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60 Pct. of Teen Student Athletes Sexually Assaulted

Posted November. 20, 2008 08:20,   


A 15-year-old basketball player says, “They slap me in the face for no particular reason. They leave me alone for awhile but it doesn’t last long. Three days later, they hit me again.”

A 14-year-old handball player says, “When I’m training, the coach comes up and feels my armpits and chest pretending to show me how to defend.”

A survey released yesterday found 80 percent of middle and high school athletes nationwide have experienced verbal and physical abuse and 60 percent sexual assault.

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea and the industry-university cooperation team of Ewha Womans University carried out surveys and in-depth interviews of 1,139 middle and high school athletes for six months from May.

○ Nowhere to turn

The survey results showed 78.8 percent of student athletes suffered verbal and physical abuse, with 44.4 percent subject to abusive language and violence irrelevant to their training. The frequency rate of physical abuse unrelated to training was 12.3 percent once or twice a week, 7.5 percent three or four times a week and five percent every day.

One fourth of athletes said they were abused for no particular reason more than once a week. Young athletes also said they are targets of abuse by head and assistant coaches, and at times by other athletes.

Sadly, the athletes have nowhere to turn to. Moon Gyeong-ran, a permanent member of the human rights commission, said, “Most student athletes, parents and teachers consider violence an effective tool of discipline and don’t think seriously about it. Authorities need to establish a one-stop system where students can get help, treatment, counseling and preventive measures without violating their privacy.”

○ Athletic camps most common place of abuse

Among the student athletes, 63.8 percent said they suffered sexual abuse. Among them, 58.3 percent were victims of verbal sexual harassment and 25.4 percent sexual assault. They were mostly abused at athletic camps and dormitories and were usually sexually assaulted by other athletes.

The victims said they remained silent for fear of facing a disadvantage in training (33.2 percent), shame (31.9 percent), and desire to stay on their teams (16.3 percent).

Lee Myeong-seon, chief researcher at the Korean Women’s Institute, said, “Sexual abuse among students is so prevalent, people don’t take it seriously. Visual sexual harassment and verbal sexual abuse can lead to much graver consequences.”

The average class attendance by the respondents was two hours a day during the season and 4.4 hours at other times. Their education suffered, as 82.1 percent said they did not get supplementary lessons for missed classes.

The human rights commission proposed an institutional framework to protect student athletes’ rights like in advanced countries. The National Federation of State High School Associations of the United States implements 10 mandates for sexual abuse prevention in school athletic teams, including the prohibition of sexual jokes by teachers and coaches and excessive private conversations between students and instructors.

Based on the survey results, the human rights commission will order relevant agencies to reflect human rights protection in policies for athletic education and raise awareness and prevention of human rights violations.