Mike is help­ing to give vic­tims a voice

Ormskirk Advertiser - - Student Life -

AN aca­demic from Edge Hill Univer­sity has just re­turned from the final con­fer­ence of a unique project aimed at sup­port­ing vic­tims of sex­ual abuse and ex­ploita­tion in sport.

Dr Mike Har­till, Reader in the So­ci­ol­ogy of Sport, ini­ti­ated the EU-funded project Voices for Truth and Dig­nity (VOICE) in 2015.

The project, led by the Ger­man Sport Univer­sity, Cologne, is a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween seven Euro­pean uni­ver­si­ties plus sport agen­cies and vic­tim sup­port or­gan­i­sa­tions.

VOICE has col­lected sto­ries from ‘sur­vivors’ across many sports in­clud­ing high-profile pro­fes­sional ath­letes such as Spain’s Olympic gym­nast Glo­ria Vis­eras.

Over 130 peo­ple from 16 Euro­pean coun­tries par­tic­i­pated in the con­fer­ence, where they lis­tened to the experiences of ‘sur­vivors’ and the mes­sages they wanted to share with pol­icy mak­ers about pre­ven­tion of abuse in sport.

At the cen­tre of the project was an in­ter­view study with 72 peo­ple af­fected by sex­ual violence in sport – the most ex­ten­sive of its kind so far.

Seven re­searchers from uni­ver­si­ties in Europe were in­volved in the in­ter­views and Mike, along with Bet­tina Rulofs (Ger­man Sport Univer­sity Cologne), pre­sented the pre­lim­i­nary find­ings dur­ing the con­fer­ence.

Around 70 per cent of those in­ter­viewed were fe­male, 30 per cent male.

The offenders are al­most ex­clu­sively male and in 90 per cent of the in­ves­ti­gated cases they are coaches or other re­spon­si­ble adults.

The abuse oc­curred in a wide range of sports, with most oc­cur­ring in a foot­ball set­ting.

One of the key mes­sages of the con­fer­ence was the need for sport or­gan­i­sa­tions to go be­yond lis­ten­ing to ac­tively work­ing with vic­tims of sex­ual violence and in­clud­ing them in a mean­ing­ful way.

Dur­ing the clos­ing speech Mike em­pha­sized that “ac­knowl­edg­ing abuse in sport and the lives of those who have suf­fered abuse has to be a gen­uine process – based on part­ner­ship, truth and dig­nity – not sim­ply a one-off event.”

Mike has also re­cently de­liv­ered a key­note with Bet­tina at the Na­tional Work­ing Group on Child Sex­ual Ex­ploita­tion An­nual En­hanced Pro­gramme of Learn­ing and Devel­op­ment, where he was pre­sented with a Di­a­mond Award in the Un­sung Hero Awards.

The aim of these awards is to recog­nise and re­ward in­di­vid­u­als or teams who have made sig­nif­i­cant, on­go­ing con­tri­bu­tion to tack­ling child sex­ual ex­ploita­tion, ei­ther through di­rect in­ter­ac­tions with young peo­ple, their sup­port of staff within teams or projects or their con­tri­bu­tions to an in­no­va­tive method of work­ing.

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