A recent conviction of a 75 year old South African male tennis coach rapist should have sent more than shivers through people’s minds, especially parents with tweens and teenage girls in sport. It should also raise the sensitive but necessary questions around coaching and training in sport. Should men be allowed to coach teenage girls in sport?
A one time tennis grand slam doubles champion and tennis champion was brought before court for trial in a case involving rape and assault of girls playing tennis. The tennis coach is South African Bob Hewitt, now aged 75 years old. Although the rape and assaults occurred decades ago, when the tennis players were minors and teenagers, Hewitt was found guilty in 2015.
Just because the tennis coach Bob Hewitt has now been convicted, this doesn’t mean that rape and assault of girls and women has ended. There exists every chance that, just as Hewitt was being announced as a rapist in a court of law, sexual assault and harassment of girls in sport was occurring somewhere in a school, community, town, rural or urban area in South Africa.
Sexual abuse and assault occurs within sports in South Africa and the world over. Most sexual abuse is covered up by sports officials and surprisingly, by the parents of the sports girl; that’s when the sports girl has the courage to inform her parent’s about what happened.
Controlled mainly by men who are not known to be fierce and vocal about anti-sexual harassment of women and girls (by not being fierce and vocal, I’m not saying they support abuse and attacks against girls and women) South African sport’s officialdom doesn’t spotlight anti-sexual campaign as often as it should be done and in ongoing programmes. Releasing a media statement intermittently, here and there is how SA sport responds to abuse and sexual assault in society.
Girls are involved in sport at community, club and school level. Because of the low numbers of women coaches in the sports network, it’s the men coaches who get to coach the teenage girls. Most coaches are dedicated, passionate and encouraging. But amongst them are the negatives like the sexual abusers who prey on the sports girls and attack their young bodies.
South African sport does not engage in conscious programmes aimed at eradicating sexual abuse by male coaches. The men coaches are trusted by parents, school governing bodies, sports federations to assist the teenage and pre-teen girls to develop in sport.
Although it seems as if the coach is coaching from the line, giving instructions, sports also involves close contact. Those of us on the sports field or sports halls often see the male coach having to assist the sports girl when she is injured, being spoken to, or needs consultation and encouragement.
Most parents have never considered sexual abuse of their daughter in sport. ‘The coach is so nice. He does so much for my daughter. It just can’t happen that he will sexually assault her’, are the thoughts of most parents; those that actually think that sexual abuse can occur or doesn’t happen.
Because more convictions haven’t been done, and more male coaches haven’t been found guilty of sexual abuse, it doesn’t mean that tennis coach Bob Hewitt is the only sexual abuser and rapist and is a rare case or that sexual abuse doesn’t really happen. Sexual abuse and rape of sports girls by men coaches does occur in sport.
I’m asking and raising these questions because sexual abuse is frowned upon in sport as something ‘not spoken about, not touched upon’. But it has happened and continues to be done. Victims of sexual abuse in sport, for reasons and choices best known to them, don’t make it public. People may ask how I’m so aware of sexual abuse and where are the facts and statistics. I can say that we are very much aware of sexual abuse. Victims confide in others, people get told about the abuse but are asked to ‘keep it confident’ because the victim isn’t ready to go public. I personally know of a woman still suffering trauma because she was raped by her karate coach. I so want this karate coach to be charged but the woman say she’s ‘not ready to expose him’.
For a start, I’m calling on sports leaders to be bold and decisive. Acknowledge that sexual abuse, sexual harassment and assault do occur in sport; that this abuse and assault can’t be locked away as if it doesn’t happen. Positive responses can and should be initiated. Coaches are to be conscious of what is sexual abuse, must know the boundary line when coaching. Girls in sport are to be informed and conscientised about their bodies in relation to the coach. Additionally, sports girls must be encouraged to be able to know when they are being sexually abused in sport, and to whom they can talk about this.
