Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is undoubtedly one of the more insidious social problems of our time. Whilst it’s generally presented as a modern problem, CSA has certainly always existed- though in the past it was considered more of a familial problem, than a wider social issue pervasive of many areas of modern social life.
It is argued by many that any social institution which has children as its focus, will inevitably act as a breeding ground for perpetrators of CSA, but if this is true, how then do we address the problem so we can make safer, these institutions?
Mike Hartill’s article ‘The Sexual Abuse of Boys in Organized Male Sports’ (2008) provides a critical view of male-oriented sporting institutions, so that we may try to better address this issue. Statistics regarding the proliferation of CSA are difficult to ascertain due to the very nature of the abuse, being imbibed with concealment and therefore likely to be hugely underreported. However, from the analysis of reported data roughly one in six boys experience sexual abuse (and one in four girls).
Analysis also shows that the abuse of boys is more likely to occur from within a student-teacher relationship, as it is from one based inside the home, and importantly, as the role of teacher/coach is held in such high regard by the wider community, the likelihood of reporting of CSA is low (as it is more generally). http://www.aifs.gov.au/nch/pubs/sheets/rs7/rs7.html
Additionally, institutions are likely to hush instances of CSA to protect their reputations, lay blame on individual perpetrators and victims, and indeed are structured in such a way as to facilitate this secrecy. http://0-irs.sagepub.com.alpha2.latrobe.edu.au/content/29/3/287.full.pdf+html
Indeed, in this case study cited by Hartill, one can see how although CSA may become evident to those within the institutions, action upon this knowledge is less than prevalent. http://www.silent-edge.org/kennedy.html
Hartill argues that not only do organised male sporting institutions provide an ideal breeding ground for CSA, but they also enable the perpetration of CSA in the wider community via(essentially and dangerously) dominant constructions of masculinity, such is their influence in the boy-man relationship reflected both within and without. Indeed, effective coaching methodologies in male sporting organisations not only necessitate (often painful) physicality, but have long been seen to include forms of psychological control and manipulation, which in itself, allows the abuser to select and subject (or to ‘groom’) their victim in such a way as to ensure secrecy- even when a parent has questioned the validity of obviously abusive methodologies. http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/sexualabuseinsport-excerpt
Although developing and implementing better policy to deter and deal with CSA within these institutions is certainly necessary (http://www.safetocompete.org/ ), the larger social problems of the ‘commodification of childhood’, and rampant sexism and secrecy within male sporting institutions, are a few places in the world view where we may affect cultural and attitudinal change and therefore, prevention.
Try googling ‘male + sport + secrecy’, see what I mean?