Pole vaulter Anna Gordon encourages others to ‘be part of the change’
“I’m not going to tell you about sexual abuse. I think, these days especially, with the #MeToo campaign and everything, there’s already an awareness surrounding that.
“And it’s good, but it just seems so strange to me because people are being encouraged to speak out and they are being met with love and understanding and that just wasn’t my experience at all.”
Anna Gordon is back competing and taking part in the sport she loves but has had to come through some dark times and harrowing experiences to get there.
The pole vaulter hopes others never have to go through what she did and has produced a video entitled ‘Be Part of The Change’, in which she shares her story and outlines how she was able to make a comeback.
If you feel you need to raise concerns of abuse, how can you seek help?
Scottish Athletics and British Athletics have provided some advice.
“We’re aware of the case and Anna’s video and have been involved – both historically and more recently – in providing support to Anna,” said Mark Munro, chief executive of Scottish Athletics.
“It’s absolutely vital that the message to everyone in the sport is very clear: Athletics is a fantastic sport, abuse will not be tolerated and we will seek to support anyone who raises an issue or makes a disclosure of abuse.
“There are over 150 clubs affiliated to scottishathletics, all of whom have in place policies and procedures for dealing with referrals. The club Welfare Officer should be the first person to speak to, but we recognise that in some cases you may want to speak to someone outside the club and a referral can be made directly to scottishathletics, or to the police who will take the appropriate action.
“We offer ongoing support and guidance to our clubs and that happens on a weekly basis via a very proactive approach by our Welfare Team. However, we are not complacent and will continue to look at ways to strengthen what we do in conjunction with our clubs and partners.”
How to seek help
What courses of action are there for athletes, coaches or parents to be able to take if they believe someone has fallen victim?
David Brown, welfare and lead safeguarding officer at UK Athletics, says they should start with their club welfare officer, whose contact details should be published in the clubhouse for everyone to see. Look out for posters like those found here.
“The welfare office can then refer the matter to my colleague Jane Fylan or myself,” adds Brown. “The safeguarding policy will tell them the route they need to take in relation to an allegation – whether they need to refer it to the police or the children’s services or whether the club can deal with it themselves. But that initial point of contact should be the club welfare officer.”
What would then happen?
“It really would depend on the severity of what the allegation is,” Brown says. “We always advocate that if a criminal offence has been committed against somebody then they should go to the police as their first port of call.
“We, the welfare, are always available to anybody within the sport and there is a variety of methods of contact. We will support them and we have in the past made introductions to police forces for people to go in by appointment to make allegations that can be dealt with.
“Individual athletes, or anybody that has been abused in any shape or form, can contact us in a variety of ways. My email – [email protected] is open. We have a whistleblowing email and we have a secure whistleblowing phone line that people can contact us on:
“We offer any support because it’s a difficult situation people find themselves in and there’s a variety of reasons why people report things later,” he says.
“Some people are reporting things that happened four or five years ago – or even longer. Maybe something has happened recently which triggers them to make that report and they just need to be able to speak to somebody fairly quickly. Just contact us. We can always then discuss with them what is the most appropriate way of dealing with this and who are the best people for them to speak to, to get the support for the matter to be resolved properly.”
Gordon adds: “The updated procedures are a huge improvement for those who are brave enough to come forward. What we need now is for governing bodies to understand the barriers to reporting abuse which still exist and address them.”