It is abundantly clear that SafeSport is not equipped to handle cases of sexual violence and harassment in an effective manner. We have heard of, and reported, abuses in treatment of referees, athletes, and other fencing professionals, particularly women and persons of color. Throughout, the situation remains: those who may suffer from a power imbalance have no or little voice to control their circumstances.
WFencing asks that USA Fencing make efforts with SafeSport to review the process because we as a community do not feel it is effective.
The decision to allow Mr. Alen Hadzic to participate as an alternate on the US Olympic Team stands as a case in point. Although we affirm due process for all, including the accused, the decision to allow Mr. Hadzic to participate in the upcoming team event under the cloud of significant suspicion, while other Olympic hopefuls with charges of non-criminal behavior, were denied the opportunity is, at the very least, confusing.
As awful as the circumstances surrounding the allegations against Mr. Hadzic appear to be (based on public information), what is the most distressing with this current situation is that it is not an anomaly but an example of the type of behavior that has been allowed to thrive in the sport. Sexual violence and harassment is a systemic issue and in order to root it out, specific, intentional treatment is needed.
Although the SafeSport complaint process is new, it appears to have failed our community and needs more work. That work must be taken up by those with the power to make it so.
WFencing calls for:
Revision of the SafeSport process
More funding for SafeSport
Greater leadership support for SafeSport, and better direction in clarifying the SafeSport process for those reporting
Strengthening and enforcement of the USA Fencing Code of Conduct
Full policy evaluation/review conducted by USA Fencing to make recommendations on sustainable change
Wfencing President Vickie Miller
WFencing encourages our current USA Fencing President and Board Members to stand and take action. We hope the sweeping changes to the Bylaws currently under membership review (WFencing will issue separate comment on the proposed changes) provides an opportunity for the sport to further address this issue in a substantive way that leads to cultural change and equity.
WFencing understands that governing decisions are difficult. We also recognize that there are various parties and entities involved in the decision-making process. To that end, WFencing stands ready to assist and support any and all who seek to help eliminate sexual violence, harassment, and inequitable treatment in the sport. We encourage women and men to come forward with reports of abuse no matter at what point in time the abuse happened so they can receive the support they deserve.
All of us must work to fully understand the sport culture issues at hand and create an action plan to move forward.
Vickie Miller, President
Dear WFencing Members and Enthusiasts,
In 2019 I gave a TEDx TALK called Opening Closed Doors to Women in Sport. Later that summer I conducted a seminar called Barriers to Women Fencing Coaches. These two events were the impetus for the formation of WFencing. It has not been easy to start a new national organization, particularly one whose core mission is to overcome systemic sexism and racism, but that’s what we’ve done and now we are celebrating our one year anniversary!!
In one year’s time, WFencing has established a constitution and bylaws and has an acting board of directors. By the end of the summer official elections will be conducted and we will have a formal board of directors. (See the notice about board elections in this newsletter or on the website.)
The current and acting board has also launched a website, established a quarterly newsletter, created a consolidated information page for prospective student athletes, scheduled a series of diversity training opportunities for members, connected the entire USA Fencing community with RISE anti-racism training, responded to racism and sexism reported by fencing referees, and launched a series of fencing coaching development opportunities we called Learning Pods. WFencing also created a process for members to vet USA Fencing Board candidates. Whew!
Although we are off and running, it is not enough. There is so much more to do and we need everyone in WFencing to consider actively serving the cause. It is an organization that cherishes diversity, new ideas, and different approaches. WFencing is looking to expand its programs, leadership opportunities and we are especially looking for diversity -- all kinds. If you would like to serve on any of the following committees, please send an email to the committee organizer:
Advocacy and Voice - Vickie Miller
Marketing and Advertising - Julie Seal
Fundraising - Jen Oldham
Referee Development Committee/ USA Fencing Task Force - Tasha Martin
Governance Committee - Sue Borgos
Professional Development - Jennifer Salmon
Program Ideas and Board Elections - Laszlo Szabo
I have been fighting sexism in fencing my whole life. When I was a young woman (in the '60s, '70s, '80s) in the throes of my fencing career I often felt alone in my quest to gain equal access to the sport I loved. I wasn’t allowed to fence epee or saber, I wasn’t respected for my athleticism or my fencing skill. Later, as a fencing coach I continued to experience "the good ole boy system" and for the longest time felt alone in my fight to gain equal access. With the formation of WFencing I now realize I have never been alone in this quest. There are many other women, people of color, and folk who identify as LGBTQ who want equal access and fair treatment in the fencing world and who also have felt alone in their fight. With the formation of WFencing none of us have to be alone in their quest anymore!
Vincent "Vinnie" Bradford
WFencing co-founder Vincent Bradford, Olympian, Professor, Coach and Community Leader.
Referee Commission Chair
WFencing is a nonprofit organization committed to uphold the mission of the Olympic dream as it extends to the American professional sport fencing community. We work to achieve diversity, unity and equity among all fencing professionals no matter race, gender, or geographic location in the United States.
Who are we?
We are coaches, fencing professionals, parents and athletes who believe increasing diversity among fencing professionals will greater unify Team USA, reduce SafeSport complaints, and increase participation in collegiate and club fencing nationwide. Through creating clear pathways for professional development we will accelerate our competitive sport environment. Tomorrow we will be bigger, better and stronger.
WFencing organized as a response to overt disparities of leadership heavily tilted towards one gender.
WFencing is creating best practices, consultative groups, organizational transparency models, and collaboration platforms through this crisis of Covid-19. We need unifiers to support each other today, so we can produce better fencing tomorrow.