“The Stories of Sexual Abuse”, from the Sporting World

An ongoing default in the minds of the society we live in today promotes and accepts the image of women as victims of the untold stories. Women who work in different areas of expertise continuously face gender inequality: they are being stepped over in every possible scenario, are verbally and physically abused, and sexually assaulted. Although this is common for women working in every field, many athletes in the sports world encounter sexual assault at its highest, especially those who play in the elite level.

Here is a look at the stories you have never heard, and the ones that you did but moved on with your life:

Mike Tyson, 1991

mike-tyson-desiree-washington
Visual Credit: DingeenGoethe

One of the most scandalous cases was about Mike Tyson, a former American boxer who had the title of the youngest heavyweight boxing champion 1986, raping Desiree Washington, the Miss Black America pageant contestant, in a hotel room in 1991. A day later, Washington reported she was raped by Tyson right after checking into an emergency room at the Methodist Hospital (Indianapolis Monthly, 2017).

The incident took place at a time when America was starting to become conscious about “date rape”. Right before Tyson’s attack, in 1990, America was shaken by the story of Katie Koestner, an 18-year-old college student, who was raped by her date as a freshman in college. At the time, her parents, peers, nor the police believed her, as Koestner describes how date rape was not a thing that was recognized by the society “In 1990, rape was still stranger rape. It was not about people you liked, or you were dating” (BBC, 2016).

Later Koestner’s voice was heard when the Time picked up her article and she was on the cover of the magazine in 1991. Similarly, Tyson’s attack took place right after the incident Koestner went through became publicized. This resulted in the journalistic details of Tyson’s attack becoming a “national sensation” (Indianapolis Monthly).

 

Cristiano Ronaldo, 2009

2_pay-exclusive-cristiano-ronaldo-parties-at-rain-nightclub-in-las-vegas-with-kathryn-moyorga-in-june-200
Visual Credit: The Mirror

Ronaldo’s is a case that had shockingly tepid coverage. According to the Der Spiegel exclusive article, Kathryn Mayorga, a model who worked at the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, was invited to party with Ronaldo in his suite. Later that same night in 2009, Mayorga was forced to have sexual intercourse with Ronaldo even though she repeatedly said no. Next morning, she went to get a medical examination and visited the police immediately after the examination (Spiegel, 2017).

However, she couldn’t just go and talk about what had happened to her. Mayorga was forced to sign a settlement deal, provided by Ronaldo’s agency Gestifute, ensuring she would not talk about that day, and as a result, she received a payoff to forget about her accusations. According to the Der Spiegel interview, Mayorga signed the settlement “out of impotence, [and] the inability to stand up to him” (2017).

Just recently, in September 2018, Mayorga found the courage within herself to speak up about the traumatizing incident. Since the very first article that was published on the incident, Ronaldo’s agency Gestifute continuously sought to prevent any media coverage on the case, and later released the following statement “the article is nothing but a piece of journalistic fiction” (Spiegel Online, 2018). The 2018 Spiegel Online Article also gives details on the legal process and mismatching formal investigation responses by Ronaldo both in 2009 and 2018 about the allegations. The case is yet to be resolved.

 

Larry Nassar, 2015-2018

4831af4b00000578-5281543-image-a-1_1516303338091
Visual Credit: DailyMail

A far-reaching abuse case in the history of sports, the USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal, is still a topic that remains on the headlines today. As more survivors find the courage to open up about the scandal, the updates are still inherent. The perpetrator, Larry Nassar, who was a former USA Gymnastics (USAG) physician, sexually abused more than 300 victims, the majority of them being underage (Vox, 2018). The victims included Olympic medalists Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, and McKayla Maroney.

Although the USAG fired and reported Nassar after receiving a testimony of an athlete stating her concern about him in June 2015, an Indianapolis Star investigation reported that “top executives at USAG routinely dismissed sexual abuse allegations against coaches and failed to alert authorities” (IndyStar, 2016). As the Washington Post stated, “the investigation, reported by the Indianapolis Star, found that USA Gymnastics routinely brushed off sexual abuse claims as hearsay, enabling coaches to molest gymnasts as young as 7 for years” (Washington Post, 2016).

