Examining and Mitigating Sexual Misconduct in Sport
I am humbled to share that Examining and Mitigating Sexual Misconduct in Sport has been breathed and labored into existence. It has been nearly three years in the making. In the fall of 2019, I decided it was past time to curate a text in sport that unpacked sexual misconduct, unveiled survivor stories, and provided dialogue of how the culture may toil to be different. I began reflecting on how I envisioned a text to be meaningful for sport constituents and as I brainstormed, I welcomed Dr. Leslee Fisher into the conversation and shared my insights and visions. We ended up collaborating on a proposal. It was accepted by Routledge and the “work” began during a global pandemic. As one could imagine, contributors needed to prioritize their own, their families’ and community’s care over “producing” (myself included) and the end product surely is different from the proposal. The text is, if not the beginning of the conversation, at least part of the conversation for some organizations. It is not THE conversation. However imperfect and incomplete the text might be, I am proud of the work. Everything is a process, an uncovering and an opportunity for learning and unlearning. It has been emotional, healing work to co-create this project with esteemed colleagues and people I deeply admire for their courage, their truth speaking and simply for who they are as humans.
As I often say and deeply believe, we are all in the process of healing from something. My first personal sexual misconduct experience was being groomed for sexual advances by my childhood basketball coach for nearly a decade (see chapter 6 of Examining and Mitigating Sexual Misconduct in Sport). When I tell clients, coaches, organizations that as someone trained in performance excellence that I do not center winning in sport, I mean it with every fiber of my being. Success was centered in my childhood athletic experience, and it cost me more than any benefit winning could provide. Yes, I support athletes, business executives, medical surgeons, and others in becoming their best selves — high performers in their craft; though, never at the expense of their physical, emotional and/or psychological well-being. Full stop — no excuses, no side stepping. It is my belief that at no point, should anyone feel required to leave their soul behind in their quest for accomplishment, self-fulfillment or success.
I do not expect sport constituents to fully understand my passion or my experience; though, I do fully hope everyone in sport does all in our power to end cycles of harm. Years after I was free of my former coach’s manipulation, he threatened my life and safety as a sophomore in college. I was shook, and people whom I looked up to and love(d) told me it was no big deal, “he’s a big bark but no bite.” I recognized they did not know or believe in his capacity to disempower, quiet, and damage. This coach, I knew, was quite capable of harm; and, he’s in prison for it now. With time I stopped relying on a committee of spectators outside of my experience to tell me how to feel or react to life’s harm. Thus, believing people as experts on their experience is most central to me.
With time, I slowly stopped fearing what people might say about me (and sometimes I need re-reminders) when they mentioned my truth speaking created/creates too much discomfort. I believe discomfort is where our edge of growth, awakening and of course healing almost always resides. I began to realize my body always knew when I didn’t feel safe and provided me signals I was taught to ignore as a child, as an athlete, and as a young woman. I am retraining myself to listen to my body and respond to its deep knowing and the intuition I naturally possess. Thus, when a stirring inside me was ready and wanting to co-create this text; I took a step with courage because I felt it would do more good than not.
It wasn’t only my own experience that moved me to curate Examining and Mitigating Sexual Misconduct in Sport. Advocacy work with survivors and organizations unveiled to me the deep need for brave individuals to speak truth to power when it comes to sexual misconduct prevention in sport. It has been through advocacy work that I have witnessed the lack of education and the discomfort so many of us hold not only talking about sex but also acknowledging the sexual misconduct that happens in the places and spaces we inhabit. And, after sitting in one too many meetings with a chancellor of a university who was more concerned with the university’s reputation than the harm being done within the athletic department and on the college campus, I decided it was past time to co-create a text that opens space for the important conversations often ignored in sport, namely around sexual misconduct prevention.
You will not agree with everything in this text — that is okay, even good, and to be expected; and, in truth, I’m not sure I still agree with everything even I wrote. This text is not about being “right” or “wrong”, “good” or “bad” when preventing and/or addressing sexual misconduct and cultures which it occurs; it is about acknowledging the conversation must be had for sport culture, in particular, to shift. Moreover, this text is not a complete anthology of all we need to consider and acknowledge to address sexual misconduct — it is a beginning, a continuation to the conversation — not the end point.
I hope you will engage with Examining and Mitigating Sexual Misconduct in Sport. Sit with what feels uncomfortable and ask yourself and others why. I hope you commit to co-creating spaces of belonging that resist harm, in all its forms. I hope you care for yourself as you read and take the time and space your soul requires if/when you’re triggered. I hope you believe someone when they tell you they are scared, they’ve been hurt, they’ve been abused, they are worried for theirs and others’ safety. Our dismissals of harm amplify the hurt and pain caused by sexual misconduct as chapter authors bravely unveil as they share their personal survivor experiences. Please hold their/our survivor experiences with care and know every survivor is more than what happened to them.
Lastly, if I can be of support to you, your organization or athletic department as you broach conversations on sexual misconduct, consent and/or survivor advocacy, or have questions on how to respond to incidents of harm and/or hope to create spaces of healing, please know it would be my honor to share time and space with you in your journey. I vow to co-create a container of care and grace woven with deep truth as we collectively move forward to heal. And, to every survivor in sport (and outside of it), this text is for you. You are believed and are more than the pain you carry; you are forever worthy of healing. Moreover, we all are worthy of healing because each of us is impacted and hurt by the harm sexual misconduct causes in our families, communities, and institutions. My intention is to heal with those who have the courage to do the same.