We Asked Olympic Officials How They’re Handling Sexual Assault Claims
After a second Olympian was arrested for sexual assault of an Olympic Village employee this week, we reached out to the International Olympic Committee to find out what they are doing to keep athletes and workers safe from sexual violence.
Image by Chris McGrath via Getty
A second Olympic boxer was arrested on Sunday for sexually assaulting a local woman working in the athletes' housing area. According to USA Today, Jonas Junius of Namibia allegedly grabbed a maid in the hallway of a building in the Olympic Village, kissed her forcefully, and offered her money to have sex with him. The 22-year-old boxer who carried his country's flag during the opening ceremony has been charged with rape and could face six to 10 years in prison.
According to the Brazilian Penal Code, rape is defined as "the act of intimidation through violence or threat of carnal knowledge or the practice of any lewd or obscene act or conduct towards the victim."
The Namibia National Olympics Committee is working to secure a "a highly effective and efficient senior criminal lawyer, fluent in both Portuguese and English" in an effort to get Junius released on bail so he can make weigh-in for his scheduled match against France on Thursday, Namibian media reports. Namibian law also defines sexual assault differently from Brazil's.
The allegation comes two days after another boxer, Hassan Saada from Morocco, was accused of sexually assaulting two other workers in the Village. The maids told police he "initially asked to take a photograph with them and that he had then tried to kiss them, using force," the New York Times reported. Saada was disqualified from participating in the Games.
The Olympic Village has a reputation for being a hot bed of sex—so much so that free condoms have been distributed at the games since 1992. As US Olympian Hope Solo put it during the 2012 London Games: "I've seen people having sex right out in the open. On the grass, between buildings, people are getting down and dirty."
Representatives from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) refused to comment on Junius' case while the investigation is ongoing. An IOC spokesperson, however, tells Broadly via email that a new framework for reporting incidents of harassment and abuse had been put in place for athletes participating this year, including the implementation of an IOC welfare officer on-site at the Olympic Village as well as the option to report incidents online via the Olympic Athletes' Hub.
"All reported incidents will be dealt with through a comprehensive procedure, which is linked with local law enforcement agencies and disciplinary channels," the spokesperson writes.
A follow-up email asking for clarification about what kind of protections were in place for local workers interacting with the Olympians was unanswered by press time.
Katherine Redmond Brown, founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes, says the clashing of different cultures and backgrounds makes the Olympics prime for incidents like these. She insists that the Olympics must do a better job of educating its athletes on the norms in the hosting country, and particularly "breaking down those barriers as it relates to women."
In 2007, the IOC adopted a consensus statement on "Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Sport." In it, the committee recognized that sexual abuse stems "from power relations and abuses of power" and recommended that all sport organizations draw up explicit policies for its prevention "regardless of cultural differences." That, however, didn't deter officials with USA Gymnastics, the governing body that develops the US Olympic team, from ignoring numerous allegations of sexual abuse by coaches, as the IndyStar revealed last week.
The IOC spokesperson also directed Broadly to a page on Olympic.org dedicated to defining sexual harassment and abuse, which includes an animated public service announcement via video. After a female narrator shares what sports are all about (focusing the mind, training your body, etc.) over illustrated images of athletes running and vaulting, the video cuts to a purple background with a red, hypnotizing swirl. A green hand and a one-eyed snake drift across the screen while the narrator asserts, "But there's no place in sport for sexual harassment. No place for sexual abuse."
"It's a question of respect," the narrator continues. "Without it, sport means nothing." The heads of athletes start to appear against the swirl, now a less-threatening blue. "Everybody involved in sport must say 'No' to sexual harassment and abuse in one voice."
The video, published on YouTube in 2010, has fewer than 4,000 views.
Brown laments the lack of attention given to sexual assault in sports. "We know that sports has done so much in a social justice perspective," she says, citing integration and the inclusion of women as examples. "Sport has been that change agent, and yet when we come to these issues, we're not ready to go there yet."