Presentation Title: Sexual Abuse Hidden in the Athletic Culture

Abstract: The love affair that American society and the media have with sports has, at times, led to a blind eye being turned to the sexual transgressions that occur in the athletic culture. Recent scandals regarding Penn State, USA Gymnastics & USA Swimming require we re-examine the insulation that sports provides from social deviance. In fact, the question must be raised wondering if sports may be the best place for predators to hide. This presentation will review the systemic breakdowns in the athletic systems that were supposed to protect athletes and then critique the progress sports organizations are making in improving athlete welfare.

The presenter will examine the role media plays in raising awareness as well as its history of selective attention that may detract from star athletes’ behavior that may belie their perceived good character. This will be discussed in the context of how sports can be presented in a different light, as well as sport psychologists’ role in improving mechanisms to identify and provide treatment for athletes that may be struggling with trauma secondary to transgressions that occurred in the athletic arena.

The presenter will then examine the surprising silence that sport psychology has offered on these very powerful sport-social issues. Examination of factors that contribute to the field’s lack of advocacy on these matters will be followed by recommendations on how psychologists can be more responsive to the media so as to lead to cultural change that would make it more difficult for abuse and exploitation to survive under the umbrella of athletic secrecy.

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