Athlete Domestic Violence: contaminating acts and the violation of self-boundaries

Owton, Helen and Allen-Collinson, Jacquelyn (2017). Athlete Domestic Violence: contaminating acts and the violation of self-boundaries. In: Milner, Adrienne and Braddock, II, J.H. eds. Women in Sports: Breaking Barriers, Facing Obstacles. ABC-CLIO, pp. 185–202.


This chapter explores the experience of one female athlete named Bella, who was groomed and then sexually abused by her male coach during her childhood; abuse which then continued into adulthood and an ongoing intimate relationship. Bella’s story is presented as an example of how sexual abuse can continue beyond childhood so that the relationship between abuser and abused becomes more complex, and may develop into Athlete Domestic Violence (ADV). Competitive sporting environments can provide a unique socio-cultural context for sexual abuse, exploitation and ADV to take place initially, and then to persist, often through the power invested in the coach. Some argue that a coach developing a romantic relationship with an athlete is never appropriate because the coach holds a structural power advantage over the athlete. In this chapter, we draw on a process of ‘collaborative autoethnography’ as our research approach. Drawing on Goffman’s theorisation of the “territories of the self” and the ways in which these might be subjected to violation via contaminative acts, we analyze some of the interactional encounters between Bella and her partner/abuser.

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