What is starttotalk.org?

“Start to talk” is a Council of Europe call for action to public authorities and the sport movement to stop child sexual abuse. By joining this call, governments, sports clubs, associations and federations, as well as athletes and coaches, pledge to take concrete measures to prevent and respond to abuse.

“Start to talk” is about adults breaking the silence and lending children a voice.


What are the specific risk factors in sport?

  • There is a higher tolerance level for physical violence and injuries.
  • Authoritarian leadership can lead to unequal power relationships between coaches and athletes.
  • Scandal avoidance means that incidents are silenced.
  • Despite some progress, sport still has a male-dominated gender ratio.
  • Physical contact is often required.
  • It has reward structures.
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour is often tolerated, discrimination and gender inequality accepted.
  • High potential risk situations: changing rooms, showers, carpooling, overnight stays.

Why is it hard for children to talk about abuse?

There are many reasons why child victims of abuse do not speak up. About one third of abused children never tell anyone because they:

  • are afraid of not being believed or of consequences (such as reprisals or possible impact on family, their sport career, their reputation);
  • feel shame and guilt;
  • are confused: some children believe they are in a true “relationship”;
  • do not understand: some children are not able to recognise the abuse (very young children, children with disabilities);
  • do not know whom to tell;
  • are athletes, and are therefore supposed to be strong (vulnerability is considered a weakness).

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