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| 1 minute read

Understanding the Enabling Factors of Child Sexual Abuse in Sports

Child sexual abuse (CSA) in sports is a serious issue that seems to be ongoing in spite of our best efforts. A recent meta-analysis shed light on enabling factors within sports organizations that contribute to continued instances of CSA. Its analysis of 34 articles from around the world provides some valuable insights for prevention and intervention efforts.

The study found that the enabling factors for CSA in sports can be categorized into different hierarchical levels. Approximately 24.1% of the factors identified in the literature were related to the hierarchical level of athletes, teammates, opponents, and fans. On the other hand, 52.9% of the factors were linked to the level of direct supervisors, management, medical, and performance personnel. These statistics suggest that CSA in sports is a systemic issue not easily solved just by firing alleged perpetrators.

Among the enabling factors identified, the authority and power of the perpetrator emerged as the most common. Isolation and grooming were also identified as significant enabling factors, along with the athletes' knowledge of what constitutes sexual abuse. The researchers also noted that blaming individuals and focusing solely on protection policies to "keep out bad guys" is not enough to prevent sexual abuse. 

The takeaway from this meta-analysis is clear: while removing perpetrators from their positions is necessary, it is not sufficient to protect children. It is crucial to reflect on how to change the culture within sports to create an environment that does not tolerate boundary violations and actively works to protect children. 

The results show that 24.1% (n = 46) of the enabling factors identified in the literature relate to the hierarchical level of the Athlete, teammates, opponents, and fans levels, and 52.9% (n = 101) of the enabling factors relate to the level of Direct supervisors, management, medical, and performance personnel level. However, only 13% (n = 25) of enabling factors to CSA in sport were identified at the combined top four hierarchical levels. Results indicate that the problem of CSA in sport is a systems issue, and future research is required to explore how these factors interact to enable CSA in sport.


child protection policies, child sexual abuse, ausburn_deborah, youth services law, insights