Dutch sports world inadequate at handling sexual abuse reports: Report


Reports of sexual abuse in the Dutch sports world are often not adequately handled, concludes a research report by Bureau Beke and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Information about sexual abuse is often left untouched at clubs, federations and the person of trust point of the NOC*NSF, which means that perpetrators walk free for longer than necessary. The sports world also rarely call in the police, according to the report, the Volkskrant reports.

The study was done on behalf of the Police and Science research program. Over the past months dozens of Dutch athletes came forward to report being sexually abused in their sports clubs, mostly when they were children. Some of them said they did not report what happened to them at the time, because they worried that the clubs won't handle it well.

According to the report, this was a justified concern. Communication between the sports world and the police is close to non-existent. And the NOC*NSF's trust point - where athletes can confidentially report problems at their sports clubs - is barely functioning. In only 47 of 178 cases brought to the trust point between 2013 and 2015, can information be found about what was done with the report. 

"If the union is not informed of an unsafe situation, for example a coach being accused of molesting a child, managers can not do anything, while we must be able to ensure a safe sports environment", the researchers say, according to the Volkskrant. "In this way the responsibility of doing something against the accused perpetrator is left entirely with the victim. While they are often unable to make their way through a disciplinary procedure. That has to change."

While the researchers are still investigating how to improve the reporting procedure, they did make a number of recommendations. They advise that the police, judiciary and sports world work on a better information exchange, so that reports can be brought together in order to detect dangerous situations more quickly. "In the current situation, it may well be that someone convicted of child sex abuse at a school can train children at a sports club." The researchers also call on sports club to request Declarations of Behavior for all volunteers before allowing them to work with children.

NOC*NSF is "pleased" with the report, the organization said in response, according to the Volkskrant. "The research again makes clear how difficult it is for victims of sexual abuse to tell their story or report it to the police, judiciary or sports justice. The research also makes it clear that it is important to balance the importance of a confidential, sometimes even anonymous environment where victims can tell their story and to tackle perpetrators or unwanted situations. We fully support the conclusion that the cooperation between police, judiciary and sports must improve in this area."