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 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