Sexual violence is a serious problem with potentially severe and lasting negative effects on the physical, psychological, and social well-being of victims - including athletes. A new American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) Position Statement on sexual violence in sport was published simultaneously in four leading sports medicine journals, including Current Sports Medicine Reports (CSMR), official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM); and the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine (CJSM), official journal of the AMSSM. Both CSMR and CJSM are published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.
"The objective of this position statement is to raise awareness of this critical issue among sports medicine physicians and to declare a commitment to engage in collaborative, multidisciplinary solutions to reduce sexual violence in sport," according to the new document, developed by an expert Task Force following a formal consensus-building process. The lead author is Jennifer Scott Koontz, MD, PMH, of University of Kansas School of Medicine, Wichita. The Position Statement also appears in British Journal of Sports Medicine and the Journal of Sports Health.
The Position Statement defines sexual violence as "an egregious violation of an athlete's right to safety." It encompasses sexual harassment, defined as "any unwanted and unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, whether verbal, nonverbal, or physical"; and sexual abuse, referring to "any conduct of a sexual nature, whether noncontact, contact, or penetrative, where consent is coerced/manipulated or is not or cannot be given."
The statement outlines key principles related to sexual violence, including other settings of nonaccidental violence in which it may occur. The Task Force writes: "AMSSM condemns the actions of sports medicine physicians and other health care providers or individuals who perpetrate sexual violence or passively facilitate sexual violence through inaction."
Other principles include:
- Mandated reporting of incidents involving minors, as well as safe and confidential reporting procedures for adult victims of sexual violence
- An active role of sports medicine physicians in developing policies to reduce sexual violence within their organization, as well as developing their own competencies in recognizing and managing sexual violence.
- The need for sexual violence training and education for all athletes, coaches, administrators, health care providers and other members of sports teams and organizations.
- Background checks and other mechanisms to prevent perpetrators from moving from one sport organization to another.
The Position Statement also affirms AMSSM's commitment to reducing sexual violence in sport. A set of educational resources targeting sports medicine physicians and trainees is under development, comprising policies aimed at effective prevention, recognition, and treatment of sexual violence, as well as responses to disclosure of sexual violence by athletes. The Task Force concludes: "AMSSM is committed to developing a long-term plan to work collaboratively with other health care providers and all stakeholders to reduce sexual violence in sport."
Current Sports Medicine Reports is grateful for the opportunity to co-publish this very important AMSSM Position Statement. Sexual violence is unacceptable and we are all in agreement that it needs to be aggressively addressed and prevented. Our hope is that this statement serves as a catalyst for change."
Shawn F. Kane, MD, CSMR Editor-in-Chief
Koontz, J.S., et al. (2020) Sexual Violence in Sport: American Medical Society for Sports Medicine Position Statement. Current Sports Medicine Reports. doi.org/10.1249/JSR.0000000000000722.