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Dutch former professional footballer and Ireland Women’s Head Coach Vera Pauw revealed in a shocking statement on Friday that she was raped by a “prominent soccer official” in 1986 and then sexually assaulted by two other men within the organization.
Pauw, 59, made the complaints public in a lengthy statement posted on social media, as well as in a report published Saturday in the Dutch newspaper NRC.
“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,” he said in the statement.
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Pauw alleged that she was raped by a “prominent soccer official” when she was a player for the Netherlands in 1986, an assault that reportedly took place at her home, according to NRC. She also alleges that she was later sexually assaulted by two other men who “were employed in Dutch football at the time of these incidents”.
“For the last few years I have tried to have my case was heard fairly and fairly by the football authorities in the Netherlands, but to no avail. Some people would rather keep my rape and sexual assault a secret than offer me the support I need by opening this story to the world. I can now share the silence,” he wrote.
In a written reaction posted on its website, the Dutch soccer association KNVB said it was “extremely shocked” by Pauw’s allegations, which he discussed with the association last year. Those discussions led to an independent investigation.
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The KNVB said the investigation “shows that the KNVB should have approached a number of issues differently” and apologized for the “profound impact” it had on her, stating that it is “unacceptable that Vera did not experience the safe working environment in which it is”. she was entitled at the time.”
Pauw said in his statement that he had reported the incidents on five separate occasions, eventually reporting the assaults to Dutch police after “not getting a satisfactory response.”
“Trust me, my story is very real and very true. I know that making it public is going to put the spotlight on my life in a way that I have never experienced before, but I also hope that the young footballers and managers who were exposed to something like this the rape and abuse I suffered will now feel brave enough to come forward and share their stories.”
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The coach was not named in either the report or Pauw’s statement, but when questioned by the newspaper about the allegations, the coach said he was “stunned by the allegation” and denied that a rape had occurred.
“Nothing inappropriate has happened in that regard,” he said.
Associated Press contributed to this report.