Number of sexual harassment cases in sport doubled: NRC

The number of investigations into instances of sexual harassment in sport has doubled in the last year, according to a study by the NRC.

The newspaper based its reports on information requested from the sports disciplinary committee ISR and the safe sport centre CVSN.

In the first six months of this year the ISR took on 54 new cases, compared to 59 in the whole of 2021. Of those cases 49 dealt with sexual harassment, ranging from sexually charged comments to groping and rape. Some 70 cases are ongoing.

‘We are heading for double the number of cases in 2022, perhaps even more,’ IRS director Henk van Aller told NRC.

The CVSN data also show cases have spiralled. In the first half of 2022 the centre investigated 750 cases, compared to 900 in the whole of 2021. ‘The number of reports is higher still, but these also include requests for information and advice,’ a spokesman said.

Since 2019 club officials have a legal duty to report incidences of sexual harassment tot he IRS instead of dealing with them internally. This may have contributed to the rise in cases, but it is not the whole story, Van Aller said.

More discussion

‘In recent years the subject of sexually unacceptable behaviour has become a much discussed topic. People who have experienced it now feel supported. “That happened to me too,” they say, and “I want to get this out in the open”.’

More media attention also encourages more people to register a claim of sexual harassment, the CVSN spokesman said, citing the much-publicised cases of former Ajax director of football Marc Overmars and a number of gymnastics coaches.

Earlier this week former national football coach Vera Pauw said she had filed a police complaint against three men whom she accuses of raping and sexually harassing her 35 years ago during her playing career. She accused the football association KNVB of repeatedly ignoring her complaints.

Gymnasts make up the majority of the 40 people who asked victim support service Slachtofferhulp for emotional and legal help since August last year. ‘But we also helped people from the world of kickboxing, cycling, volleyball, football, handball and athletics,’ a spokesman said.

The IRS has come under criticism from sports people who accuse the committee of being too slow to discipline perpetrators.

Referring to an alleged lack of cooperation from Ajax officials in the case of Marc Overmars, the committee itself complained it lacks the ‘legal clout’ to make clubs share information.

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