Report into child sexual abuse in sport

Last updated: 04 Sep 2020 Topics: Research

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has published a report looking at the research findings in relation to experiences of child sexual abuse in sport between the 1950s and 2010s.

The report finds that of the 3,939 people who shared an experience with the Truth Project, 2% described child sexual abuse that took place in a sports context. 91% of these participants reported being sexually abused by a sports coach or volunteer in a sports organisation and sports clubs were most frequently reported as the location of the abuse (61%).

Author: Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Key findings

The key research findings concerning child sexual abuse in sports contexts described in this report are:

  • overall enabling factors for abuse to take place in sports were similar to those found in our other thematic reports into abuse in other contexts and institutions
  • physical contact was a more specific enabling factor found in participants’ accounts related to sexual abuse in sports, as it is more common in sporting activities and was sometimes used as a pretext by perpetrators to sexually abuse children
  • for most participants, taking part in sport was not a defining or central factor of their lives as children or the lives of their families, but rather it was part of wider activities and hobbies they enjoyed
  • sexual abuse by those involved in sports contexts was often perpetrated during overnight stays, trips away and visiting the perpetrator’s home
  • perpetrators also sometimes used sports-related rewards, such as allowing the child to play in a more senior team, as a method of grooming or coercion
  • although some participants experienced psychological and emotional abuse linked to grooming and manipulation alongside the sexual abuse, none of them described experiencing physical violence or other forms of abuse by perpetrators in sports contexts
  • most participants did not actively or formally disclose their sexual abuse in a sports context as a child. A key theme discussed by participants was how much they wanted, or tried, to tell someone about what was happening to them but how difficult this was
  • the impacts of experiencing child sexual abuse in sports described by participants are extensive and diverse and similar to those described by victims and survivors of abuse in other contexts. A difference was that despite their experiences of abuse in sporting contexts, participants did not report subsequently desisting from sport and exercising, as a child or later in their lives

The report concludes with some suggestions for change from the victims and survivors. Including, continuing to raise awareness of sexual abuse in a sports context, better support and protection for those coming forward and improving the communication that organisations have with survivors of abuse.