Since the Saville abuse enquiry, we know how abuse can be “hidden in plain sight” and we know now how prevalent it is across society. We also know how damaging it was to those affected by it – both physically and mentally, often causing irreversible mental health problems.
The latest revelations about abuse in sport has caused me to reflect on my historic response to the behaviour of groups of professional footballers over the years. I have always considered the reports of their drunken tantrums and general undisciplined behaviour as yet more evidence of their arrogant and abhorrent sense of entitlement.
Never once did I consider that some of these men, who have been in football since they were children, could be displaying traits of poor mental health, poor coping strategies and the emotional damage caused by abuse. We know that traumatic life events can cause arrested development in children where they become stuck at the emotional age that they suffered the abuse.
Quite apart from reminding me that we often “know nothing” about a person’s life experience until we ask, these revelations about abuse in sport also remind me to not miss the signs of these affects of abuse just because the adult in front of me is rich, famous and talented.