Abuse of young sportspeople is frequent, says survey

Sports Minister Amherd (right) has called for an investigation into alleged abuses. Keystone / Peter Schneider

One in five young sportsmen and women in the western French-speaking part of Switzerland has suffered some form of violence, according to a survey by the University of Lausanne.

This content was published on January 6, 2021 - 09:33 with Keystone-ATS/jc

While psychological abuse, including denigration, threats and punishment, is the most common form, there is also physical and sexual violence.

The survey is based on interviews with 287 young people who practised a sport before they turned 18. It found that 20.3% of them have endured psychological and physical violence, 15.5% sexual and psychological violence and 15.5% all three forms of violence.

The perpetrators of violence are not only coaches, but also other young people, especially boys, say the two researchers from the university’s Institute of Sports Science.  "Sport takes place in less structured environments than school, in which young boys confront each other, exercise their power and prove their virility," write the researchers in a column published on Tuesday in Le Temps newspaper.

Young sportswomen suffer more sexual violence, "probably because the vast majority of coaches are men". However, 20% of the male participants also said they had experienced sexual violence.  The survey found that the risks were higher in team sports, which could be partly explained by "unclear definition of body contact that is allowed”.

There have been numerous reports of cases of violence in youth sports in recent years across the world, including in Switzerland.

 Sports Minister Viola Amherd called in November for an investigation into alleged abusive training methods for gymnasts.

Parliament wants the government to set up a national reporting office for victims of abuse.

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