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  • Writer's pictureRebekah Cheung

Sexual Misconduct in Professional Sports

Rebekah Cheung is a survivor of sexual assault who's incredible work with men to tackle how they can play a part in ending men's violence against women is nothing short of inspirational. We thank Rebekah for sharing her story with us on International Women's Day to kick off the #GameOver4SexualMisconduct Campaign.

This year will mark three years since I was raped by a professional sports player.

I wanted to preface anything I wrote with the facts that I never took this to the police, simply because there was so little evidence, it was my word against his. I did, however, make an anonymous complaint to his sport club, but I was ignored. I understand that sexual misconduct is difficult to navigate for professional sports teams, however, the option to stay silent and hope that it goes away, is no longer an option.

We initially met on a dating app, with him pursuing me to go on a date with him, which I agreed to. I should have clocked that it was a red flag that for the date, he had invited me over to his flat. However, I was so overcome with the idea that a professional sports player wanted to go on a date with someone like me. I even told friends and family that I was going on the date, with some of them even warning me that he would have other intentions, but he had been nothing but kind and respectful towards me, so I dismissed the idea that he was using me for sex.

The date started off very harmless, but it didn’t take long for him to try and have sex with me. It’s important to note that four years previous to this, I experienced my first sexual assault, and since that point I had become confident in my ability to set my boundaries when it came to what I was and wasn’t willing to do when it came to sex. But he kept trying to push the subject, so I lied and said I couldn’t go any further because I wasn’t on birth control. When he kept insisting, I felt I was out of options, so I froze out of fear and just waited until it was over.

After raping me he told me “you better not have given me anything”, as if I had any say in actually having sex with him. If anything, it demonstrated the level of his inflated ego and entitlement that comes hand-in-hand with male professional sport players. Not only had he had sex with me without my consent, now it would be my fault if he had to face the consequences of his decision for unprotected sex.

Like after my very first assault, I knew after it happened that something bad had happened, but it took me a week to realise that I was raped again. In addition, we had just officially gone into lockdown, and when I had realised that I needed to get specific help, services were already incredibly limited. I had also missed the window for collecting evidence of the assault, but I knew that stood for every little in the court of law, he would just say that I had consented.

As angry as I am with him, the problem exists beyond the professional sport players. There’s a reason why my experience isn’t unique – they exist within an environment that enables this behaviour. It becomes unimportant if such behaviour is due to male sexual entitlement, or because they think they carry some level of fame, it wouldn’t happen if clubs were willing to take more of a stand when they’re informed of such behaviour.

I know it is not as black and white as suspending players after hearing one allegation – but they can’t ignore it in the hope that they never have to deal with it. That’s why the Game Over 4 Sexual Assault is so important – it means survivors will know that there is some support for if they do come forward, with a robust procedure that won’t seek to strip them even further of their control. It also means that survivors in similar situations are not retriggered when different allegations arise.

I cannot emphasises enough now that sports clubs need to be proactive when it comes to sexual misconduct, because a reactive approach will result in repeated incidents, repeated allegations and a huge lack of confidence and support in sports and their teams.

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