Parents and guardians must not be afraid to talk about the potential of sexual abuse in sport. Allowing your daughter to go off with the male coach to a sports event may look all innocent, just as leaving your daughter at training with the male coaches may seem okay. But parents must not be naïve to think their daughter/coach relationship is all about sport and nothing else.
I’m sure when the day arrives, when victims can keep it in no longer, victims of sexual abuse in sport over the decades, will find they can no face the trauma alone and will reveal their sexual abuse in sport, when all they wanted was to play sport.
The power of acceptance of people, whatever their sexual identity, gender and color origin will be demonstrated on Saturday in Khayalitsha, when the third annual Khumbalani Pride takes place with a day long programme of activities.
Civil society organisation, Freegender Khayelitsha is one of many LGBTI and human rights structures spearheading the community Pride festival. Khayalitsha is home to a community of heterosexual people and also gender non-conforming, lesbians, gay and trans people and foreign nationals.
This is the third edition of the community Pride festival; the first having been held in Nyanga in 2013, the second in 2014 in Samora and the third to be held on Saturday in Khayalitsha under the banner ‘Uniting Against Homophobia, Transphobia And Xenophobia’. Khumbalani Pride.
This year’s theme and action programme is all about awareness against the negatives in society, people’s minds and communities. Participants in Khumbalani Pride and everyone associating with the festivities, especially along the street march which starts at 10am at Oliver Tambo hall, will participate against hate and discrimination, knowing that a person’s sexuality and identity are to be respected, that negatives such as homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia are problematic and divide communities, rather than unite them.
Over three years ago, Khayalitsha experienced heightened awareness and angry protests against hate attacks, happening against women identifying as lesbians and who choose same gender love and relationships. This was when the long awaited trial of the killers of teenage girl footballer, Zoliswa Nkonyane finally got underway. Khayalitsha’s civil society groupings and people rallied together in support of ‘No Hate’ against lesbians and gender non-conforming people.
‘Despite South Africa recognizing LGBTI people and being against discrimination of LGBTI people, some people within communities have not reached that understanding and respect for people whatever their sexual identity. This disrespect for LGBTI identification is especially adopted by aggressive heterosexual men who believe that heteronormative people are ‘normal’ and anyone else is ‘abnormal’ or ‘not normal’ and should be removed from society,’ explains Siya Mcuta, media liason for Khumbalani Pride.
‘We have realised that with increased community initiatives around the negatives of homophobia, transphobia ad xenophobia, a community becomes more aware about the dangers existing within a community, when these phobias are allowed free rides and reign through people’s minds.’
Khumbalani Pride was initiated three years ago to celebrate and give respect to gender non-forming and LGBTI people living in townships and working class communities. Hate attacks on black lesbian women were rampant and women were living in fear. Instead of living behind closed doors in reclusive lives, community response was to confront the negatives which launched these attacks and assaults on black lesbian women.
‘The community of Khayalistha has had too many black lesbians being attacked, assaulted and killed. Eliminating these attacks against the women is urgent and a priority. Through community programmes such as Khumbalani Pride, residents of the community will be informed that homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia must be booted out, so the community can live in peace and not be antagonistic because some people falsely believe their gender, country origin or sexual identity is superior,’ explains Ms Mcuta.
Its fierce activism when we call out white privilege and control and black marginalization and disconnection. But really now! How far do you want to go, still working with and being involved with organisations which openly re-inforce white privilege and do organisational events keeping their white privileged protection intact?
I’m asking this in relation to the ownership and power of ‘Pride’, the gay movement’s annual celebration of gay power, love, identity, association and everything positive with being LGBTI, including gender non-conforming.
I’m writing this with thoughts about the relevance in society and in people’s lives of the existence of Cape Town Pride. For some years now, this LGBTI organisation has been criticised for its management, and internal power dynamics and has been called out for representing whiteness, white power and white privilege.
Wholly justified, this criticism has been initiated and given power by authentic queer activists and fierce critics of Cape Town Pride, led largely by conscious black LGBTI/queer people and supported by conscious white minds.
