This is a year of firsts at the Olympics. The first ever refugee team, the first time women’s rugby will be at the games, and the first time golf is making an appearance in 112 years. But these are not the only new developments to be excited about for the 2016 Olympics.
For the first time ever, the Olympic Games will have a framework for athletes to report instances of sexual harassment and abuse. This new structure provides athletes clear reporting mechanisms and protections while they are competing at the games, an important resource that did not previously exist.
This advancement came in the wake of several harassment and abuse reports and investigations within the athlete community. Brave American athletes helped pave the way for this historic change, like Kayla Harrison, who shared her experience of being sexually abused by her Judo coach, and the courageous female swimmers who signed a petition protesting the induction of USA Swimming’s Executive Director, Chuck Wielgus, into the International Swimming Hall of fame after he failed to address complaints of pervasive sexual harassment within the swim community.
Student-athletes in the United States are protected from sex discrimination(including harassment and abuse) under Title IX, and the new policy will extend similar protections to all Olympic athletes-whether they’re from Team USA or another country.
The Harrison and Wielgus cases demonstrate the pervasive sex discrimination and harassment that still permeates sports, and it is encouraging to see the Olympics Committee respond and take the initial steps necessary to counter this climate. This is just one advancement in a long journey towards leveling the playing field for female athletes everywhere.