The first public statements on the Nassar case were recorded as early as September 2016, however, the incident went viral when McKayla Moraney used her Twitter account as a channel to share her own abuse story. She stated that she was molested by Nassar every time she went for a doctor’s visit since the age of 13, up until her retirement from the sport in 2016 (ESPN). The USAG had Moraney sign a confidentiality agreement to cover up the scandal. In 2017, Moraney broke her silence, filing a lawsuit against Nassar. Later in 2018, Jacob Moore, a male gymnast, filed a different lawsuit against Nassar, stating he was sexually abused and harassed.  Jacob Moore’s sister Kamerin Moore was also one of the many victims (CBC, 2018).

Larry Nassar was sentenced up to 175 years of prison when the judge said, “I have just signed your death warrant”, easing the pains of the many victimized women, (and man), for decades (CNN, January 2018).

Notes from The Guardian’s Bryan Graham

A 2017 article written by Bryan Graham, at a time when the Nassar scandal was still fresh, stated that there were numerous sports media coverage and research available to the public in this issue and yet they were still “invisible” (The Guardian). Regardless of the fact that the Nassar scandal was not the first of high-profile sex abuse scandals in the sports world, it involved so many women unlike others such as the Baylor University scandal.

In his article, Graham explored the reason for this visibility issue and discussed whether it is due to the sports media being inadequate, later, stating that this was not the reason at all. Graham claimed, “the most distressing reason of all is that the abuse of women is normalized in our society. The Nassar scandal fits into our framework of how we understand a sport like women’s gymnastics. On some level we expect women to be victimized, so it’s not surprising when they are [victimized]” (The Guardian). As Graham would agree, the problem in this particular case and many others can be seen observing the society we live in today and their faulty understanding of women in sport, the carelessness they might have towards an unpopular sport during non-Olympic years, and the acceptance of the image of women who are bound to be victims.

Upon reflecting over his many articles on the cases of female athlete abuse, I was able to have the chance to connect with The Guardian’s Sports Journalist, Bryan Graham, and do an online interview. When I asked Graham about the common challenges sports journalists face when reporting on the abuse cases, he answered, “In the case of gymnastics, the victims are often under 18 years of age and media access is tightly controlled even for uncontroversial questions or requests such as interviews with athletes” (Graham, 2018). He added that the nature of the situation makes it hard for the survivors to discuss it thoroughly because of the shame and grief associated with the crime.

Moreover, Graham stated his opinion on whether the journalistic coverage of sexual abuse involving superstar players changed the public perception, particularly the Ronaldo case, he said that it was a “yes” to some extent, and added, “Yet I’d say 1) it varies widely on a case-by-case basis and 2) that superstar athletes are far more immune to the negative aftereffects due to the male-dominated nature of the space”. His answer supported that there is often a set of lawyers and agencies that cover up the crime with contracts and money.

soccerball on wide green grass field
Visual Credit: Pixabay, Pexels

Final Note

A recent Huffington Post UK article made a bold statement saying, “The voice of sport in 2018 moved beyond leaderboards, cup finals and breaking records. We saw a real watershed moment; rather than behaving as a detached and compartmentalized entity, sport offered a voice on issues that intersect at all levels of society” (Gold, 2019). I cannot possibly agree with it as society still seems to be blind towards certain news, and neither can you.

I asked Bryan Graham about the impact of the Me Too and Time’s Up movements in the sporting world, he replied, “I feel the world of sports has, unlike virtually every other major public sphere, not had its #MeToo or #TimesUp moment so far”.

There are other stories yet to be told but the change doesn’t seem so close to the sporting world.

 

A hero is born: Disappointments, hopes, and expectations after Turkey’s General Election

After his heartbreaking defeat by Erdogan, Ince gave this speech during a press conference that will echo in many people’s heads for a long time: “To Erdogan, please from now on stop acting like the general president of AKP. Become the president of 81 million people, put your arms around all people”. Ince continued, “I recommend you to use my slogan: The president of all. Become the president of all, from now on. End this tension that this nation is experiencing, put your arms around this nation, hug all of them.” He, then subtly mentioned his disappointment of what was to come for Turkey,  “If I were elected, that’s what I was going to do.” Ince continued, “I was ready to put my arms around the AKP supporters, as well as the nation as a whole. Now, that’s what I expect from Erdogan”.

Early Sunday morning, I got into my car, much like rest of the Turkish citizens, and drove off to my hometown to cast my vote, with a different kind of hope that I never had before. Muharrem Ince the presidential candidate that came out of the much passive Republican People’s Party (CHP), visited every inch of this beautiful yet hopeless country just under 51 days. Kids all around the nation sang his campaign song, his rallies pulled all time records for CHP, and I, for once, thought I could live here, in peace. The whole campaign was based on love, unlike Erdogan whose, words could only sound like hatred. Above all, Ince knew how to smile, and I saw, for once, that many people believed, like the New York Times article said, he was “the man who could topple Erdogan”.

