NHRCK Providing Special Consultation forVictims of Sexual and Physical Abuse in Sports
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK; Chair: Ahn Kyong-hwan) undertook a new initiative for the victims of sexual and physical abuse in the sports community on Monday, April 7, 2008. The Commission now provides special human rights consultation to such victims and receives reports on cases of sexual or physical abuse of athletes. Those who desire to report a case or request special consultation may do so in one of three different ways: visiting the NHRCK in person, dialing 1331, or visiting the NHRCK website. The NHRCK is committed to fully protecting the privacy of the victim and the complainant and to preventing any repercussions for making the report or request.
In the event of a serious case, the NHRCK will leverage its full legal authority to thoroughly investigate and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
Background of the Initiative
The media has recently reported on the pervasiveness and seriousness of sexual and physical abuse in sports. The reports have shocked society, but no practical countermeasures have yet been devised. The first priority for the betterment of the situation is to fully investigate abuse cases and take effective and responsible action. However, this is easier said than done. The sports community is very closed and close-knit, and it is difficult for athletes to develop careers in non-sports fields. This and the reticence of victims to report and disclose having been sexually molested or raped makes investigation even more difficult. It is not a surprise that most of the offenders go unpunished and continue coaching athletes.
The Women's Korean Basketball League recently established a hotline to receive reports on sexual abuse against female basketball players and provide consultation. So far, the hotline has been hot only in name: it has come under criticism by the media and then the public. The Korea Sports Council has also made efforts to better the situation by establishing an athletes' protection committee, but it has received few reports of abuse. Clearly, it is difficult and inappropriate for the sports community to police itself and handle human rights violations against athletes. It is not realistic to expect it to receive reports and provide consultation, let alone carry out effective investigations and effect remedies.
This is an area where the NHRCK should apply its expertise and system built and developed after years of dealing with a broad range of human rights abuses. It should proceed with fact finding and devise solutions at the government level. Hence, the Commission embarked on the initiative to receive reports on human rights violations in sports and provide special consultation. An NHRCK task force is already conducting basic investigations into sexual and physical abuse in sports. The fact-finding efforts are focused on middle and high school athletes. Human rights education is also planned to raise the human rights awareness and sensitivity of those involved in school sports. The Commission is looking to announce the comprehensive survey outcomes and propose fundamental policy improvements to the executive and legislative branches of the government in the second half of this year.
The new special initiative to receive abuse reports and provide consultation for athlete victims is one of the very first steps the NHRCK is taking in the comprehensive endeavor to uphold human rights in sports. The Commission hopes that its efforts will create a social environment conducive to victims and witnesses of abuses in sports coming forward and actively taking part in the effort to resolve the issue.