Training, Technical Assistance, & Consultation Offerings
Athletes face extreme vulnerability to sexual abuse because of their complex and sometimes isolating schedules, the intimate nature of coaching and development of sporting skills, the increased physical care and scrutiny, the pressures and stressors of athletic competition, as well as concerns about career opportunities in a finite time frame. A 2021 study by World Players Association indicated that 13% of student athletes experience sexual violence through their participation in sports, yet this number is believed to be much higher. This statistic not only reveals the pervasiveness of the issues of sexual assault in sport, but it also underscores the need for a shift in the culture of sports where abuse of athletes is not tolerated, and a culture of centering the safety and wellness of athletes is the norm.
As a result of its work, The Army of Survivors is well positioned to support sports organizations and its athletes by providing trauma-informed services to help eliminate abuse in sports while assisting sports entities as they navigate transforming their organization to one that is athlete and athlete survivor-centered.
About The Army of Survivors & Our Expertise
The Army of Survivors is a global leader in advocating for survivors of sexual assault in sport. The nonprofit organization was founded in 2018 by more than 40 survivors of sexual violence that was enabled by USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the FBI. This unique history allows TAOS to bring awareness to the systemic problem of sexual abuse of athletes from the lens of athlete survivors, and everything continues to be done with athlete survivors at the center of the work. The goal is to end sexual violence in sports by ensuring all perpetrators, those who collude with perpetrators, and those who fail to act are held accountable; creating transparency in reporting; building an environment where athletes do not fear retaliation when reporting abuse; and advocating for meaningful change that supports athlete survivors.
TAOS’ mission is to bring awareness, accountability, and transparency to sexual abuse against athletes at all levels from elite to non-elite since the culture of sports that tacitly supports sexual abuse against athletes does not discriminate based on an athlete’s ability. Our work is athlete survivor-founded, survivor-led and trauma informed and we carry out our work through three pillars that support TAOS’ mission: education, resources, and advocacy.
During the last few years, TAOS has been in contact with survivors of sexual abuse who have had re-traumatizing experiences with the entities charged with investigating reports of sexual abuse in sport. Given these wide-spread trends, in May 2022, TAOS conducted a series of trauma informed listening sessions with a diverse group of athletes across several different sports, genders, ages, and levels of competition regarding their experiences with reporting sexual assault in sports. Through these discussions with athlete survivors and witnesses of sexual abuse in sports regarding how their cases were handled, it is clear more reforms and guidance are needed to ensure accountability of individuals and institutions, best practices on trauma-informed training and support, and more transparency.
As a result of the brave sharing of athlete survivors and whistleblowers, TAOS created several recommendations on how governing bodies, organizations conducting independent investigations and other entities engaged in the reporting of abuse in sport can better improve safety, promote wellness, and prevent sexual violence and harassment in the future.
TAOS’ Recommended Phases of Engagement is developed from a trauma-informed approach to center the experience of athlete-survivors and to work with systems for meaningful culture change. Through Discovery + Assessment (Phase 1), Training and Technical Assistance (Phase 2), and Implementation for Culture Change + Community Building (Phase 3), TAOS guides organizations to trauma informed shifts necessary for interrupting and preventing abuse.
*For details on cost, please contact The Army of Survivors Executive Director, Julie Ann Rivers-Cochran, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recommended Phases of Engagement
Phase 1: Discovery + Assessment
Focus on people and systems analysis
Program Kick-Off and Introduction
Pre-Game Kick-Off to introduce TAOS to players, teams, PDMs, staff, and other stakeholders such as referees or sports health supports. Pre-Game Kick-Off will provide players and stakeholders with information and background on TAOS’ support to players and consultation to the sports organization. During the kickoff, the vision and desired outcomes of the program will be shared.
Data Collection, Focus Groups & Interviews
- Where are we on this journey? (Readiness to move forward, sitting with it, unsure)
- How have we (as players) been impacted? (Short- mid-long- term)
- What has changed? (Good, bad, unsure)
- What are the non-negotiables? (Must haves, things that cannot happen again)
- How do we move forward? (Outside of policies, what is needed to build back trust and safety between players and the league)
- How can the sports organization better support you?
Virtual Player Drop-In Sessions and Expectation Setting
TAOS prepares and facilitates 90-minute to 2-hour virtual conversations where the process of athlete and athlete survivor feedback is shared as well as expected feedback loop processes. Virtual Player Drop-In Sessions are held to accommodate any current needs and to provide support to players will allow space for players and staff to ask questions about our work, disclose abuse, and discuss the current climate in a trauma-informed place until TAOS staff can be on-site if part of the initiative. As part of the trauma-informed approach, these sessions and direct support for players provides for full transparency, allows for expectation setting, and serves as another mechanism for survivor support and connection to resources. Players are asked to register pre-session to ensure that only current and recently transferred or retired players are allowed into the session. TAOS keeps the names, team affiliation, or any other identifiers of registrants anonymous and will never be provided to anyone outside of the TAOS team. TAOS will share information prior to each session on how to log in anonymously if players prefer to be anonymous throughout the meeting. TAOS will cap all drop-in sessions to 50 people maximum to register for each session. TAOS will keep track of a waiting list in order to determine if more than three sessions are needed. TAOS will provide the name, photo, and background of the TAOS facilitators to players pre-registration.
