ackley: Former youth footballer and abuse survivor

Ian Ackley

It was in 1994 I first disclosed the sexual abuse that happened to me as a child, within football. At the time I quickly decided to waive my anonymity, as I felt this would help shine a light on institutional failings in respect of safeguarding in sport. I hoped that sharing my experiences openly would encourage others to come forward and persuade football and wider authorities to learn from past experiences and take action to protect children and vulnerable adults.

At the time there was no guidance on the pros and cons of waiving anonymity, which made making an informed decision almost impossible. Over subsequent years the impact of waiving affected me, my family, and other aspects of my life in ways I had not anticipated. However, I stumbled on and learnt what I could when I could.

Over two decades later in 2016, a large number of former youth footballers disclosed that they had been subjected to sexual abuse in football, and I was faced with revisiting the past. I realised there was still little guidance for adult survivors of childhood abuse, around the potential impact of waiving anonymity.

It was from there the Waiving your Anonymity- the Pros and Cons document was born. I consulted with other survivors and professionals, both within and outside sport, to provide a balanced and informed perspective. We wanted the document to give information and insight to others who may be faced with the dilemma of whether to waive or not.

Disclosing abuse and deciding to waive your anonymity are two separate decisions. I hope this document will help to support others and provoke a conversation, not just for survivors, but for professionals and journalists too; providing insight in what is still a very difficult and complex landscape to navigate.

Ian Ackley.