U.S. Olympic Report: 93 Percent Of Athletes Surveyed Who Experienced Sexual Harassment Or Unwanted Contact Say They Didn’t Report It

July 15, 2021
Ralph Lauren/Team USA Closing Ceremony Uniform UnveilingRalph Lauren/Team USA Closing Ceremony Uniform UnveilingEvan Agostini/Invision/AP
Team USA Tokyo Olympic closing ceremony uniforms are displayed during the unveiling at the Ralph Lauren SoHo Store on April 13, 2021, in New York. Ralph Lauren is an official outfitter of the 2021 U.S. Olympic Team.

Correction: Because of an error in how the U.S. Center for SafeSport reported their findings, this story has been corrected to accurately reflect which respondents experienced sexual harassment or unwanted contact during their time in sports without reporting it. It's also been corrected to identify when they experienced that sexual harassment or unwanted contact.

A Denver-based organization created to address rampant nationwide abuse against child athletes has released the results of its first survey into the topic.

Through interviews with nearly 4,000 athletes in more than 50 sports, the nonprofit U.S. Center for SafeSport found 93 percent of respondents who experienced sexual harassment or unwanted contact during their time in sports did not report it.

“We’ve got a lot of infrastructure in place to take reports, and every day we try to get athletes to feel more comfortable in reporting when they see or experience abuse. So, that was certainly jaw-dropping to me,” said the center’s CEO, Ju’Riese Colon.

Colon said most of the survey respondents were white, heterosexual females. Nearly half of them said they were aware of a coach developing a sexual relationship with an athlete they had taught as a minor.

The center was created out of legislation passed by Congress in 2017 following the sexual abuse scandal surrounding former U.S. Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar. A bill championed by both former Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner and current Rep. Diana DeGette that gives Congress oversight of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee also became law.

Colon said social movements like #MeToo, along with high-profile athlete sex assault cases in the years since the center’s founding have led to more reporting — from 300 received in 2017 to nearly 3,000 last year.

The survey marks the most significant release from the organization, and it’s intended to form the baseline of their efforts for the next few years. 

It also found nearly 28 percent of participants think sexual, emotional or physical misconduct is a problem in their sport. Nearly 10 percent said they experienced inappropriate sexual contact themselves and of those respondents, 18 percent said they were retaliated against when they came forward.

Colon said the survey results will help the organization tailor resources and information they provide to the National Governing Bodies of Sports, which help develop and organize sports from youth leagues up to the Olympic level.

Colon said the center plans to conduct another survey in 2023.

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, based in Colorado Springs, did not immediately provide an interview. 

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