On January 1, it was through the press that he learned of his appointment as a Knight of the Legion of Honor.
Former Var tennis champion Isabelle Demongeot will take part in a conference-debate on the subject of sports harassment, this evening from 18.00 to 20.00 in the Félix-Martin room in Saint-Raphaël.
Along with lawyer Me Colombani, psychotherapist (and former high-level athlete) Carl Blasco and boxing coach Badri Rouabhia, will tell his story to an audience of local sports players (club leaders, educators, physical education teachers, parents, athletes, etc.). .).
A story (told in his book Stolen service published by Michel Lafon in 2007 and recently successfully adapted to the small screen) consisting of brilliant sporting victories despite repeated manipulations and rapes for nine years by his coach. The same one her family had decided to trust when she was just a 14-year-old teenager.
A coach whom he managed to condemn after a long and painful legal battle and a long confrontation with the authorities of his sport.
Now 57, who has become a champion coaching specialty takes a lucid look at the world of sport and the dangers it often puts on the shoulders of young athletes.
At the end of 2021, the adapted television film of your work was a great success on TF1. Did that surprise you?
I didn’t think it would affect people that much.
I received a lot of respect from a lot of people. Especially in my village. That feels good. It is true that the film contains very powerful scenes that shake the consciences. It was very important for me to be involved in this project. I couldn’t imagine things any other way.
How did you feel when you found out about the awarding of your Legion of Honor?
I was having lunch with my ex-wife and daughter and I started receiving congratulatory text messages. I went to see the press. This recognition is all the more enormous as the request came from the Minister of Sports in person. It’s a pride because, after all I’ve been through, I could have ended up at the bottom of the hole. But I managed to become a survivor and kept moving forward. The ultimate struggle I want to lead is that of reparation. I want to accompany the victims to rebuild themselves.
How can clubs protect themselves from harassment, sexual assault, and even rape?
I think it’s mostly up to the federations to react. My [la FFT, NDLR] he knew how to react. Not immediately, because I denounced the facts to which I had been subjected since 1992. But then no one listened to me. As I recommended, the French tennis authorities have begun to set up a cell dedicated to the integrity of the athlete and designed to support the victims who testify, in particular by bringing a civil action before the courts. . Within sports associations, I propose to establish a pact of trust between parents and children. We have to tell each other everything, without secrets or lies. This pact should be extended as the coach becomes more and more present in the child’s life. We must also continue with prevention and awareness.
How to improve support for rape victims?
I petitioned the Elysée for the rapists to be recognized as disabled. It is true that it is an invisible handicap, but it is very 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 the fight against violence in our sport but also, perhaps, to get back to my passion and my experience which is tennis. To me, this is a real message of repair. I have developed things to help our competitors in sports.
For years, your legal battle has overshadowed your media tennis experience.
Totally. I experienced a form of double danger. I suffered at the sporting level. Sure, I was 24 years oldi world player, but I think he had what it takes to be among the best players in the world. A few years later, I paid the price professionally. Parents have probably been hesitant to send their children to train at my club in Saint-Tropez. It’s totally unfair because, as far as I know, it wasn’t me who bothered children. But the goal I set myself is to move the authorities. We are now moving forward.
Have you been touched by the situation of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who disappeared days after he accused a political leader of sexual assault last November?
What I heard touched me a lot. While it is true that we do not know all the details of this case, it seems scary. On the other hand, I appreciated the fact that many top athletes were involved in publicly asking for news of this player. I wish it had happened that way at the time I was the victim. It is true that the world of sports is waking up. With the approach of the Olympic Games to be held in France in 2024, it is reassuring to see that we are talking about all these issues. We need top athletes to take on their responsibilities despite pressure from certain sponsors, who may forbid their athletes from joining certain causes.
With the development of social media and the arrival of the sports business, more and more champions are the object of harassment, ridicule or intimidation, especially by fans. Are today’s athletes forced to “arm themselves” even more psychologically to exercise their profession?
I think this phenomenon is absolutely terrifying. I know several French tennis players who are constantly upset on social media. It’s a huge pressure above the pressure of the tournament. He never calms down. The stakes and sacrifices are sometimes too heavy. When we see that the best tennis player in the world Ashleigh Barty is retiring at such a young age, it should make us think. Sport is not going well today. Especially at the highest level. It would be good to return to simpler and more essential values, such as respect for citizenship. We need to 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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