Sexualised violence against children and young people: associations want more support for their prevention efforts
Sports and leisure clubs in the canton of Zurich attach great importance to preventing the sexual exploitation of children and young people. As shown by a study carried out by the ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences, however, there is potential for improvement.
Sports and leisure clubs are a source of great potential in the prevention of sexualised violence against children and young people. However, as revealed by a survey conducted by ZHAW in the canton of Zurich, there is room for improvement and a need for more support when it comes to the prevention efforts of sports clubs, youth associations and those active in the area of open child and youth work. The majority of around 400 surveyed employees of sports clubs and youth associations as well as individuals active in the open child and youth work segment stated that the prevention of sexualised violence is a relevant topic in their institution. “They rated their ability to both find and understand information on prevention as high,” says study author Frank Wieber from the ZHAW Institute of Health Sciences. While this positive self-assessment is pleasing, it is by no means enough to prevent the occurrence of sexualised violence. For example, those who participated in the survey reported suspected or actual incidents of sexualised violence against children and young people in their institution to the following degrees: In the case of sports clubs, around 6.2% of participants had reported such cases, while this figure stood at 21.2% for those from youth associations and 40.5% for those active in the open youth and child work segment.
“While prevention is considered important, there are blind spots in some cases as well as a failure to adequately implement specific measures,” states Wieber. In the case of 16 out of 18 specific prevention measures queried by the survey, only around half of the respondents stated that their institution implements them. These measures included, for example, the definition of protection against sexualised violence in the institution’s articles of association and the regular training of employees on the topic. According to Wieber, the measure implemented most frequently is to refer affected individuals to external counselling centres or to issue reports of suspected or actual cases to these bodies. In contrast, the least implemented measure is the requesting of a private extract (formerly: criminal record extract) from new employees. “In the case of about half of the organisations questioned, there is still considerable room for improvement in terms of the implementation of measures.” The lack of prevention measures is explained, on the one hand, by the fact that although the majority of the surveyed institutions view the topic as relevant, this is not the case across the board. “What’s more, the mostly volunteer-run clubs and associations often lack the resources to implement specific measures,” Wieber explains.
The survey also revealed that within the three areas, namely sports clubs, youth associations and the open child and youth work segment, there is a considerable need for greater support in developing and implementing prevention measures. A majority of the organisations surveyed would like to see a specialist body run outside the school system that supports the associations, for example, with counselling, the creation of protection concepts and with information material. A specialist body such as this could complement existing organisations, such as the VERSA association, which has been active in the sports sector for approaching 20 years. “VERSA and other prevention organisations are organised on a voluntary basis and only have limited resources, especially when it comes to the provision of counselling services or the handling of suspected cases,” says Wieber. In addition, the existing need in all areas offers great potential for closer cooperation and the realisation of synergies between the existing prevention organisations.
The study also highlights a need for action in raising awareness among children and young people. “Greater awareness training is required here, for example on what constitutes an assault,” opines Wieber. There is also a great deal of potential with respect to increasing parents’ knowledge about sexualised violence. This is revealed by a survey of 580 parents that was also conducted as part of the study. While around half of the parents questioned rated their own knowledge as quite strong or very strong, the other half assessed their know-how in this area as mixed or poor.
The study was commissioned by VERSA, an association for the prevention of sexual exploitation of children in sport, as well as the Zurich city association for sport (ZSS), the Zurich cantonal association for sport (ZKS) and okaj zürich, the cantonal umbrella organisation for open, association and church child and youth work.
Frank Wieber, Institute of Health Sciences, ZHAW School of Health Professions, tel. 058 934 43 47, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Hermann Schumacher, President of VERSA, tel. 044 413 93 41, e-mail email@example.com
José Santos, Head of Communications, ZHAW School of Health Professions, tel. 058 934 63 84, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org