“Raped and Scared” – why women need to feel safer at soccer games

“Raped and Scared” – why women need to feel safer at soccer games

#Raped #Scared #women #feel #safer #soccer #games Welcome to InNewCL, here is the new story we have for you today:

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Manchester City hosts Manchester United in the FA Women's Super LeagueWomen’s football has shown how games can be a safe place for female fans

Sarah Aitchison has been watching football for more than 20 years and recalls times when she felt “hurt, intimidated and scared”.

There was a time 15 years ago when she was working as a hostess at a club where a man “put his hand on my butt” and another said, “isn’t she pretty, do you want to take her home?”

There are recent examples of her being objectified or “belittled” by a “group of men singing about what they want to do to your body” when she tried to advocate for a stewardess who was being verbally abused and received no support from their male colleagues.

And then there are the general “sexist comments” like she doesn’t know anything about football or doesn’t have an equal place at games.

None of this will surprise women who attend soccer games. Historically, such stories have not always been reported or perhaps even taken seriously.

That is slowly changing, however, and many will say it is long overdue.

In August, Everton issued a “long stadium ban” on a supporter for sexually assaulting a female fan during a game at Goodison Park. It was a rare opportunity for an association to become publicly active.

Roopa Vyas, who is on the board of female supporters group Her Game Too – which was set up last year to fight sexism in sport – says Everton is a “good example” and one of 62 professional clubs working with the organisation.

“A lot of clubs will look into things but then may not react or take the action that people expect, like banning a fan,” she told InNewCL Sport. “I think it’s moving in the right direction. Everton’s approach has been great but I want to see that consistently.”

How common is sexist behavior in football?

Premier League16Championship15League One28League Two9Non-League12 Types of incidents include abusive chanting and sexual harassment

In the last year, Her Game Too has received more than 80 reports of sexual harassment or abuse at football games.

In official Home Office data there are no publicly available figures specifically on sexual assault or sexual harassment for the 2,198 football-related arrests by police at matches in England and Wales last season. There were 798 arrests for public disorder and 19 arrests for racist or indecent singing.

Anti-discrimination campaign group Kick it Out received eight reports of gender-based incidents in professional football for the 2021/22 season. This compares to 183 for race-related incidents and 108 due to sexual orientation.

Roopa, a Her Game Too ambassador for Liverpool, says the numbers will be higher but cites several reasons why women don’t come forward, including inadequate reporting systems and sexism, which is not always recognised, alongside other types of discrimination.

Sarah also stresses how difficult it is to address a football culture where “misogyny is ingrained”.

“There’s a certain chant that talks about how wonderful the town or city is because it’s full of female body parts,” she says. “To a lot of men it seems like a harmless joke.

“But when you’re a woman and you hear a lot of men singing something that basically reduces you to a list of sexualized body parts, it feels pretty intimidating.”

Roopa Vyas at the World ChampionshipRoopa Vyas attended the World Cup in Qatar, where some women said they felt more confident than playing in England

Roopa says it’s “difficult” to know if sex abuse is increasing in football or because women are increasingly becoming more comfortable reporting it. But she also tells her game to take a beating restructureexternal link Over the next year, a “huge spectrum” of incidents was reported.

“Disparaging comments are the main cases that come up,” she says. “Fans are uncomfortable or just being in a stadium and hearing the singing. Women are often told not to be at football, especially away games, and then extreme sexual assault occurs.

“I know I’ve been in situations where I wouldn’t even think about telling anyone a few years ago. But now I think with organizations like ours and with clubs taking them more seriously and actually banning people or running educational programs, it shows that this behavior is not acceptable.”

Sarah, who is also a Her Game Too ambassador, believes the incident in which she was sexually assaulted would not happen now. “At the time I was told, ‘well, boys are boys, you have to take care of the sponsors,'” she says. “But now the club is good at cultivating a culture of equality.”

She’s unsure if that’s being replicated throughout the game, especially with fans, saying “It feels like there’s been more sexism in the last few years than there was maybe five years ago.” The incident in which she and the steward were verbally abused was just last season.

What else needs to be done?

There has been much criticism of Qatar hosting the World Cup, with reports of thousands of deaths of migrant workers building stadiums and infrastructure, while the safety of LGBTQ+ people has also been questioned due to existing laws in the country.

But anecdotally, some female fans have reported feeling safer during the tournament than attending football matches in England. However, these reports are mostly from visitors to Qatar and not from those who live there and may have had different experiences.

It shows that, similar to the experience of attending women’s football matches, equality is not an unrealistic ideal and improvements in men’s football are possible.

One of them is the determination of the reporting group. Clubs have told Roopa that if there is no report, there is often nothing they can do. It is therefore important to ensure that women are offered the right support and discretion.

Another reason is male allies and fans taking responsibility by “calling out” bad behavior.

“I think a lot of women don’t report it because they feel like they’re not being listened to,” says Sarah.

“You almost have to act like one of the guys to be accepted as an equal,” she adds. “And I think a lot of women will feel, like I did a long time ago, that if they talk about things like that, they’re not going to be accepted anymore.

“So that’s really where we need male allies who are willing to speak up and say, ‘actually, no, that’s not okay.'”

The good news is that clubs and leagues are on board. Her Game Too is already working with the English Football League on a range of measures, including a women’s action plan, with a conference scheduled for the end of the season.

The Premier League said it spoke to a variety of groups about their matchday experiences as it developed its gender equality strategy.

A spokesman said: “We do not tolerate abuse of any kind. We and our clubs encourage fans to report any abuse and we continue to assess how we can improve reporting practices.”

Roopa adds: “People really have to think about what they’re saying. We’re still a long way from some people actually accepting that women like football.”

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