Pride In Cape Town
I’m not going into the history of Cape Town Pride in this blog. As an intro to the existence of this vibrant structure representing LGBTI community, I’m pointing out that its earliest formation was spearheaded by oppressed black queer people to be an organisation representing and protecting LGBTI interests, being against all oppression and challenging for a society acknowledging LGBTI people with rights. Nowhere was maintenance and sustenance of male control and white privilege ever part of the movement’s aims or ideals.
Over the years, Cape Town Pride has undergone changes in officials and management. It has also favourably increased its white control of Cape Town Pride.
This year, conscious black thought said it had had enough of this organization. Again, this was justified. This in turn gave rise to ‘The Alternative Inclusive Pride’. This forum tried to explain their voice via social media and dialogue. People remained confused, and some like me, wondered, where do you fit in with Cape Town Pride if you are ‘alternative and inclusive’.
As I’m not writing a chapter for a book giving my writing much more space, I’m asking directly, in this blog why are conscious black people still bothering to be associated with ‘Cape Town Pride’? All the faults, criticism, conversation, seminal discussion about this organisation has been done and the consensus is that this organisation represents white privilege and control.
Why Associate With White Privilege?
I’m now asking why are people and forums still being associated with this organisation? It does not work for you; it represents the interests of white businesses, white people, especially white men and social spaces which marginalise mostly black and working class people. These are the differences and antagonism which have been exposed about Cape Town Pride. There are other critical evaluations and opinions about its management and finances.
Contesting and eliminating white privilege and control is a must; activism that must be done. But why put energy, time and activism into challenging Cape Town Pride? How about you consider taking control of Cape Town Pride with representation of conscious minds at the helm? If this is going to be a tough, hard battle over the years, then go it alone. The formation and strong existence of a community structure like Freegender Khayalitsha, by volunteers with no funding and resources, shows the power of alternate voices and minds when organisations lose their way and don’t represent the people.
People’s Voices Have Power
I understand the power in the conscious thought and activism of ‘The Alternate Inclusive Pride’ but why should you go on associating with white privilege and Cape Town Pride.
That brings me to Khumbalani Pride which was born out of and supported by Cape Town Pride and Freegender Khayalitsha. The very same organisation that is Cape Town Pride refused to acknowledge its representation being white control and privileged. Now they are out there, in the very people’s communities whom they marginalise and disconnect from Cape Town Pride, to come in and stage Khumbalani Pride.
I’ve never been and am not associated with the workings and goings on of CT Pride but I do know that they are a beacon for white businesses and white domination of Pride in CT. There is no acknowledgement on their part to undergo a washing out of their white privilege mindset.
But why should conscious people, those who understand how white domination works to keep control in white hands, maintain relationships with such people in such organisations?
Is it not time for a ‘No Barriers People’s Pride’ to grow from the seeds which have been planted? The voices are powerful, the outcry against white privilege is resonating throughout South Africa. Why give time and valuable activism to calling out, when gains can be achieved from collaborating with voices and minds determined to be different.
Down with Cape Town pride, and all that it represents, for white control, domination and privilege. Set Cape town alight with conscious thought and activism. You have the power!
This past weekend had me imagining world boxing champion, Floyd Mayweather using his boxing challenge match as a fight for recognition against abuse of women. I didn’t dream this; I really imagined this.
But this rich boxing challenge was all about men’s power and control! The last thing on the minds of all the men involved in pulling off this moneyed sports event was driving a cause for women. This was about the men and only the men, even though they were abusers and misogynists.
The recent boxing ‘fight of the century’, between two rich men whose beginnings started out in the hood, ignited attention to be placed on misogyny and abuse of women. Supporters chose not to cheer for Mayweather because of his abusive behaviour. This was progress for the challenges against abuse of women!
Gender activists, human rights and women’s organizations challenge patriarchy in society and subsequent male control of women’s bodies, mostly by violence and rape.
