SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - The local sporting fraternity is taking a stand by actively clamping down on sexual misconduct.
The move to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment and assault comes after a spate of incidents affecting the integrity of sport.
Mr Troy Engle, 56, director of CoachSG, which is under Sport Singapore (SportSG), said the sporting community and stakeholders met this year to pledge a commitment to stamp out sexual misconduct.
"We need to have an open conversation about the problem so that we can address it," he told The New Paper on Thursday (Aug 2).
"In the past, doping was the main concern in sport. But now, the greatest crisis at hand is sexual harassment."
In January, Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics national team doctor, was sentenced to 175 years for sexual abuse after 265 girls accused him of sexual misconduct.
Last month, a former South Korean athlete publicly spoke about her ordeal of being raped by her coach since she was 10.
Closer to home, a football coach was sentenced to 26 years' jail and 24 strokes of the cane in March for sexually assaulting seven boys.
The pledge against sexual misconduct was made in April by 57 National Sport Associations as well as the Singapore National Olympic Council and SportSG.
But it was only the beginning of the movement.
In May, the first Safe Sport Forum here again brought together those who made the pledge, and also included the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Singapore Police Force.
Mr Engle said further steps have been taken, like mandatory workshops for coaches registered with the National Registry of Coaches (NROC).
The workshops set out clear guidelines for coaches involving language and physical contact, and include discussions on case studies of previous incidents of sexual misconduct.
"Two years ago, the NROC was toothless, having limited recognition," said Mr Engle.
"But now, the ministries and education and sport organisations are embracing the NROC as a mandatory requirement for employment."
There are currently more than 3,500 coaches on the registry, which has strict criteria for registration.
Coaches who are convicted of criminal charges are also disbarred, while coaches under investigation for sexual offences are immediately suspended.
Several new guidelines have been implemented for sporting bodies here. (See below)
Mr Engle said that aside from reaching out to coaches, it was also important to give a voice to those who feel victimised.
"It is a good thing to let people know that when they have been victimised, they can come forward," he said. "We need to empower them to be able to stand up and not brush it aside."
Mr Engle said support from coaches and athletes for the new policies have been overwhelmingly positive, and he believes the majority of the sporting fraternity wants to lift the integrity of sport.
But he said there is no denying the existing problems.
"(The) majority of the community believes in the true spirit of sport, and they want to ensure that its name is not sullied by the small percentage of predatory, bad creatures," he said.
"Stamping out sexual misconduct is a process, and we will continue to work at educating more people about it. We want to stop the problem, not just fix it when it happens."
Guidelines for coaches to tackle sexual misconduct
CoachSG has been rolling out guidelines for coaches since the start of the year to tackle sexual misconduct. They are aimed at protecting coaches and athletes, and are shared during mandatory workshops and discussions with coaches and sporting bodies such as the National Sport Associations.
Some of the guidelines include:
- The rule of two: Having more than two people around at all times
- Verbally communicating intentions before physical contact - for example, adjusting limbs in gymnastics
- Keeping communication professional - for example, avoiding profanities and inappropriate language
- Taking all complaints of sexual misconduct seriously
- Having a safeguarding officer for all sporting associations