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Sexual harassment and abuse in coach–athlete relationships in Sweden
Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, GIH, Department of Sport and Health Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5575-4737
Karlstads universitet .
2017 (English)In: European Journal for Sport and Society, ISSN 1613-8171, Vol. 2Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Sexual harassment and abuse (SHA) can have a profound negative impact, but research on SHA in sport is scarce and studies of SHA in Swedish sport are absent. This study explores (a) self-reported prevalence of SHA perpetrated by coaches among male and female Swedish athletes, and (b) descriptive statistics for coach–athlete relationship factors and the association between these relationship factors and reported SHA. Current and former Swedish club sport athletes (n = 477) aged 25 participated in the survey. Athletes reported 5.5% prevalence of coach SHA, of which inappropriate, unpleasant, or offensive physical contact were most common. No significant differences of SHA frequency were displayed across gender, sport performance levels, or individual/team sports. A majority of athletes (55–95%) reported trust, closeness, substantial coach influence over sport performance, and instructional physical contact as main coach–athlete relationship factors. A minority (13–39%) reported dependency, substantial coach influence over personal-life, non-instructional physical contact, sexualized comments and jokes, and flirting. Prevalence of coach–athlete friendships, athlete attraction to coaches, and coaches’ instructional physical contact differed significantly between male and female athletes. Closeness and athlete attraction to coaches were negatively related, and coaches’ non-instructional physical contact and flirting were positively related to reported SHA. Multi-causality and ambiguity of coach–athlete relationship factors are discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 2
Keyword [en]
Sexual harassment and abuse, coach–athlete relationship, sport, prevalence
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Social Sciences/Humanities
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:gih:diva-4875DOI: 10.1080/16138171.2017.1318106OAI: oai:DiVA.org:gih-4875DiVA: diva2:1090122
Available from: 2017-04-22 Created: 2017-04-22 Last updated: 2017-05-08Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Sexual Relationships between Athletes and Coaches: Love, Sexual Consent, and Abuse
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sexual Relationships between Athletes and Coaches: Love, Sexual Consent, and Abuse
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Coach-athlete sexual relationships (CASR) and sexual harassment and abuse (SHA) in sport can profoundly impact athletes’ welfare and performance. Yet, it is often ignored due to sensitivity, secrecy, and lack of knowledge. There is no previous research on SHA in sport in Sweden, and legal, consensual, same-sex CASR is under-researched. The overall purpose of this doctoral thesis is to examine CASR in competitive sport in Sweden. More specifically: a) athletes’ experiences of CASR; b) prevalence of SHA in coach-athlete relationships; c) conceptual and theoretical issues to broaden the understanding of CASR and SHA, will be examined.

Survey methodology is employed in Article I to explore the prevalence of SHA, coach-athlete relationship factors, and association between relationship factors and SHA. A random sample of current and former male and female Swedish athletes (n=477) aged 25 participated. Article II outlines critical issues of CASR, and theories and conceptualisations of romantic love, sexual consent, and female athlete sexual agency is further developed in the thesis research summary. Drawing on interviews with five female elite athletes aged 23-30, experiences of CASR are analysed in-depth using discourse analyses in Article III and narrative case study design in Article IV.

Results show that athletes’ experiences of CASR are positively and negatively diverse but potentially problematic because boundary ambiguity, secrecy, and isolation are common. Social and ethical dilemmas may also occur because CASR intersect contrasting discourses regarding elite sport, coach–athlete relationships, and romantic love. Moreover, CASR integrate professional and private contexts in which equality and power deviate. The research illustrates empirically and theoretically how female elite athletes exercise agency and recognise consensual, mutually desired CASR where romantic love is priority. However, sexual consent can be ambivalent rather than a mutually exclusive yes/no dualism. Socially, consent is a process of negotiation informed by contextual factors, sexual agency, and social structure. In addition, 5.5% prevalence of SHA perpetrated by male coaches is reported, distributed throughout the sampled athletes’ gender, age, sport performance levels, and individual/team sports in the sample.

In conclusion, this thesis expands knowledge of athletes’ experiences of love, sexual consent, and abuse in CASR. Previous evidence of SHA in sport is confirmed to include sport in Sweden. Implications for sport and sport sciences are offered. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Gymnastik- och idrottshögskolan, GIH, 2017. 206 p.
Series
Avhandlingsserie för Gymnastik- och idrottshögskolan, 09
Keyword
coach-athlete sexual relationship, sexual harassment and abuse, romantic love, sexual consent, gender and sexuality, power and agency, sport
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Social Sciences/Humanities
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:gih:diva-4890 (URN)978-91-983151-0-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-06-16, Aulan, Lidingövägen 1, Stockholm, 13:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-05-05 Created: 2017-05-05 Last updated: 2017-05-17Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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