©2018 Aurélie Pankowiak. All rights reserved. 

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Why am I sharing my story?

Because I survived, when others have not. I want to use the privilege of being alive, my openness, the power of my voice and my knowledge, to reflect emotionally, intellectually, politically, and ethically on the greatest breach of integrity in the history of sport: interpersonal violence through sexual exploitation. Specifically, in my case, my reflections will be in the context of the coach-abuser / athlete relationship at the grassroots level of organised competition.

 

I hope that my writings make you think and do not push you away. I hope they make you think about the implications of a story like mine for the management of power and boundaries in human relationships in the sporting context, for the improvement of our sporting and justice systems.

 

This site is open for a civic and empathetic dialogue. Please help me think by reflecting, talking and sharing about my story. We need people to know the depth of stories of abuse like mine, their unspeakable consequences, to even begin to try and understand – and hopefully be able to drive positive social change. 

 

There are other reasons why I am writing my story so openly and with specific details...

 

… Because he silenced me, and he took away my teenage years and my love of basketball. Writing is a way for me to find my voice and power back. In doing so, I also hope to help other survivors know that they, too, can take their power back. But we cannot do it alone. Help us. Believe us. Listen to us. Empower us.

 

… Because it is time for us survivors to tell our truth - whatever “telling our truth” may look like*. By that I mean, it is time for us to re-frame the narrative, to re-write our stories, and to place the blame where it should be, i.e. on the abuser using their power for their sexual gratification. In doing so, we also give the power back to where it always should have been, to the survivors.

* Not every survivor of sexual abuse feels comfortable in sharing their stories publicly, anyone should recognise and respect this, anyone has their own process of healing. Choosing not to share your story as a survivor makes you - in NO WAY - less strong or brave.

 

… Because I am so angry that these abusers, instead of using the power they have to empower us athletes in a nurturing formative experience through sport, use it to destroy us. They leave us with horrible stories and scars that we have to bear for the rest of our lives. Sport has many well documented benefits to individuals and society, but only if we first ensure that it is a safe environment.

 

… Because this is a crime against humanity. No young athlete on this planet should go through what I went through. This site is a call to action for the global world of sport to step up and do what is right: listen to and believe athletes and inquire, acknowledge and act by leading, protecting, and educating.

 

… Because generations of women have fought for the rights of girls and women so that young women like me can ride this ‘wave of empowerment’ to keep the social change moving. It is time to end the oppression and sexual exploitation of children and women.. I believe sport can have a leading role in this movement.

… Because it is time for the stigma around victims of sexual violence to stop. It is time for public acknowledgement of the epidemic of childhood sexual exploitation in sport. We need a movement and a forum for social healing. We must understand the past as we push toward a future of global safe sport.

 

Below is the concluding paragraph of the statement that I wrote to the Public Prosecutor in September 2008 when I was 19, in which I explained why I was reporting my coach-abuser. I have not changed much after all.

“I lodge a complaint with the primary aim to denounce this type of behaviour, which, after reflection, seems completely abnormal from a basketball coach, who has great responsibilities with young people and commitments to parents and directors of sporting structures. Secondly, I want to stop him to start “playing” with other girls, to hurt them and destroy them, like he destroyed me. Finally, I would like to break the “law of silence” that exists around this type of situation and behaviour, so that victims feel like they can speak, and so that this topic stops being taboo in the sporting context.

This is why, Mister Public Prosecutor, I have the honour to lodge a complaint, and ask you to follow-up with the legal implications …”

Aurélie Pankowiak