As an organisation, Scottish Women in Sport see the need to ensure that all women and girls are safe when participating in sport.

It is part of our mission to make sure everyone is treated with respect and dignity in Scottish sports.

We know sharing a story might not change everything, but it’s a start and we have a voice that can be as loud as we need it to be so that those who have the power to make the change, will do it – by listening to victims, addressing the issue – that women and girls are not safe from predators in sports.

This blog is one woman’s story, her survival and her journey to incite change for the women of the future so they never have to go through what she has.

CREDIT: @GameOverSprtSco on Twitter

I am a survivor of sexual violence perpetrated by a professional athlete and I am not the only one. I spent a few years volunteering for a professional sports organisation and in that time witnessed and experienced firsthand the toxic rape culture and sexual entitlement that is rife in the industry. From being the topic of ‘locker room banter’ to being raped, I endured the horrendous spectrum of assault at the hands of professional athletes.

As I have been working through the trauma, and healing from those experiences, I experienced multiple setbacks in the form of re-traumatisation from decisions made by professional organisations to publicly welcome rapists, alleged rapists and perpetrators of gender-based violence into their clubs.

In the last 18 months, there have been multiple incidents in professional team sports, that showed that a player’s skill comes before the safety and well-being of women, girls, survivors and victims of sexual misconduct.

In February 2022, Raith Rovers signed David Goodwillie, who was found to be a rapist in the civil court. Thankfully, this signing was undone after serious backlash from fans, but not before they made the statement that it “was a football-related decision”.

To me, that says it all.

Then later that same year, in September, Glasgow Clan announced a Finnish player that, when playing ice hockey in America, was charged with, and admitted to rape but left the country to avoid prosecution. He has never gone back. Aware of these facts, the Clan still wanted to bring him into their team.

Most recently, the same week Airdrie FC was promoted to the Championship, they parted ways with one of their players who was found guilty of sexual assault. The same day his victim gave evidence in court, he dressed and represented his team in front of their fans.

Whilst these situations are appalling, to begin with, the damage is heightened by the way the clubs handle them. From the lack of trauma awareness in statements such as that from Raith Rovers or the silence from Glasgow Clan and Airdire, it is clear that these clubs do not have the appropriate processes and procedures in place to deal with them, or more importantly make sure they don’t happen at all.

On the sixth of April this year, International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, the End Sexual Misconduct in Sport Campaign published an Open Letter to all professional sports teams calling on them to input a sexual misconduct policy by the end of 2023.

However, a document that says ‘we don’t condone this’ isn’t enough, it is important that this policy is fit for purpose and outlines how they plan to prevent sexual misconduct.

As part of this policy, they must introduce mandatory training for all players, managers, coaches, owners and staff on the prevention of sexual misconduct including the topic of consent. This policy must also create clear protocols on how to handle complaints of sexual misconduct and guidance on the appropriate consequences and disciplinary action against perpetrators.

Further, they must create clear channels to report both external and internal reports of sexual misconduct, whilst recognising that players themselves can experience misconduct, and liaise with local organisations that specialise in this area to apply clear processes for responding to allegations as well as providing access to confidential support for internal reporters.

Whilst implementing sexual misconduct policies is of course the key goal, this will only make a difference if we can change the culture of sport. We must engage in open and honest conversations with organisations, fans and professionals. Scotland is a sporting nation. It contributes so much to our national culture and has a huge impact on our everyday lives. These cultures that are fostered at a professional level trickle down to our grassroots sports and young children who grow up watching their heroes ‘be the best’ and want to emulate them.

The people that our children look up to should represent a culture that we are proud of in Scotland. Professional sports players need to be aware of their position as role models in society and the impact of their behaviour.

Sexual Misconduct should not be a taboo subject in the industry but instead should be tackled head-on by those in positions to do so.

Until we create sufficient infrastructure to prevent sexual misconduct we will be unable to fully address the barriers that women experience in engaging with sport. Our incredible Scottish women in sports should not be experiencing misogyny when playing the game they love, and our fans should not be experiencing it whilst enjoying it either.

This is more than just a policy – this is a necessary, national conversation.

Thank you to Miss J from @GameOverSprtSco for bravely sharing their story and for the campaigning being done to end gender-based violence in sports.

If you have been affected by any of the topics covered in this blog there are places you can go to seek help and guidance.

RapeCrisisScotland offers advice for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. You can access their site safely and discretely here.

CREDIT: @GameOverSprtSco on Twitter

Leave a Reply