Aurélie Pankowiak

Silence Breaker & Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse in French Sport

 PhD researcher in Paralympic Sport Policy, Victoria University


My story of abuse in sport is both shocking and complex. The goal of this platform is to write about it to help create a greater public awareness and contribute to a civic dialogue around the greatest breach of sport integrity – child sexual abuse and exploitation in sport – and its unspeakable consequences. I want to use the privilege of being alive and the power of the voice I have gained back to speak my truth.


On this platform, I talk about how my coach-abuser turned my young basketball player self into his sexual object for three years. I also discuss how the legal battle unfolded; and I reflect on the damages of his acts on my life, as well as the implications of a story like mine for sport and societies.


More specifically, I publish the very detailed and personal 20-page statement that I wrote to the Public Prosecutor of the High Court of Versailles when I was 19 to report my coach-abuser. In this official complaint, I wrote some of the memories and the understanding I had of what he did to me during these three years of horror.  I complete my report with reflections rooted in the new understanding of my story: an understanding quite different from the one I had when I reported him as a traumatised 19-year-old young woman and one that is much closer to the reality of what actually happened to me. I have gained a clearer appreciation of what my coach-abuser did to me from my ongoing (empowering but painful) healing journey, which began in September 2017, almost ten years after the abuse ended. An important event triggered my therapeutic process, in a rather dramatic manner: my participation, on the 3rd of July 2017, in a research interview for the Voices For Truth And Dignity European study on the topic of sexual violence in sport. After all these years of burying my story deep down in me, this interview was the first time that I spoke in detail about the years of abuse. Verbalising the memories that were stuck in a trauma bomb ready to explode, triggered a very intense post-traumatic stress phase, which I have had to resolve in psychotherapy.

In my writings, I attempt to bring additional insights. I try to reflect on my story from my knowledge of the sporting world that I have developed both during my international studies and work experience in sport over the past 10 years (see more about me here). I also try to bring insights from the perspective of my recent experience “battling” with the French justice system, during which I started to understand: 1. the discrepancy between the level of his conviction and what he actually did to me, and 2. Whether I could seek further compensation for aggravated consequences.


As opposed to a number of my courageous sister survivors of sexual abuse in sport that you have seen in the headlines of national and international news due to their high-level sporting status, I was not an elite athlete. I was playing at the grassroots level of organised competitions in French Basketball. The implications of stories of sexual abuse at the grassroots are… differently scary. These stories show that sexual abuse and exploitation in sport do not happen only to the ones at the higher-level of competition. Any girl, any child in any sport can be at risk in our local sporting communities.


It is time for the global world of sport to awaken and to look at itself. It is time for the global world of sport to listen, instead of ignoring; to protect, instead of letting those in power harm. It is time to believe athletes and empower them to speak, instead of silencing them.


Is he still coaching despite his conviction? At the time of publication of this site, 18th of November 2018, yes, of course…  Do you find this wrong? Yes, #metoo. Is he within his legal rights? Yes, he is... I also use my story to try to understand this perplexing reality in the context of France.


Dear readers, sisters and brothers survivors - I have a message for you here - I am not holding back anymore. Silence is over.


My Be-Loud-Survivor-Revolution begins.


You can read my story here and a call to action to the world of sport here. And you can read why I am taking this initiative in more details here.


Thank you for reading me. Please share widely!

Aurélie, a phoenix rising

Welcome everyone, Bienvenue à toutes et tous,

I am a researcher, currently completing my PhD in the field of national Paralympic sport policy at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia.

I am also a survivor of three years of childhood sexual abuse and exploitation in French Sport. This site is my story. The perpetrator was my basketball coach (and 14 years older). He abused me between the ages of 15 and 18 years old (2005 – 2008), when I played for a basketball club in the Parisian suburbs. When I was 19 years old, I decided to denounce him and he was convicted in May 2010 by the French Justice system of “sexual abuse on a minor above 15 years old, perpetuated by a person abusing the authority deriving from his/her function”.


Important: please refer to the resource page if you experience any distress or any need to talk to someone after reading me.


©2018 Aurélie Pankowiak. All rights reserved. 

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