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First set of ‘safe sport’ rules covering sexual misconduct, psychological abuse launched for all sporting groups

SINGAPORE — The sports fraternity here has, for the first time, listed industry-wide guidelines on what constitutes sexual, physical and psychological misconduct and other inappropriate behaviour.

First set of ‘safe sport’ rules covering sexual misconduct, psychological abuse launched for all sporting groups

The Safe Sport Unified Code states that a person engages in inappropriate physical contact with another when there is a power imbalance and when there is touching, slapping or contacting the buttocks or genitals of an individual, for instance.

  • The Safe Sport Unified Code was launched on Nov 23 after nine months of consultation with the sporting fraternity
  • It spells out what constitutes sexual, physical and psychological misconduct and other inappropriate behaviour
  • The Singapore National Olympic Council and Singapore National Paralympic Council have agreed to start using and enforce the code
  • The latest code was designed so that any sporting organisation may adopt it 

 

SINGAPORE — The sports fraternity here has, for the first time, listed industry-wide guidelines on what constitutes sexual, physical and psychological misconduct and other inappropriate behaviour. 

On Tuesday (Nov 23), the Safe Sport Commission launched the Safe Sport Unified Code that sets out the “community-agreed standards” of misconduct after nine months of consultation with more than 200 experts, athletes and representatives from sports organisations.

In a joint statement by national sports body Sport Singapore (SportSG) and the Safe Sport Commission, they said: “These inappropriate behaviours transcend sport-specific cultures or codes and undermine both the mental and physical health of participants and the integrity of sport.”

The Safe Sport Commission was formed in 2019 as an advisory panel to promote values and best practices in sports. Among its members are representatives for the athletes, coaches, members of the Olympic and Paralympic movement, community groups and government agencies.

Incidents of harassment in the sporting circle have come to the fore in recent years, following some high-profile cases of sexual misconduct.

In July last year, veteran athletics coach Loh Siang Piow, also known as Loh Chan Pew, was jailed 21 months for molesting a teenage athlete twice in 2013.

In 2018, national hurdler Kerstin Ong accused her former coach of misconduct. The coach was given a stern warning by the police over the alleged outrage of modesty.

Even though there have been other guidelines for different groups in the sports community, such as those by the academy for coaches CoachSG, the latest Safe Sport Unified Code was designed so that any sporting organisation may adopt it as part of its policies.

The Singapore National Olympic Council, Singapore National Paralympic Council and SportSG have pledged their commitment to the code as key signatories and they have agreed to start using and enforce the code.

Ms Chan Yen San, chair of the Safe Sport Commission, said at the launch event on Tuesday that although many people agree that sport should be free from abuse and harassment, it can be hard to agree on the boundaries.

“If a coach shouts at an athlete during training, is that considered abuse? If an athlete cracks a joke at the expense of another athlete, is that considered harassment?

“That is why it is very important to have a common language in defining misconduct in the sporting environment,” she said.

UNWELCOME REQUESTS FOR DATES

The new code lists examples of what is considered sexual, psychological and physical misconduct as well as other inappropriate behaviour such as grooming or having a romantic relationship with a minor.

For instance, the code states that when there is a relationship where there is an imbalance of power — such as between a coach and an athlete — telling sexual jokes, sitting on the lap or giving massages without specific training can constitute grooming. 

Grooming is defined as the act of establishing trust and an emotional connection in a relationship with power imbalance or involving a minor, or both, which creates an environment where an individual becomes receptive to improper advances. It can occur in person or online. 

Unwelcome requests for dates or distributing sexually explicit pictures can also be a form of sexual harassment under the code.

As for psychological misconduct, examples include throwing sports equipment or punching walls in the presence of others, body shaming or repeated and excessive personal attacks.

Examples of physical misconduct include physical attacks as well as non-contact violations such as forcing a person to stay in a painful stance or position for no athletic purpose.

TAPPING RESOURCES 

The code forms the foundation of the Safe Sport Programme, which will be the framework to implement the code across the various sporting organisations.

Member organisations will receive support through:

  • Training of the organisation’s safeguarding officer, who is responsible for managing the reporting of cases where the code has been breached
  • Access to model policies
  • Training and education resources for athletes

They will also be able to tap the Safe Sport Support Network, which comprises qualified counsellors and trained befrienders who give psycho-social support to individuals in cases where there is a violation of the Safe Sport Unified Code. 

The Safe Sport Commission will manage and investigate reports of misconduct within the organisations.

Other sporting organisations such as commercial sports programme providers may apply to be in a pilot programme to use the code next year.

The commission will hold outreach sessions to the various organisations.

The Safe Sport Unified Code is available online here.

Related topics

Sports sexual misconduct psychological abuse assault molest harassment SportSG

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