Women in the world of Icelandic athletics are adding their voices to a growing chorus of women speaking out about gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment, and violence, Vísir reports. The group statement was co-signed by 462 athletes from many different sports, and includes 62 personal accounts of harassment, violence, and rape. The statement asserts that these problems exist in “Iceland’s macho sports industry, just like in other areas of society” and that women in the industry have been subjected to the problematic conduct of “coaches, managers, masseuses, physical therapists, referees, volunteers, [and] the media," as well as that of other athletes.
The statement includes examples of women who have gone public with accounts of the violence they’ve endured, only to be dubbed ‘difficult to work with’ and then ostracized within their professional communities. “Perpetrators who’ve been fired from one place easily find employment somewhere else. Similarly, there are instances where clubs have done nothing, despite having been informed of a perpetrator’s offenses.”
In one particularly egregious account, a woman tells of having been raped in the locker room by her coach on multiple game days. “It is a game day,” she writes. “It’s Sunday morning and there’s no one else in the gym. I’m alone at a meeting with the coach before we’re all supposed to meet before the game. He rapes me. Not the first time and not the last.” The woman suffered painful injuries as a result of the assault and was then late to the team meeting because she’d been trying to clean herself up in the rest room. “I was then scolded by the coach for coming one minute late to the meeting,” she says.
Another account details a woman being forced to flee her community after having been coerced into having sex with her coach. She says that the harassment started with praise, but developed into inappropriate touching. She says she became one of this man’s many victims, and did whatever she could to keep him happy. When she attempted to break off her “relationship” with him after finding out that he had cultivated a similar dynamic with other women, he forced himself on her after a party celebrating a win. After this, she had to train under the man for another year, when she finally broke down and fled her town to get away from him.
“Everyone who practiced with me knew the kind of man he really was, but no one did anything. No one said anything. Everyone just stood by. Not only that, there were people on the board of the event committee who were really inappropriate in their behavior towards me. Since they knew ‘what kind of girl’ I was.”