1_5133_3

The story is simple: Muharrem Ince became the father that loved his two children so dearly and equally. The two children just couldn’t listen to each other over their differences, and he tried to teach them how to love. But, my guess is, it wasn’t quite the right time.

Ince spent the day in the YSK building, vowed to protect the votes of the nation from AKP’s illegal games that Turkey faced every single election since Turkey became a toy in Erdogan’s hands, in 2002 (Erdogan’s first win for his party AKP to have 365 MPs at the parliament). Once the clock hit about 9:30 pm, the media started airing the data from AA (Anadolu Agency), Ince warned the nation about the expected ballot manipulations. He was right, AKP started off strong with a high percentage, then landed on a 52.5% win, successfully playing with our feelings. İnce finished off with 30.68% breaking the record for a candidate of his party, CHP.

We were all aware of the extra ballots that have been given to people in exchange of a good amount of “pocket money”, the threats people received before entering the secured-voting area, and the home supplies they were provided to keep this economy that enables increasing poverty for another 5 years. An older lady I talked to right after elections said these words: “I prayed for a long time, I went to the ballots and I was praying on my way there. I was scared, I just hit Erdogan for the presidency”. This is just the pure feeling of oppression brought to many by something we cannot call democracy, anymore.

5b0fe6510490c821d070d9ea

The general elections contained the parliamentary elections, with AKP having the majority of seats with the help of its ally, MHP (AKP; 295 MPs, MHP, 49 MPs). Having over 300 MPs in the parliament, AKP secured the new constitution that was expected to run due to the referendum that was passed just over a year ago, in April 2017.

Erdogan now holds a dangerous amount of power, given to him by a scared, poor, and unaware nation. The president is able to directly appoint public officials, intervene in Turkey’s legal system at all costs, and declare a state of emergency whenever he finds suitable (Turkey is in a state of emergency since the coup of July 15, 2016). Moreover, the Turkish council is now unable to detect the MPs, unable to state verbal questions or receive information from the prime minister nor the MPS, and finally, the vote of confidence from the council is permanently taken out of the regimen.

Looking at this picture the Turkish nation voluntarily drew, I expected to be hopeless, scared and full of hatred to those who dragged our country under Erdogan’s presidency, once again.

The next day after I heard Muharrem Ince’s words at the press conference, I wasn’t any of that. He was the light that I could still trust within the familiar yet unbearable darkness. This time, it was bearable. Ince said, “We destroyed the dam of 30%, we can do the same for 50%. I am right here. If this nation tells me to walk in front of them, I am ready”. And millions whispered, “So, are we”.

1033968953.jpg

 

American CEOs, Politicians and “the impossible” Pluralism

The following content is confidential, and there are no titles or names given that would put anyone in danger. Although I do not identify as a Christian, this post explores the Christian worldview and its approach to vocation through guest speakers from Washington, DC.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
The American flag and the inaugration stairs, Capitol Hill Building.

All Abrahamic religions, in some way or another, are based on the same truth that once the ultimate mission of shaping the world is accomplished, they will bring peace and harmony on earth. However, the ways and methods they claim that will bring peace often involve changing the other, at times forcing the other, eliminating the other, or eliminating themselves from the other. We are all well aware that the easiest way to achieve conformity requires a little help from national politics. It sounds much like escapism, it is an escape from the beautiful pluralism we can strive to achieve, and it is, in essence, what we all are called for.

Inazu gracefully states in the very first chapter of his book that Americans fail to agree on “the purpose of [their] country, the nature of the common good and the meaning of human flourishing” (p. 15, Inazu). While we try to coexist, we fail to do so in peace. As Christians (and all other religions) would do, we find the solution in relying on the state. We delegate the holy power on a golden tray, trust with our eyes closed, and watch the state polarize us subtly.

So, what happens next? In a valuable conversation, the president of a DC-based Christian Forum said, “Our identities become political. Our religious identities become political. And, it becomes increasingly hard to find which is true and which is not”. As Christians, we face the risk of over-politicizing our faith and being present within our culture through partisan eyes only. Yes, politicizing faith creates political gain at all costs, but what happens next is disillusioning. She continued, “People start talking about elections in apocalyptic terms, our relationships start depending on the political views of the other, and in other words, this over-simplifies our faith”. She is right, we voluntarily over-simplify our faith, but is our faith really that shallow that it promotes burning the bridges between us?

