When I read the news headlines about the sexual abuse and harassment that members of our National Women’s Soccer League have been enduring, I felt the all-too-familiar twist in the pit of my stomach. I sighed and thought to myself, “Again.” Then I wondered, “How bad does it have to get before things change? How many more people have to get hurt?”
I felt defeated.
Though this isn’t ‘child sexual abuse’ because these women are over 18 years old, it is representative of a much deeper issue. These experiences didn’t happen in a vacuum and they didn’t happen overnight.
I later read a post on Glennon Doyle’s Instagram page about those who knew about the abuse and did nothing to stop it. Same song; different verse.
But, I paused to read some of the 1,272 comments. I read disclosure after disclosure…women sharing the child sexual abuse they suffered when they played sports as children and teens. Most of these women were girls competing at an elite and/or collegiate level and too many disclosed their abuse when it happened and were told to keep it to themselves because of the harm it would do to their prestigious coach’s reputation or because the family needed that coach’s connections for the best collegiate program, the scholarship or placement on the National Team. Comment after comment after comment…
This rage started to boil within me, and it filled me with tears. My heart hurt.
I have worked with and spoken with many youth sports organizations and coaches who are doing this right; who are making sacrifices for the absolute betterment of our children. Bless them. Truly.
But my thoughts couldn’t go there…my thoughts kept returning to the youth sports organizations who didn’t want to do this work of child sexual abuse prevention because……
…if we do this training, won’t parents think we have a problem?
…we’re right in the middle of the season, can we talk in a few months?
…the season just ended and we’re already starting to prepare for next season, can we talk in a few months?
…we already ask so much of our volunteer coaches, I just don’t think we could ask them to do one more thing.
Would you like me to go one? Because, I can.
Too many youth sports organizations close their door to this hard work. Too many coaches talk about how there is nothing more important than the safety of their athletes, but can’t seem to get a training on their personal calendar.
For crying out loud!
ONE IN 10 CHILDREN ARE SEXUALLY ABUSED BY THEIR 18TH BIRTHDAY AND 90% OF THOSE CHILDREN ARE ABUSED BY SOMEONE THEY KNOW, LOVE AND TRUST!
That right there should be enough of a reason. But just in case it’s not, there are plenty of other reasons.
I could talk about how it’s highly likely your organization won’t be able to get insurance if you don’t take some proactive measures to mitigate risk. I could talk about the PR nightmare that results from an allegation of abuse in an organization that could have/should have done so much more. I could talk about how that PR nightmare will likely close down your organization and dry up your funding.
I knew that this was, what’s called, a teachable moment. So I sat down to make a quick video for each day of this week that had one important and practical thing we can each do to prevent child sexual abuse in youth sports. Something easy for people to digest.
Child sexual abuse prevention is a difficult topic; these conversations can be triggering and scary. I truly believe in meeting people where they are and helping them move forward, from wherever their starting point is. This is so important to me that it’s one of my company’s Guiding Principles.
So that’s what I tried to do. I didn’t want to scare people off; I wanted to educate and empower. You know…move the needle. And I posted possibly the worst video I’ve ever done in my life.
Because I was trying to act like this:
When I really felt like this:
What else do people need to know to make a change? To stop talking and start doing? To step through the discomfort because…well…their discomfort in discussing this is a walk in the park compared to the ‘discomfort’ of one of our children being sexually abused.
What else can I possibly say?