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Sexual harassment common in sports venues, including MMA

Sexual harassment does not just occur in offices. It also happens in sports contexts, including Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Most ground arts have mixed-gender practices, few female coaches and limited facilities where female athletes are able to train, unless it is with male participants in the same sport.

Ronda Rousey, famous for her performance on the Beijing Olympic judo team in 2008, has called attention to a case of sexual harassment in MMA. Now an A-list sports star and the UFC’s bantamweight champion, Rousey’s opinion carries a lot of weight.

In a post in the JudoForum.com, Rousey chastised the sport’s governing body for their apparent indifference towards accusations leveled at then official Fletcher Thornton. Several female athletes said he sexually molested them when they were in their teens after getting them drunk or high on drug. As a result of the news coverage, Fletcher resigned before the start of the 2008 Olympic Games.

Sexual harassment and abuse by instructors and/or other officials is not a new phenomenon. Consider the allegations against hot yoga guru Bikram Choudhury. Most of the cases sound alike because they have many elements in common: largely male-dominated training areas, environmental circumstances that made it difficult to speak up, and a male authority figure exerting influence on the victim.

No woman should have to endure such a physical violation of her person nor the associated social ramifications. No one has the authority to commit such heinous acts. Sexual harassment policies in sports training venues are virtually non-existent and often so are changing rooms for women. A lack of overt acknowledgement of gender in such sports allows such unconscionable behavior to occur under the radar.

When such a lack of awareness of gender issues happens across the board, in sports and other fields, sexual harassment is virtually guaranteed to happen. If you are facing such a situation, feel free to contact my office for assistance and to find out your legal rights.