Whether throwing the perfect baseball game, finding your stride to a 1.60m oxer in the jump-off, or landing a 720-degree double salto off the balance beam, earning a place at the highest level of sport is nothing if not difficult.
Becoming an elite athlete requires thousands of hours of training and personal sacrifice, next-level mental toughness and willpower, and the ability to cope with physical challenges, including the threat of career-ending injuries around every corner. And that’s only if you happen to be born with the natural talent and drive to make it to the top in the first place.
In other words, being the best is hard for a reason. But do you know what’s not hard? Taking a few, common-sense steps to make whatever sport you participate in, at whatever level, safer for everyone.
Sexual abuse and harassment are rife in athletics across the board, including equestrian. One-half of all athletes report experiencing sexual harassment or abuse, with one in four college athletes reporting that they have been sexually abused by an authority figure.
If these stats feel alarming, they should. But they aren’t insurmountable.
We can’t all reach the pinnacle of our sport, but we can protect ourselves, our teammates, and our children from abuse by following a few, simple guidelines:
- Say something when you see something
- Hold coaches and athletes accountable
- Talk with your kids about grooming and sexual abuse
- Train where it can be easily observed and interrupted
- Speak out against sexual harassment
For most of us, the fact that we aren’t likely to ever win a Super Bowl ring or Olympic Gold doesn’t stop us from striving to be the best we can be as athletes, in whatever arena, pool, or field we choose to participate. But abuse in sport ruins it for everyone, at every level.
By joining together to stand firm against sexual abuse and harassment, we protect not only the legacy of sports, on the whole, but our fellow athletes and the next generation of hopefuls still to come.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, call of text the Athlete Helpline at 1-888-279-1026 to be connected to a crisis counselor.