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Former professional Dutch soccer player and Ireland women’s head coach Vera Pauw revealed in a shocking statement Friday that she was raped by a “prominent football official” in 1986 and later sexually assaulted by two other men within the organization.
Pauw, 59, made the allegations 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, my players, my colleagues and, I can now accept, from myself,” she said in the statement.
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Pauw alleged that she was raped by a “prominent football 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 that “were employed within Dutch football at the time of these incidents.”
“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 longer share the silence,” she wrote.
In a written reaction posted on its website, Dutch soccer association KNVB said it was “extremely shocked” by Pauw’s allegations, which she discussed with the association last year. Those discussions led to an independent investigation.
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The KNVB said that the investigation “shows that the KNVB should have approached a number of issues differently” and apologized for the “deep impact” it had on her, stating that it is “unacceptable that Vera did not experience the safe working environment to which she was entitled at the time.”
Pauw said in her statement that she had reported the incidents on five separate occasions and finally reported the assaults to the Dutch police after “failing to get a satisfactory response.”
“Trust me, my story is very real and very true. I know going public is going to throw the spotlight on my life in a manner I have never experienced before but I also hope that young footballers and coaches who were exposed to anything like 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 over the allegations, the coach said he was “stunned by the allegation” and denied that a rape happened.”
“Nothing inappropriate has happened in that regard,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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