For any players that do not feel comfortable attending a group drop-in session, TAOS offers 1×1 virtual drop-in sessions for those that prefer to share individually with a TAOS team member.
TAOS shares what to expect during the meeting and resources available for support such as a mental health safety plan. Every listening session with players includes at least one facilitator and an additional support person that is available to enter a break out room with participants should a player experience a trauma response and need someone to process the trauma with them. TAOS will provide resources for therapy and support to the player’s local area.
TAOS partners with the sports organization to conduct a full policy scan of existing anti-harassment policies, structures for investigation when abuse is reported, and response protocols. TAOS begins reviewing policies beginning with the league/sport/system-wide minimum standard and will then partner with each individual team to support each team’s specific policies and make recommendations for trauma-informed change.
Phase 2: Training and Support Development
Focus on building tools needed for transitioning to trauma-informed environment
Identify Program Game Plan
TAOS develops a program game plan from the information gathered from the players and the Discovery + Assessment Phase. The game plan summarizes and shares learnings from each session as well as the report itself, with recommendations on immediate next steps. Identifying information that contributed to the learnings will be kept confidential and will not indicate individual names, teams, or experiences.
In addition to a written game plan, players have continued access to TAOS staff for support within the organization and for ongoing advocacy. For example: Given the likelihood that throughout focus groups and training, players will decide to disclose abuse that has not yet been actioned, TAOS staff will be available to support these players. TAOS team members will offer short-term, trauma-informed crisis response support, but will not be available for long-term therapy if the player chooses such. However, TAOS will provide resources for accessing trauma therapists. Another important element to a disclosure like this is ensuring documentation to record evidence to minimize the number of times a player will have to repeat their experience. TAOS will liaise with the entity to ensure a smooth transition into the legal advice that should then be provided.
Trauma-Informed Basics Training for Staff and Others
Virtual Media Training with Survivors
TAOS provides training to support players in responding to media inquiries, discussing how to set boundaries, and navigating trauma surrounding trauma reminders during and following media interviews. TAOS’ media training has been developed by athlete survivors and in partnership with sports media experts. This training is recommended to be adapted to the needs and gaps identified in the Discovery + Assessment Phase.
Virtual Media Training for Media
Training & Technical Assistance Plan
Phase 3: Implementation for Culture Change + Community Building
Focus on putting the recommendations to action in shifting culture and building an athlete and athlete-survivor focused system
Implementation Strategy for the TTA Plan
On-site Listening Sessions and TTA with Players on TAOS-specific content
Trauma-informed Resources & Education on the Intersection of Abuse & Sports
TAOS will develop resource materials and provide tailored TTA on said materials specific to league and institution. Materials and TTA will be made available to players, coaches, and staff. Content may include, but not limited to: the prevalence and dynamics of abuse in sports, unpacking types and identifiers of abuse, how to provide support following disclosures of abuse, the athlete-specific Power & Control Wheel, Trauma Informed Approach resources, trauma-informed reporting processes, understanding stigma and delay in reporting, boundary setting, self-care guides, mental health resources including those provided by the sports organization, grooming behaviors, power and control tactics and coercive control strategies, mental health safety plans, trauma 101, creating and sustaining trauma-Informed environments, defining consent beyond “No Means No,” surviving workplace violence in sports, trauma informed response to disclosures of abuse, and a how to guide to supporting an athlete survivor/whistleblower disclosing abuse.
Best practice guidelines for creating a trauma-informed, athlete-centered environment wherein survivors and whistleblowers do not fear punishment or retaliation after reporting, how athletes and staff can support survivors in a healthy way, and how to promote healing and resiliency will also be explored.
Consult on Implementation and Trauma-Informed Policies and Procedures
Creation of and Connection to Crisis Supports
Responding to Disclosures Training
Athlete Education on Abuse & Trauma
Player-to-Coach Transition Support
Data-to-Action and Evaluation Feedback
*Please note: All recommended activities will be dependent on the finding of the Discovery
+ Assessment Phase 1 and can be modified depending on the resources available.
What Do We Mean By Trauma-Informed?
Applying a trauma-informed framework to any engagement with athlete survivors is rooted in the understanding of the pervasiveness and impact of trauma with the goal of mitigating the effects of trauma including minimizing re-traumatization; supporting healing, resilience, and well-being; and, attending to the impact of trauma organizationally.
A trauma informed approach is grounded in a person’s history, acknowledging the entire context of their experience. It starts from a place of assuming a person has experienced trauma and shifts the conversation from “What is wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”
Being trauma-informed is a philosophy and a skill set. Its underlying philosophy is grounded in grassroots and survivor-centered models that came from the early rape crisis center and domestic violence movements.
Organizations that use trauma informed approaches are strengths-based, look at the effects from all forms of trauma, and are multi dimensional in their approaches.
In order to transform a culture where power over athletes is not prioritized and instead athletes and athlete survivors are in fact centered, organizations have to commit to creating an environment where the entire organization centers athletes and is committed to being trauma informed. This includes not only those individuals working on the safe sport entity, but everyone from the top down at each sports organization engaging in the process committing to creating a trauma-informed environment where fear of disclosing abuse for fear of punishment, either by survivors or whistleblowers isn’t commonplace as it is now. If this doesn’t happen athletes will not feel safe to share. Promoting safety and building trust is a key element to working with athlete survivors of sexual assault in sport.