SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN SPORT: ARE WE SAFE?

IqbalNews, Research

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By: Syarifah Fathynah SS. , Professional Education Centre, Division of Research and Education

The International Olympic Council urges all sports organization to ensure a ‘safe sport’ environment which is conducive, respectful, equitable and free from all forms of discrimination. This includes safe environment from any form of harassment and abuse among sportsmen, administrators, spectators and others. Sexual harassment is a sexual behavior that is undesirable and has a negative impact on the victim. In reality, sexual harassment in sports often occur, but they are rarely reported and are not taken action. There are some cases of sexual harassment amongst athletes taking place in the country which has been concerned and bad history of Malaysian sports. The question is whether our athletes have a safe environment not only in terms of facilities and training methods, but also social aspects that are in their daily routines?

A study to identify the prevalence of sexual harassment in sports among athletes was conducted by ISN Research Team. Based on the study, the percentage of sexual harassment among Malaysian athletes is 16% out of 422 athletes. This indicates that athletes in this country are not exempt from having sexual harassment problems and are more concerned when almost half of the victims are high performing athletes. This finding is parallel with research findings conducted in other countries which indicate that elite athletes or high-performance athletes have higher risk to be victims of sexual harassment. The study also found that sexual harassment among Malaysian athletes often occurs after training time at training venue and changing room. Those considered as harassers are from teammates or athletes followed by spectators, coaches and sports officials.

Additionally, some athletes reported their sports performance is deteriorating due to sexual harassment incidents. The prevalence of sexual harassment in sports among athletes, especially high performance athletes, negatively impacts individuals, organizations and sports development. Some effects on individuals are psychological trauma, health problem, withdrawal from sports participation, self-harm and worst case scenario, commit suicide. Serious cases of sexual harassment in sports repetitively occur inside and outside of the country. Here, the reputation of a sports organization will be affected and reduce the trust of parents, communities and sponsors. Although serious cases are rare in Malaysia, however, it will have a very bad impact on sports once it happens.