PARIS (AP) – A year-long French effort to uncover and combat sexual violence in sports has identified more than 400 coaches, teachers and others suspected of abuse or cover-up.
Most of the victims were under the age of 15, according to data released Friday by the Sports Ministry. The alleged abuse included sexual assault, stalking or other violence.
Sixty people have faced criminal prosecutions, more than 100 have been temporarily or permanently removed from their posts and local investigations into other cases are underway, the ministry said.
The abuse reached the entire country and the entire sector, with accusations targeting a total of 48 sports federations.
Of the accused, 96% are men. Of the victims, 83% were women and 63% were under the age of 15, the ministry said.
The investigative investigation began in February 2020 after ten-time French skating champion Sarah Abitbol said in a book that she was raped by coach Gilles Beyer between 1990 and 1992, when she was a teenager. Beyer received preliminary charges of sexual assault and the investigation is ongoing.
In the wake of Abitbol’s allegations, more skaters spoke out to denounce the alleged sexual violence by the coaches. The sports ministry established a platform dedicated to athletes’ testimonies and held a year of hearings.
In its statement, the ministry called Abitbol’s testimony “a historic moment for French sport” that raised awareness and pushed authorities to crack down on the abuses. A new law on tighter controls of sports educators, including volunteer coaches, came into force on Friday, and the French government and sports federations have pledged to respond more quickly and effectively to allegations of abuse.