sexual harassment and abuse in sport

What is hazing?

- Hazing involves abusive initiation rituals that often have sexual aspects and in which newcomers are targeted by teammates
- Hazing involves a power difference between team mates, usually based on seniority


How does hazing happen?

- Hazing is seen as an ‘initiation’ or rite of passage for new team members to become accepted into the team
- It often occurs where there is a lack of adult supervision
- It often occurs in conjunction with alcohol consumption
- It often involves unwanted sexual activity
- It is often wrongly tolerated by the sport organisation as part of its tradition

How might hazing affect you?

- Hazing can result in damaged performance, or even lead to drop-out because it damages self-esteem
- Hazing may cause serious health consequences such as psychosomatic illnesses, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, self harm or even suicide 

Case study “Javier”

17 year old Javier has just learned that he has made the Junior National Team in which sport?.  He lives far away from the national training centre and is excited also to be in the big city realizing his dream. 

He arrives at the training camp the night before practices are to begin.  He receives a hand-written letter from Juan Manuel, the team captain, to come to his room for a ‘welcome to the team party’ tonight.

Upon arrival at the room, he is greeted by the other new members and 5 of the team veterans.  There are no coaches or other adults from the team present. He is handed a beer and notices a large beer barrel on the hotel desk.  The music is loud and several  team members are jamming in the corner. 

Juan Manuel is obviously in charge distributing drinks and orchestrating activities. He makes all the newcomers participate in a beer drinking contest as well as a nude race down the hotel hallway. The other team veterans begin to clap and chant the team cheer.

Javier has never experienced anything like this before and he feels uncomfortable.

As more beer is consumed the noise level also increases. At this point, Juan Manuel announces a special team initiation ritual.  There is a knock on the door and a young, near-naked woman walks into the room.  She starts to dance provocatively to the music and touches each of the new team members in a sexual way. Javier is feeling increasingly uncomfortable and he tries to move as far away from the woman as possible ...


What could help Javier?

- Knowing that he has a right to be protected
- Knowing that it is not his fault
- Knowing that he is not alone and that there are people to listen to him/ask for help
- Talking to an adult who he trusts (such as: welfare officer, team doctor, team chaperone, nurse, parent, older sibling, friend or teacher)
- Using a helpline 
- Teaming up with the other new team members

What could Javier’s teammates do if they are worried?

Tell an adult that they trust about their concerns
- Seek help for their own feelings
- Seek advice if they think they are at risk of behaving abusively
- Challenge inappropriate behaviour by their teammates

How can athletes protect themselves from hazing in sport?

Follow their organisation’s procedures if there are any
- Know their rights and responsibilities
- Know what to do to prevent and report concerns
- Look out for each other
- Enjoy sensible initiations but avoid being drawn into abuse initiations/hazing
- Challenge inappropriate behaviour by others
- Share their concerns with someone else


Coach-specific actions    

As a coach what could I do to help Javier?

Listen calmly to him if he wishes to talk
- Tell him that he has a right to be protected
- Tell him that it is not his fault and that he is not alone
- Tell him that you may have to report the problem to someone else who can help
- Learn where and how to report athletes’ disclosures of hazing (such as: the contact for a team chaperone, welfare officer, doctor, nurse, or a helpline
- Challenge inappropriate behaviour by other coaches or athletes
- Report colleagues or athletes who you suspect or know are maltreating athletes
- Follow the highest possible standards of behaviour and ethics in your coaching

Confidentiality aspect, e.g. towards team mates