The Hague – Dutch-born Ireland women’s coach Vera Pauw revealed on Friday she was raped as a young woman “by a prominent football official” and exposed to a raft of abuse within Dutch national football.
Her revelation drew an apology from the Royal Dutch Football Federation (KNVB), saying “it was unacceptable that she did not experience a safe working environment.”
The 59-year-old Pauw, widely seen as one of the founders of the women’s game in the football-mad Netherlands, made the bombshell revelation in a statement on social media.
“For 35 years I kept a secret from the world, from my family, from my teammates, my players, and I can now accept, from myself,” she said on Twitter.
“Even those closest to me have not known of the rape I endured at the hands of a prominent football official when I was a young player.”
“Later, two sexual assaults by two other men were added to this record. All three men were employed within Dutch football at the time of the incident,” said Pauw, who in 2017 received a knighthood from the KNVB.
Pauw said, for the past number of years I have tried to have my case heard in a fair and just manner by the football authorities in the Netherlands, but to no avail.
“Some people would rather keep my rape and sexual assaults quiet than offer me the support I need by opening this story to the world.”
“I can no longer share the silence,” she added.
The no-nonsense manager said she suffered “systematic sexual abuse, abuse of power, bullying, intimidation, isolation, and framing…as a player and as national coach in Dutch football.”
She has reported the rape and sexual assaults to the Dutch police, Pauw said.
Reacting to the allegations, the KNVB said it was “very shocked about the not-recent experiences Vera told us about in a discussion last year.”
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It had launched an investigation by an independent research agency suggested by Pauw.
The probe found several errors in the way the KNVB dealt with Pauw’s experiences, including “not being sufficiently alert to Vera’s first signals of sexually transgressive behaviour in 2011.”
“We acknowledge the errors identified in the report and it should not have happened to her.”
“It is unacceptable that Vera did not experience the safe working environment to which she was entitled at the time,” the KNVB said.
This has been the toughest thing in my life but, finally, I’m ready to move on and be proud of who I am
Vera ? pic.twitter.com/27v25nFViP
— Vera Pauw (@verapauw) July 1, 2022