The answer is no, but we still shatter things into pieces. According to Volf, “some of faith’s damaging effects can be attributed largely to differences of perspectives”, but not all. Most are simply ill-effects, or how Volf refers to them, malfunctions of religion. The Abrahamic (prophetic) religions, at their core, are based on ascend and return, and that is where we encounter the malfunctions.

Processed with VSCO with p5 preset
The artwork at the basement of the Washington National Cathedral.

Ascend is when the prophet rises to encounter with the divine, and receive the message which then changes him. To allow the message to change us, we need to have faith in the meaning of the language. When we politicize religion we hold a risk of hollowing out the language about God from within, due to losing faith in the encounter with God. We employ God and religious language to promote perspectives that are not related to the Divine. This is when we face functional reduction, as Volf says, “shaping people and their social realities, but in which God now lies dead, no longer a transformative reality, alive only as a topographic memory” (p. 11). Politics tirelessly use the language of God, over-simplifying faith, and losing its Divine meaning.

The return malfunctions arise at the time of delivering God’s message and correspond to two sins in Christian tradition: sins of omission, as we fail to deliver the language itself and pick parts of it, and sins of commission, when we impose it on the unwilling (Volf, p. 13). Max Weber’s argument on his classic The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, can be applied to what we face in politics today (p. 14). Politicians play the game by preset rules without applying the moral considerations because their end goal of winning is greater than all. Politics imposes its own rules to those who wish to participate in it, compelling them to conform. Volf adds, “In this new polytheism, we follow the voice of one god at work, another at home, and maybe yet another at church. Each sphere resists the claims of the one God to shape all of life” (p. 14).

There are many challenges that communicators and advocates face when developing strategic planning for organizations. The director of a global communications advising firm, talked about one of the hardest crisis management plan he had worked on for the BP, during the time when BP experienced an oil spill in one the Macondo Prospect. Upon analyzing such a tough situation, he gave the simple solution we all would not expect: Transparency. “The break down of trust requires new levels of transparency”, He said, “How did we take BP out of being a brand behind an industrial disaster? How is BP still in our lives?”, he continued. According to the Director, it was hard to convince BP to put a camera down to where the oil spill was, but they trusted the communications group, apologized, shared to the truth with their constituents, and asked engineers around the world for help. As Lederach would agree, truth brought freedom and reconciliation (p. 52).

The chief communications officer of a national multi-religious organization, deals with both internal and external communications, and he had insights to share on messaging. His golden advice when making decisions for the sake of the organization was to put away personal feelings and think about what benefits the organization the most which would hopefully eliminate any confusions on messaging as well. However, he added, “It is crucial to always be ready for the worst case scenario although the hope is that it never happens. When we anticipate the messages that can fall flat, an organization can work backward from the least bad scenario”.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
The famous Rotunda, Senate Building.

Moreover, communicators and advocates are well aware that politics provide a platform for faith to be hyperactive, imposing it on the unwilling. While speaking in a religious voice may not be oppressive, bringing religions solutions to solve public issues may very well can be. It should not be the duty of the state to object the church’s perspective, defend the church or define what is right and wrong under the light of religion. As DC-based Religious Forum Director put into words what we all forget at times, “The church does not need to define its place in society, the church is society”. And, Hunter would add, the basic intent and desire behind delegating the religious power to the state “is to dominate, control, or rule” (p. 106), in other words, simply doing what Christianity does not want you to do.

According to the Forum Director, “whatever power we give to the state, the state can never solve our problems for us”, and Volf and Hunter would argue, using the state as a referee to solve or settle problems would create a psychology of ressentiment. Ressentiment involves anger, envy, hate, rage and revenge as the motivation for political action, causing us to push one another away rather than striving to walk the fine line of coexistence. So, in spite of all these malfunctions we hold dearly, how do we coexist?

The culture of ressentiment focuses on “our needs only”, however, it is important we put the effort and “try to understand the concerns of each group has on their own terms” (Hunter, p. 110). Inazu offers a three-step solution to achieve pluralism as God intended it to be, through tolerance, humility, and patience. Tolerance allows us to accept one another’s differences and develop endurance while doing so. Humility helps us project our self-reflected values to those who have different views. And finally, patience eliminates coercion and violence, in the midst of the long road of establishing coexistence in harmony.

