A while back, the Jiu-Jitsu Times asked you, our awesome readers, to participate in a survey about sexual harassment and assault within the BJJ community. An astonishing 1,102 of you responded, and thanks to you, we now have some hard data about exactly how prevalent these problems are in our community.
36 percent of female and 2 percent of male respondents said they’d been sexually harassed or assaulted in a BJJ-related environment. 13 percent of total respondents had seen it happen to someone else, and 42 percent had heard or read about it happening to someone.
Of those who said they’d been harassed or assaulted, 53 percent said that it consisted of groping or inappropriate touching while rolling, and 58 percent said they were the target of inappropriate or sexually charged comments. 11 percent said they’d been the target of stalking, and 2 percent had survived rape or attempted rape.
The overwhelming majority of perpetrators of sexual violence and harassment were men: Out of the 21 men who said that they’d dealt with unwanted sexual attention in jiu-jitsu, 14 said they’d gotten it from a male teammate or training partner, 5 said they’d gotten it from a male coach, and one said he’d gotten it from a male “outsider”. By contrast, five had gotten it from female teammates, two from female coaches, and two from female “outsiders.”
Of the 149 women who had been harassed or assaulted and wished to provide more details, 61 (41%) said that it was done by a male coach, 114 (77%) said that it was done by a male teammate, and 21 (14%) said that it was done by a male “outsider.” Zero were harassed or assaulted by a female coach or “outsider, and two (1%) said that it was done by a female training partner.
Of those who had been harassed or assaulted (both male and female), 49 percent did not report the incident. When asked for the reasoning why they didn’t report it, 46 percent of respondents said that they didn’t feel like the incident was worth reporting, and 37 percent feared backlash from their coach, teammates, or community. 35 percent of people who didn’t report their assault or harassment said that they didn’t think anyone would take them seriously, 25 percent said they were embarrassed, and 23 percent didn’t want to get the offender in trouble. 20 percent claimed that they didn’t feel like they could trust or depend on the person who would be in charge of handling the situation.
36 percent of those who did report the incident approached a teammate about it, and 30 percent went to their coach. 12 percent reported it to someone outside of jiu-jitsu, and 2 percent went to the police about it. Of those who reported their harassment or assault, the most common result (22 percent) was that perpetrator was not punished at all. 9 percent of respondents said that the person responsible was permanently removed from the gym (1 percent said that the removal was temporary), and 7 percent said that the perpetrator was given a warning.
The effects of sexual harassment and assault on jiu-jitsu practitioners varied as well. 66 percent of respondents said they felt uncomfortable around the person who did it, and 23 percent said they were uncomfortable returning to the gym at all. 53 percent said that they avoided rolling with certain people, and 22 percent altered their training schedule to avoid the perpetrator — 13 percent stopped training altogether as a result of the incident. The effects could also be seen outside of the jiu-jitsu realm, though — 16 percent became anxious or depressed after it happened, and 10 percent feared for their safety. 11 percent of respondents said that they weren’t affected by the incident at all.
The majority of those who reported being sexually harassed or assaulted in a jiu-jitsu environment said that it was a repeat occurrence — 53 percent said that it happened between two and five times, 12 percent said that it happened more than five times, and 4 percent continue to experience it on a regular basis. 32 percent said that it had only happened to them once.
When asked how coaches or academy owners could best handle sexual harassment or assault in their gyms, 855 people gave their opinions. The most popular suggestions involved written policies that were included when students signed up to train, verbal warnings for instances of verbal harassment followed by suspension or expulsion for repeat offenses, and immediate expulsion for even one instance. Creating a safe environment where students feel comfortable coming forward with allegations was also suggested numerous times.
So now that the facts are there, let’s have a conversation about them. Let’s stop sweeping this under the rug or claiming that it “doesn’t happen.” I (like so many other people) got into jiu-jitsu because I narrowly escaped being raped; the last thing I want to admit is that this stuff happens even in the sport that has changed my life and empowered me for the past five years. But we need to admit it and acknowledge it if we want to stamp it out. We need to be better teammates and coaches and create an environment in which people aren’t scared of coming forward about scumbags, but scumbags are scared of coming into our academies.
The old adage is true: the first step is admitting that we have a problem. And we do have a problem. People are uncomfortable in the gyms that are supposed to bring them peace and even leaving jiu-jitsu because of this problem. My hope is that awareness will be the foundation to a jiu-jitsu community that cuts sexual violence off at the roots before it gets the chance to grow. We deal with these problems enough outside the academy walls — we deserve for the mats to be our sanctuary.