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Launch of new VOICE film

The Workshop also saw the launch of a new short film featuring one of our inspirational ambassadors, Colin Harris. Colin attended the week in Cologne and spoke to the group about his experiences of abuse in sport and his struggle to find his own voice in speaking out on this issue. Everyone was moved by Colin’s contribution. The film can be viewed on our Twitter account @Voicessport or via our Vimeo page. Please share this with your networks and encourage them to share it with their local organisations.

Ralf Zitzmann speaks of the sexual abuse he experienced at the hands of his football coach

English version Ralf Zitzmann
“It makes sense to speak about what has happened.”
Ralf Zitzmann
Ralf Zitzmann experienced sexual violence in his younger days. His football coach was the perpetrator. Ralf describes his story publicly in the project ‘unbreakable’. His coach silenced him with the words: “Ralf, we understand each other. Don’t we?”. Ralf describes feelings of helplessness. He didn’t know who to address about his experience.  He is able to talk 30 years later about his experiences. Ralf Zitzmann feels it is important to speak out in an attempt to prevent future sexual abuse.  
German Version Ralf Zitzmann
“Es macht Sinn, darüber zu sprechen, was passiert ist.”
Ralf Zitzmann
Ralf Zitzmann hat in seiner Jugend sexualisierte Gewalt erfahren. Sein Fußballltrainer war der Täter. In dem Projekt ‚unbreakable’ beschreibt er seine Geschichte. Sein Trainer hat ihn immer mit den Worten: ‚“Ralf, wir verstehen uns doch! Oder?“ zum Schweigen gebracht. Er beschreibt Gefühle von Ohnmacht. Er wußte nicht, an wen er sich wenden konnte.
30 Jahre später spricht er über seine Erfahrungen. Er findet es wichtig, darüber zu reden, um weitere sexualisierte Übergriffe zu verhindern.

National media coverage of the VOICE project in Belgium

Tine Vertommen, project leader for Belgium, was interviewed by a national newspaper (Het Nieuwsblad) about the VOICE project. Tine gives some examples of sexual harassment and abuse in sport and some background information on the VOICE project. The article also makes reference to her important prevalence study on sexual violence against children in sport, from which it is clear that sexual violence is a problem in Flemish sport.

The newspaper also published the call for interview participants, emphasizing the need for better prevention initiatives that will be built based on the experiences of survivors of sexual violence in sport and interviews are now underway. The article concludes by noting that the VOICE project has received the full support of the Flemish minister of sport who says that his administration has already implemented some preventive measures.

Tine Vertommen
Tine Vertommen

Swimmer Karen Leach talks about surviving childhood abuse

My name is Karen Leach, I’m from Ireland. Between the ages of 10 to 17 I spent most of my time training in a swimming pool, competing at national and international level. My dream was to swim for Ireland at the Olympic Games. I loved swimming, I loved my sport, and nothing else mattered to me at that age. My dream came at a very high price.

My Irish Olympic coach abused me mentally, physically, emotionally and sexually. He destroyed my childhood and for many years after that my life was hell on earth because of the deep pain and hurt within me. What happened in swimming in Ireland must never happen again – everyone must know the truth and protect children in sport.

I am 47 years old now, free from all that pain and hurt. I have healed my life. I found a way to have peace of mind. I am now a qualified Psychotherapist and Counsellor working with people to help them be free from their pain and sadness.

I know what it is like to be in a very dark, sad, lonely, frightening place, too scared to tell anyone – JUST IN CASE. My Message to you is – Please Speak, use your voice, tell someone, start your path to freedom, get help. It will get better but you need others to help you. It is too hard on your own.

Today I am a Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse. You can be too.

Your Voice, Your Life, Your Truth

Karen Leach is a former swimmer with the Kings Hospital Swimming club in Dublin, Ireland and has spoken out about the effects of her abuse by Irish Olympic coach Derry O’Rourke. Karen is a very articulate and powerful advocate for the prevention of abuse in sport and the importance of child welfare policies and procedures. Karen has spoken at various conferences – the ‘Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Sports’ European Conference in Berlin, The Irish Sports Council of Ireland, Swim Ireland, Football Association of Ireland and many more.

Karen was involved in the writing of the book DEEP DECEPTION; she shared some of her story and decided to go public when the book was released. Karen has spoken out and is now a qualified Psychotherapist, Counsellor, Family Systems Therapist and Choice Theory Facilitator. Karen can be contacted via:

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