Reports about sexual abuse within sports clubs are often not dealt with properly and the police are rarely involved, according to a new report published on Monday.
The report, drawn up by researchers at Amsterdam’s VU university and Arnhem-based Beke Bureau, says that reports of abuse are usually dealt with informally and even if the police are brought in, the perpetrator often escapes punishment.
‘Club officials are worried about their club’s reputation and keep the police off limits,’ researcher Anton van Wijk told the Volkskrant. ‘But it is quite possible to to speak to the police informally, without anyone knowing about it.’
The report does not attempt to estimate the size of the problem but earlier research indicates as many as one in 10 under-18s could have experienced some form of sexual abuse at a sports club.
The new research shows that around 100 reports of abuse are made a year, with football, swimming, gymnastics and hockey the most likely sports to be involved. The perpetrators were usually coaches or team leaders and most often men between the ages of 20 and 40.
Of the 102 cases reported to the police which the researchers looked at in more depth, fewer than half resulted in a formal complaint. Police specialists should look into why charges are often not pressed, the researchers say.
In addition, the report says, communication between police, sports clubs and justice ministry officials needs to be improved.
‘It could be that someone who has been found guilty of child abuse at a school goes on to coach children at a sports club. This should not be happening,’ researcher Marjan Olfers told the Volkskrant.
Dutch sports association NOC*NCF set up a special hotline for victims to report cases of abuse in 2014 and in March this year launched its own investigation to try to find out the scale of the problem. That research is unconnected to Monday’s publication.
The NOC*NSF was prompted to launch the investigation after hundreds of footballers came forward in Britain to talk about being abused by trainers. And last December, Dutch cyclist Petra de Bruin told Nieuwsuur she had been abused by her trainer for years.
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