On January 1, it was through the press that she learned about her appointment as a Knight of the Legion of Honor.
Former Var tennis champion Isabelle Demongeot will take part in a conference-debate on the topic of harassment in sports, which will take place tonight from 18:00 to 20:00 in the Felix-Martin Hall in Saint-Raphael.
Together with lawyer Me Colombani, psychotherapist (and former high-level athlete) Carl Blasco and boxing coach Badri Ruabhia, she will tell her story to an audience of local athletes (club leaders, educators, PE teachers, parents, athletes, etc.) . .).
The story (told in his book Service stolen published by Michel Lafont in 2007 and recently successfully adapted to the small screen), consisting of brilliant sports victories despite the repeated manipulation and rape of his coach over the course of nine years. The one her family chose to confide in when she was just a 14-year-old.
The coach she managed to convict after a long and painful legal battle and a long standoff with the authorities of her sport.
Now the 57-year-old who specializes in coaching champions has a clear eye on the world of sports and the dangers it too often places on the shoulders of young athletes.
At the end of 2021, a TV movie adapted from your work was a big hit on TF1. Did it surprise you?
I didn’t think it would affect people that much.
I have received many marks of respect from many people. Particularly in my village. It’s nice. It is true that there are very strong scenes in the film that shake the conscience. It was very important for me to take part in this project. I couldn’t imagine things any other way.
How did you feel when you learned about the awarding of you with the Order of the Legion of Honor?
I was having lunch with my ex-wife and daughter and started getting congratulatory text messages. I went to the press. This recognition is all the more huge because the request came from the Minister of Sports personally. It’s a source of pride, because after everything I’ve been through, I could be at the bottom of a hole. But I managed to survive and keep moving forward. The final battle I want to fight is repair. I want to accompany the victims to restore myself.
How can clubs protect themselves from harassment, sexual assault and even rape?
I think that the reaction primarily depends on the federations. My [la FFT, NDLR] knew how to react. Not immediately, because I denounced the facts to which I have been exposed since 1992. But then no one heard me. As I recommended, the French tennis authorities have begun to create a cell dedicated to the integrity of the athlete and designed to support victims who testify, in particular by filing a civil suit in the courts. Within the framework of sports associations, I propose to conclude an agreement of trust between parents and children. We must tell each other everything, without secrets and lies. This pact should be renewed as the coach becomes more and more present in the child’s life. We must also continue prevention and awareness.
How to improve support for victims of rape?
I turned to the Elysee Palace with a request to recognize the raped people as disabled. Admittedly, this is an invisible flaw, but it is quite real. The psychological and physical consequences are real.
What is your relationship with the French Tennis Federation?
A year and a half ago, the federation finally opened the door for me. Not only to get involved in a program to combat violence in our sport, but perhaps to return to my passion and my experience – tennis. To me, that’s the real message of redress. I designed things to help our competitors at a sporting level.
For years, your legal battle has eclipsed your tennis experience in the media.
Fully. I experienced a form of double jeopardy. I suffered from this at a sporting level. Of course I was 24and a world class player but I think I had what it takes to be one of the best players in the world. A few years later, I paid for it professionally. Parents probably hesitated to send their children to train at my club in Saint-Tropez. This is completely unfair, because, as far as I know, I was not the one who molested the children. But the goal that I set for myself is to move power. Now we are moving forward.
Were you moved by the situation of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who disappeared days after she accused a political leader of sexual harassment last November?
What I heard touched me very much. Although we do not know all the details of this case, it seems frightening. On the other hand, I appreciate the fact that many top athletes have been publicly interested in news about this player. I wish it happened that way when I was a victim. It is true that the sports world is waking up. With the Olympic Games approaching in France in 2024, it is encouraging to see that we are talking about all these topics. We need top athletes who take responsibility despite the pressure some sponsors may have to prevent their athletes from joining for certain reasons.
With the development of social media and the advent of the sports business, more and more champions are being harassed, ridiculed or intimidated, especially by fans. Are today’s athletes forced to “armor” themselves even more psychologically in order to practice their profession?
I think this phenomenon is absolutely frightening. I know several French tennis players who are constantly annoyed on social media. This is a huge pressure in addition to tournament pressure. Never calms down. The stakes and sacrifices are sometimes too great. When we see the world’s best tennis player Ashleigh Barty retiring at such a young age, it should make us think. Today, the sport is not all right. Especially at the highest level. It would be good to return to simpler and more important values, such as respect for citizenship. We must stop isolating coaches and athletes. Parents and coaches have a role to play. National education is also involved. My daughter is only 7 years old, but she knows what rape and harassment are.
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