Working with adult athlete survivors of sexual abuse

Authored by: Trisha Leahy

Routledge Handbook of Applied Sport Psychology

Print publication date:  October  2010
Online publication date:  October  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415484633
eBook ISBN: 9780203851043
Adobe ISBN: 9781136966675


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The systematic documentation of sexual abuse of athletes within sport systems has begun to challenge the commonly accepted view of sport as an unproblematic site of youth empowerment and positive development (Leahy, 2010). Sport psychologists need to be equipped to be able to effectively help athletes through the recovery process without sacrificing their high-performance dreams and goals. Negotiating the complex dynamics of recovery work with profoundly traumatized athlete survivors of chronic sexual abuse poses a significant challenge to even the most skilled sport psychologist. Collaborative decisions about which path to take and which direction to turn, although crucial to an athlete’s recovery, may not always be easy to assess from the rapidly evolving knowledge base (Leahy, Pretty, & Tenenbaum, 2003). In this chapter I will focus on the current standard of care guidelines regarding the treatment of survivors of chronic sexual abuse struggling with complex, dissociative posttraumatic conditions, with a particular emphasis on the social context of high-performance athletes.

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