Nothing About Us Without Us: Athletes Network for Safer Sports

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(Nyon, Switzerland, 21 May 2024) — The Sport & Rights Alliance is excited to announce the launch of its new program, the Athletes Network for Safer Sports. Following an in-depth study and needs assessment consultation with survivors of abuse  in sports from May to November 2022, resulting in the report “We have to empower each other” served as the basis for the creation of the Network.

The consultation found that despite increasing momentum and attention towards safeguarding in sports, institutional reputations continue to be prioritized over survivors’ wellbeing and participation in decision-making. With the support of an Advisory Council of impacted athletes and allies, the SRA has spent the past year developing the strategy and structure for a network to amplify survivors’ needs and interests, continuing its focus on a trauma-informed and harm reduction ethic of care – ensuring that people impacted by violence in sports lead the process.

“People impacted by abuse in sports are experts by experience, not by choice and have the right to be part of the solution,” said Joanna Maranhão, Network Coordinator. “There’s no legitimacy in any safeguarding initiative without the effective and respectful engagement of people with lived experience.”

The Athletes Network for Safer Sports is an international network of people and organizations connected by their lived experience of abuse in sport. It is a safe space that leverages survivors’ collective strength to continue the healing journey, amplify each other’s voices, and achieve systemic change in the world of sport.

“I joined the Network because I realized firsthand the impact that abuse in sport can have on somebody and their livelihood,” Kaiya McCullough, Advisory Council Member and former soccer player from the U.S. “and I wanted to be part of the solution.”

The Network’s framework involves an Advisory Council composed of people with lived experience of abuse in sport serving as its primary decision-making body, providing it with overall guidance and strategic support. The Council plays an essential role by providing input and direction on strategy, programs, governance, monitoring and evaluation, and risk management.

“As the Network we have four goals, healing, voice, accountability and sustainability,” said Jessica Shuran Yu, Advisory Council Member and former figure skater for Singapore. We believe that these four goals work together to address the fact that abuse in sports is a systemic issue and that it often intersects with race, gender, LGBTQ+ and other types of discrimination.”

The Network will offer a range of activities for athletes, whistleblowers and allies impacted by abuse in sport. These include collective campaigns, advocacy training and support, wellbeing support and resources, research analysis and exchange, and an emergency fund for survivors needing urgent assistance.

“Not every athlete who has experienced abuse wants to be in advocacy, and that is more than okay,” said Ahmar Maiga, Advisory Council Member and athlete representative from Mali. “The idea of the Network is that people can engage in whatever way works best for them, whether it’s just for connection and solidarity, or getting out in front and demanding change.”

In its inaugural webinar, scheduled for 21 June, the Network will focus on Holistic & Collective Care aiming to discuss wellbeing strategies and provide tools for coping with potentially trauma exposure and burnout. Moderated by Joanna Maranhão and facilitated by Julie Ann Rivers-Cochran, Executive Director of The Army of Survivors and Kimalee Phillip, a social justice and organizational learning consultant, the session will explore elements of trauma-informed practice and healing as nonlinear and individual.

To learn more about the SRA Athletes Network for Safer Sports and get to know the Advisory Council, athletes and allies are welcome to attend an online “meet & greet” event on 29 May. The registration form can be found here, and interpretation will be offered at request.

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Join the Network

Sport has the potential to be a catalyst for human development, unity, and freedom, but too often it instead brings harm to its athletes, fans, and communities. We exist to uncover and rectify the many abuses that exist both in and around sport. We aim to transform sports into an authentic force for good.