It’s not OK to blame the victim Leigh Nugent
Australian swimming coach Leigh Nugent clearly has bushfires to put out, but one of the nastier outbreaks he must fast address is the allegation that when harassment of female swimmers was brought to his attention his reaction was to blame the female swimmers.
News.com.au reports that the head swim coach’s immediate response to allegations of misbehaviour by the men’s relay team, accused to of harassing female swimmers with prank calls at the team’s Manchester camp, was “your girls are flirting with the dream team”.
Rather than take seriously a report of the incident by another coach and a senior swimmer, Nugent chose the old chestnut tactic of brushing off the interference with the young women as just “childish behaviour”. A bit of high-spirited nonsense from the lads?
Nugent showed how alarmingly out of touch he is with appropriate handling of allegations of harassment, big or small, with his statement on ABC radio today that what the coach and senior swimmer told him “didn’t raise any alarm bells to me”.
Not only should it have sent him storming to talk to his team about such an allegation, but he should have known that it is never OK to blame the victim. Full stop.
In this case, as well as compounding the insult it must have sent the message to those young female swimmers that they were fair game for the men on the team, and their wellbeing mattered little to the man who should have been acting as the arbiter of team morals, as well as morale.
You wonder what kind of impact this kind of dangerously disempowering message had on those young women swimmers.
If such little care was taken to defend the basic rights of some members of our Olympic team, is it any wonder one swimmer described the London games – an event which should have been a life highlight - as “a lonely Olympics”.
Clearly the coaches who have raised this incident, among the many other “toxic culture” issues revealed in two reports into our sorry performance in the London pool, realize that “girls flirting” is a risible way to counter allegations of harassment.
Now it’s up to Nugent to explain, if he can, why targeting the young women on the receiving end of the unwanted attention, rather than intervening to protect them, seemed like such a good idea at the time.
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