Just recently in South Africa we had the conviction of a rapist. This rapist was not a black man from a township. He was a white man, an ageing white man, a former tennis champion and a tennis coach. Convictions of sportsmen who are rapists and abusers are few because not all cases of abuse in sport are brought to law to be judged.
South Africa’s biggest high profile case of a sportsman shooting dead his girlfriend was that of Paralympian champion, Oscar Pretorius.
Internationally, there exists a litany of abusive sportsmen who have assaulted, raped and murdered. There also exists a litany of sportsmen who are roaming sports fields and terrains and society, not having been arrested, charged and convicted.
In some instances, football players have been arrested or charged and are facing trial for assault, yet continue to represent their clubs and countries internationally; there’s the example of George Lebese, playing for Kaizer Chiefs whilst it was known that the footballer viciously attacked a woman. Sometimes, the public is made aware of a sportsman’s violence against women when off the field, when media notes this and pictures of the abused partner are publicised. Here I’m thinking of the example of Teko Modise.
Abuse, assault and rape of women occur within sport by men in sport and sportsmen assaulting women outside of sport. I have personally heard of many assaults and rapes of women, who have participated in sport, by their coaches and sports officials.
For reasons of trust and confidentiality, I don’t publish this here. Most times, I have been informed of such when I have written about abuse in sport and by people who personally know of the abused in sport by men in sport.
Trying to fathom out how women respond to men’s participation in sport, especially the abusers who shine on the sports field, and off the field with their punches, bullets and hits on women.
So how do we react to male abusers in sport? How should feminists view sport, this male domain of male hegemony, prowess, attitude and abusive behaviour? Should we not watch men in sport and support sportswomen only? Do we watch sport and scream out for the abusive sportsman to be beaten? But then again, how do we know that many other sportsmen are also abusers who are yet to be known publicly.
When we know the sportsman is a convicted abuser or has been known publicly to be an abuser or rapist but comes back onto the sports field to perform his male sports prowess, how should we view this participation in sport and prowess?
Should we hate on the sportsman for ever, hope he has a pathetic game, delivers a bad performance and gets dropped loses contract? Or do we separate his violent and abusive behaviour off field from his sports prowess on the field?
There are some positives are occurring within sport, when sexual and physical abuse and assault of women inside and outside of sport, by men in sport, are becoming more known and public. This once taboo issue is now being smashed open. However, it’s not being taken apart and confronted by sport’s male officialdom. It’s being done by feminists, gender and anti-women abuse activists and women and men, whom have just about had enough of abuse and misogyny within sport being carefully untouched and left to be hidden away.
Until recently, abuse and misogyny within sport and by sportsmen is a closed affair. Sports officials, mostly men are intent on protecting the male terrain and power within sport. Most sports officials are not feminists or gender activists and most of them are not anti-patriarchy or have a conscious mind. They operate within the confines of male hegemonic power and deliver all they want according to their ‘man’s world. And this world is not about sexual and physical abuse in sport, according to men in sport.
Condemning abusers such as Oscar Pistorius, Bob Hewitt and Floyd Weather (and others like them) is positive and takes anti-abuse campaigns forward. Unless a strong anti-woman abuse voice develops within international sport and African sport and sport in South Africa, we will see guilty sportsmen being protected, displayed and viewed as heroes within the sports paradigm.
The difficulty is that we have a sense of much abusive behaviour over the decades within sport around the world, but this has not come to litigation for the abusers to be convicted. We have a tough struggle ahead to know when abuse is happening and for action to be undertaken.
In the meantime, we must engage relentlessly and challenge with our fierce voices, for sport to become open about abusers existing within sport and to respond in the interests of those who are being abused and have been victims.
As far as our support goes, we should publicly protest, whenever we engage in protests and activism, abusive, misogynistic and rapist sportsmen.
About our support: Surely we can’t scream for abusive sportsmen?