Former Netherlands footballer Vera Pauw reveals sexual abuse | DW | 01.07.2022

Dutch football coach and former player Vera Pauw on Friday said she had reported three cases of sexual abuse, one of them rape by a “prominent football official,” to police in the Netherlands. 

“For 35 years I have kept a secret from the world, from my family, from my team mates … and, I can now accept, from myself,” Pauw wrote in a statement published on Twitter. 

“Even those closest to me have not known of the rape I endured at the hands of a prominent football official when I was a young player. Later two sexual assaults by other men were added to this record.”

According to Pauw, all the incidents took place during her time playing for the Dutch women’s national team and involved men working with Dutch football at the time. She said she had turned to the police after five attempts to secure help from the Dutch football association, the KNVB, had amounted to nothing. 

“For the past number of years I have tried to have my case heard in a fair and just manner by the football authorities in the Netherlands but to no avail,” Pauw said. “I can no longer share the silence.” 

Pauw said she worried that turning to police “already feels like the beginning of the end for me” and that she knew “there will be more heartache to come.” 

However, she also said she hoped that “other young footballers and coaches who were exposed to anything like [what] I suffered will now feel brave enough to come forward and share their stories.”

Dutch KNVB disputes parts of Pauw’s account

Vera Pauw played 89 times for the Dutch national team as a defender between 1984 and 1998, and became the first female Dutch player to play professionally for a club outside the country when she joined Modena in Italy. She moved into coaching after retiring, also spending roughly six years at the helm of the Netherlands’ women’s team. She currently manages the Republic of Ireland’s women’s team. 

The KNVB said in a statement sent to the Reuters news agency late on Friday that Pauw had told the organization of her experiences last year, and that she and the organization had decided to start an independent investigation. 

“This investigation has shown that the KNVB should have done a number of things differently. Sadly, Vera in the past has been confronted with a number of errors of judgement and harmful remarks by [former] employees,” it said. 

KNVB aims to offer some form of compensation

The KNVB also said the report showed it had failed to adequately respond to Pauw’s first signals relating to sexual abuse given in 2011. 

However, the Dutch football association also said that during last year’s investigation, Pauw had indicated that she did not want to follow up on the allegations of sexual abuse. 

“We respected that choice. Our intention was to protect Vera,” the KNVB told Reuters. “But we should have chosen a different path.”

The association said it would try to implement the recommendations given in the independent report, and to work out some form of compensation with Pauw.

msh/dh (AFP, Reuters)

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