What is Safe Sport?
Safe Sport is defined as “an athletic environment that is respectful, equitable and free from all forms of harassment and abuse (non-accidental) violence” (International Olympic Council’s Consensus Statement, 2016).
Harassment and abuse can be expressed in five forms:
- psychological abuse
- physical abuse
- sexual harassment
- sexual abuse
Grooming – what I need to look out for as a parent?
Parents need to be aware of grooming in particular. Grooming refers to the way in which sexual abusers or predators (or potential abusers) manipulate targeted victims, professional carers, colleagues and their environment. It can affect any young person. Some children or young person may be more at risk such as those who are disabled or in care.
The groomer may exploit any vulnerability to increase the child or young person’s dependence on them. This makes it easier to abuse children and reduce the likelihood of the child either telling, disclosing or being credible should they share what is happening.
It is important that parents are sensitive to such a situation as the children and young person may not understand that they have been groomed or that what has happened is abuse. Grooming progressively happens in three steps.
- Firstly the groomer gradually builds relationship with the victim and their support system to gain their trust.
- They then gain power over the victim and they will emphasise to the victim to keep their interaction a secret.
- The abuse may be camouflaged as a supportive intervention – e.g. cuddling after a defeat, showering or massaging after a hard practice and an invasive medical examination.
As a parent, how can you play your part in Safe Sport?
- Have open communication with your child
- Set boundaries with your child about who should be touching them and when.
- Keep open lines of communication with your child’s coaches and parents of children on their sports team.
- Reach out if you see or hear anything that makes you or your child uncomfortable.
- Talk to your child on the physical boundaries between themselves, other players and their coach, especially if your child is attending their first training.
- Review your rules for discipline at home and what your family considers safe ways to teach and promote positive behaviours.
Educate your child on:
- The difference between privacy and secrecy. Privacy means they do something that parents do not see but are aware of, like going to the bathroom. Secrecy means something that parent do not know about.
- The difference of good secrets and bad secrets. Good secrets are secrets that do not last forever, like keeping a secret about your father’s birthday present. Bad secrets involve a form of fear or threat. For example a coach telling them, “do not ever tell anyone or you won’t be able to be on the team or play the game.”
- The medically accurate words for genitals and recognise that even little ones can experience genital stimulation. Explain that their genitals are their special and private parts and that no one is allowed to touch them. Continue discussing sexual topics to your child as they grow up so they reminded on the importance of their safety.
- Make sure they understand that they should not touch anyone else’s private parts, even if a child or adult asks them to and says it is okay.
- Their circle of safe adults. They can be your child’s aunt, uncle, grandmother or grandfather. In the event that you are not available when something happens, your child should feel comfortable sharing a concern with another “safe” adult.
- The difference between helping words and hurting words. Tell them that adults should only use helping words and they should let you know if any adult uses hurting words at them.
- Check in regularly with your child and be there for them
- Spend time with your child and tell them you love them often
- Take time to listen to any of their worries or stories that they want to share. Ask open-ended questions and do not respond immediately to try to ‘fix’ their problems.
- Talk to your child about how they feel both physically and emotionally after training or a game. These conversations provide a strong foundation for young children to learn to recognise and act on their feelings and share them with you.
- Remind your child that they should inform you if it hurts for them to pee or poop or if something is uncomfortable in their genital area.
- Tell your child that you value their safety first. If something someone does hurts them or makes them feel uncomfortable, they should tell you as soon as possible or their circle of safe adults.
- Praise you child’s talents and efforts so they feel valued.
- Monitor your child
- Make sure your child understands that no one is allowed to take photos or videos of their private parts or show them pictures of other people’s private parts.
- Monitor any electronic communications with peers and check for sexual exploitation or other inappropriate camera phone usage.
- Be vigilant of their sport teams, relationship with teammates and social media use.
If you see it or experience it, report it to the following:
- Write in to email@example.com
- Call 1800-777-0000 for the Child Protection and Welfare Service
- Call 999 only for emergencies that require immediate Police assistance. Otherwise, you may lodge a report at a police station or the “Police E-Service” page.
Together, we can help to create a safe environment for our children and young ones to enjoy sports and have fun.