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Vera Pauw: Republic of Ireland boss reveals rape and assault in Dutch football

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Vera Pauw
Vera Pauw thanked the Irish Football Association for their support in her statement

Warning: This story contains some depictions of sexual assault.

Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw says she was raped and sexually assaulted by three different men involved in Dutch football.

The 59-year-old, who played for the Netherlands and managed them for six years, has been the Irish manager since 2019.

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In a statement posted on Twitter, he said: “For 35 years I have kept a secret from the world, from my family, from my teammates, from my players, from my colleagues and, now I can accept it, from myself.”

She says she was raped by a “prominent soccer official” when she was a young player, and then sexually assaulted by two other men.

All three were working in Dutch soccer at the time of the incidents, according to their statement.

In response, the Dutch Football Federation said it had launched an independent investigation in the past, with Pauw’s cooperation, and admitted that it had made mistakes.

“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 work environment to which she was entitled at the time,” he said.

Pauw added that she was exposed to systematic sexual abuse, abuse of power, harassment and intimidation in her time in the Dutch setting as a player and coach.

“For the last 35 years I have kept the abuse private. I have allowed its memory to control my life, to fill me with daily pain and anguish, to dominate my inner feelings,” he said.

“To many, I am seen as a brash and loud football coach and manager, a tough woman who has risen to the top in a man’s world. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

She says she made five reports to the Dutch FA without getting a satisfactory response, so she recently reported the crimes to the Dutch police.

The Dutch FA said: “We in the KNVB are very shocked by the experiences from the not-recent past that Vera Pauw told us about in a conversation last year.”

An independent investigation “showed that the KNVB should have approached a number of issues differently”.

It found that Pauw had been the subject of harmful mistakes and comments from Dutch FA employees and that the KNVB did not respond sufficiently to the first “early signals in 2011 from Vera about sexually transgressive behaviour” or did not have adequate policies.

He said that in another 2017 conversation about Pauw’s experiences, she “explicitly” asked them not to take any action.

Pauw said: “That [going to the police] It already feels like the beginning of the end for me, but I know there are more headaches to come. Stories may appear in the Dutch media about my ordeal and I know claims may be made against me in an effort to tarnish my story,” she said.

She says she hopes others who have had similar experiences “will now feel brave enough to come forward and share their stories.”

His statement also asked for “what remains of my privacy” and thanked the Irish Football Association for their support.

“I have always felt safe and continue to feel safe and supported in Ireland and I can’t tell you how good it feels,” she said.

“This is who I am, I don’t have to hide anymore. I hope I can continue my life in freedom.”

An FAI statement said: “The FAI has offered him all the support he may need on a personal and professional level.

“The FAI is fully aware of the impact these revelations will have on Vera’s well-being and has assured her of the continued full support of the FAI board and all of her colleagues in the association.”

The Dutch Football Federation said it will take action following the report’s recommendations.

  • If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this story, there are details of organizations that offer advice and support in http://bbc.co.uk/actionline or you can call 0800 066 066. The lines are open 24 hours a day and calls are free.
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