Mike is helping to give victims a voice
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.