Fired Up

Matildas Player’s Sexual Harassment Allegations Prompt Football Australia To Investigate Culture Of Abuse

At least half of all women in Australia have experienced sexual harassment, abuse or violence. That’s 1 in 2 that has been sexually harassed, 1 in 3 that has been physically abused and 1 in 5 that has been sexually abused. Let that sink in. With #FiredUp, Refinery29 Australia makes an ongoing commitment to spotlighting this serious and pervasive issue with the goal of dismantling gendered violence in Australia. 
Football Australia announced on Thursday that it will develop "an independent complaint management process" to enable current and former players and staff to raise concerns regarding alleged abuse, harassment or bullying.
The news comes a day after the organisation said it had a "zero-tolerance approach" to misconduct, following Matildas player Lisa De Vanna's historical allegations of abuse and harassment.
In an interview with News Corp published on Wednesday, De Vanna claimed she had been subjected to sexual harassment, assault, bullying and grooming from senior players throughout her sporting career.
"In any sporting organisation and in any environment, grooming, preying and unprofessional behaviour makes me sick," said the 36-year-old, who retired from professional football last month.
Photo by Johannes Simon - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
Matildas players including retired star Lisa De Vanna (far right)
“As a youngster and a player I didn’t know how to address this ... but it is still happening across all levels and it’s time to speak up.”
Former Matilda Elissia Carnavas (formerly Canham) backed one of De Vanna's claims about an incident that allegedly took place in 2001, saying that she decided to speak to the publication as she held concerns for her eight-year-old daughter who continues to play the sport.
Former W-League star Rhali Dobson also claimed she was subjected to predatory behaviour throughout her 13-year career. The 29-year-old, who has played for Melbourne City, Newcastle Jets, the Young Matildas and Matildas, recalled not wanting to "have a shower after the game" during the early years of her career and the reason she was trying to make herself "so feminine was because I was trying to keep people away from me."
"A lot of it is pushed under the rug," she claimed. "It was a case of grooming when I first came on the scene because I was asked: ‘Do I prefer boys or do you prefer girls?’"
Football Australia subsequently issued a statement on Wednesday, saying it does not tolerate "any conduct which breaches the standards and values expected of people involved in the game", and that any concerns brought forward through the official complaints process will be "taken seriously and investigated thoroughly".
The organisation said it had previously met with De Vanna and heard her grievances, but "the specific allegations made public were not raised" in that meeting.
"We have no knowledge of what steps, if any our predecessor organisation, Soccer Australia, undertook in 2001," read part of the statement.
"In the event that Lisa chooses to lodge a formal complaint through the appropriate channels, we will be in a position to investigate and, if appropriate, act accordingly. The same process is open to Rhali Dobson and other former players and staff to formally bring forward any claims."
Football Australia issued another statement on Thursday, saying that any complaints of alleged abuse, harassment or bullying in relation to Football Australia’s national teams and A-Leagues will be received, assessed and managed by Sport Integrity Australia, and therefore independently of Football Australia.
“The wellbeing of our diverse community is our priority, and we’re committed to safe, inclusive environments for all footballers and staff," said Football Australia CEO  James Johnson.
"There is no place for abuse, harassment or bullying in our sport and it’s incumbent on organisations like ours to take the lead when it comes to dealing with these issues head-on."
Further details are about the timing and process of this new system are to be released in coming weeks.
If you or anyone you know has experienced sexual or domestic violence and is in need of support, please call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), the National Sexual Assault Domestic Family Violence Service.

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