The leader of a global peacemaking organization, is someone who dedicated his life to find peace in the face of conflict. He says, “Conflict is a dynamic learning opportunity for genuine relationships” and he takes the posture of the learner during his travels, instead of imposing his own views on others. One of his life-changing experiences was in the Middle East when he met a man named Issam*, who was a server at the hotel the leader of this organization was staying with his family. Issam asked him why was it that Americans hated him, and he said: “You need to stop hearing about us, and start hearing from us”.

The Leader believes in these words religiously “My flourishing is connected to your flourishing”. And he claims to coexist with harmony, peacefully and beautifully, we must see humanity, dignity, and the image of God in everyone, just like Jesus did when he talked to the Samaritan woman (John 4). We must immerse in conflict, equipped with tools to heal rather than to win. We must be contend, and not try to find ways to get even but get creative in the way we show love. And finally, we must strive to restore, share our table with former enemies and celebrate the big and small ways God is restoring our world.

Similarly, an official from the Obama Administration, says the only utmost important Christian political duty is to “love thy neighbor”, and “seek the peace and prosperity of the [your] city” (Jer 29:7). We hear many say “Jesus could have been just as faithful working in politics”, but we can all agree that politics is not hospitable towards followers of Christ, and often results in disappointment or religious isolation. “But, how we fight with the tendency to escape when we face conflict is simple: Have the right size of expectations, pursue justice, and have humility”.

If we keep putting a greater identity to politics than it deserves, we are in danger. And taking the final advice of the Obama official: “It takes disinvesting ourselves in politics”. Then, Christians will be capable of creating good culture as they work modeling the image of God, and will finally find the beauty in coexisting, despite all of our deep and at times painful differences.

What is going on in the Trumpland?

26828161_10215108623257415_1113191477_oAmerica is shaken by the government shut down, the nation is flying over to District of Columbia to march for their voices, their president plays for the audience, and I, over here, will try to explain what is going on in the Trumpland.

Although there was a significant amount of tension in Washington this week due to the government shutdown, the breaking news coming from the Washington Post clarifies that the President finally “signed the short-term spending bill to fund the government through Feb. 8.”. Additionally, the bill extended Children’s Health Insurance Program and delayed three Obamacare taxes. The parties still seem to have different views about immigration and spending, however, government officials are back to work until it’s time to fight about the issues again, in two weeks time.

The week of the shutdown, there were major events that took place (and still taking place) in DC.  The month of January is facilitated numerous rallies including the major events of this week, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Walk (January 15), March for Life (January 19) and Women’s March (January 20). Some of the upcoming marches include The National People’s March (January 27), Muslim and Refugee Ban: A Year of Resistance March (January 30).

I had the privilege to attend the March for Life, however, could not make it to the Women’s March although I truly support the movement. I have taken the March for Life as a journalistic experience to be able to observe and criticize a view I did not fully support.

There were over 100,000 people with their posters and loud voices in the event as well as speakers that were strongly religious and based their reasons on their faith. By all means, there is nothing wrong with that… but there is also a lot of things wrong with that. In 20th century, it still leaves me speechless government enforcements through faith happens. And it truly shakes me to see that these enforcements take place not only in Middle East or Asia, but also in the United States of America.

Would the practice of abortion, euthanasia or suicide matter if it weren’t forbidden in our religions? Yes, religions set boundaries, but what are the limits of those boundaries?

I have not heard a single speaker addressing a counter argument or at least mentioning the word ‘rape’ or ‘mother’s life at sake’ while they were speaking about abortion. However, they did not forget to talk about how great adoption is. Mind you, adoption is painful in many ways for the children until they feel home, and sometimes they don’t at all.

During his speech, Mr. President made sure he showed off all the glam he brought to America. It felt as if he were trying to win his votes over for his next term ahead of time. I’ll have to admit Trump is a good speaker but has no character.

I suggest attending one of the upcoming rallies in DC if you reside here, and experience the passion, politics and millions clogging the roads through the Washington Monument to the Hill. Do not be afraid to explore views that you struggle with, it is a great opportunity to strongly reaffirm your own stance in the controversies.

27335728_10215108580896356_1210573558_o27267433_10215108611897131_508711679_o27267896_10215108580696351_174659614_o

27394124_10215108580816354_339110624_o26904418_10215097629502578_2598247804920290085_n

27265016_10215108654618199_860786639_o27265116_10215108661218364_932456355_o27265757_10215108670578598_585783165_o