By Stuart Kavanagh
A new national study looking at the frequency of experiences of violence against children in community sport in Australia was released on Thursday.
Claimed to be the largest study of its kind to date, Experiences of Violence Against Children in Australian Community Sport is also one of the first studies representing the experiences of gender diverse individuals.
Led by Dr. Mary Woessner and Dr Aurelie Pankowiak, the study acknowledges that the social and health benefits of community sport participation can only be achieved if sport environments are physically and emotionally safe.
The study, which surveyed 886 respondents across 68 different sports revealed that 82% reported experiencing some form of violence in community sport as a child.
Most of those people had experienced psychological (76%) and physical violence (66%) while more than one third experienced sexual violence (38%).
Gender diverse individuals reported some of the highest rates of violence.
Psychological abuse for gender diverse individuals had a much higher rate, sitting at 81% compared to 55% and 50% for women and men, respectively.
Peer physical violence and sexual harassment also had a much higher rate when it came to gender diverse individuals sitting at rates of 53% and 59% respectively. Rates for both categories for both men and women sit well below the 35% mark.
There was some harrowing testimony given as part of the study. One excerpt from West Australian Emily, aged 22, read “…there was a point where it got (not for me), but for other people in the sport, a couple of girls ended up in the psych ward”.
When asked what the desired outcome for releasing the report was, Dr Pankowiak said, “As researchers, we want this to be a critical first step in both measuring the extent of violence experience in community sport and enhancing the effectiveness of the work in preventing this violence.
“Ultimately, we want to ensure that violence against children does not negate the many health and well-being benefits of participating in community sport.”