Skip to main content

The potential of restorative justice in advancing safe sport


This article introduces the potential application of restorative justice in addressing sexual violence and abuse in sport. The suggested framework aims to strengthen existing safeguarding measures in sport organisations. Without proper oversight, abuses within the sport industry are often unidentified, concealed by various stakeholders, resulting in victims suffering much pain. Such suffering, however, contradicts any sporting goals, as abuse tends to result in long-term trauma, permanently scarring the victim, and potentially affecting their performance in sports. Exploring the situation from a victim’s perspective, this article discusses restorative justice, a theory of justice that places the victim at the centre of the resolution model. Restorative justice, which gained its popularity within the criminal justice system, has evolved over time. The principles, values and practices have been applied in various situations, including organisations. Though restorative justice is frequently used to address the aftermath of a conflict or a crime, this article suggests incorporating restorative justice in advancing safe sport.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Availability of data and material

Data retrieved from reliable sources and references provided.

Code availability (software application or custom code)

Not applicable.


  1. Borumandnia et al. (2020); Dworkin et al. (2021)

  2. Stöckl et al. (2021).

  3. World Health Organisation (2018).

  4. Lang et al. (2021).


  6. Acquaviva et al. (2021).

  7. Longman (2019).

  8. Timmerman (2004); World Health Organisation (2013).

  9. Olafson (2011).

  10. Timpka et al. (2021).

  11. Acquaviva et al. (2021).

  12. Article 222-33 of the French Criminal Code.

  13. Brackenridge (2001).

  14. Alexander et al. (2011), p.61.

  15. Koontz et al. (2021), p.1.

  16. Vertommen et al. (2016).

  17. Leahy et al. (2002).

  18. Ohlert et al. (2018).

  19. Alexander et al. (2011).

  20. Volkwein et al. (1997).

  21. Toftegaard Nielsen (2001).

  22. Brackenridge (2001).

  23. Gage (2009).

  24. Sánchez et al. (2021).

  25. 23-item Sexual Experiences Questionnaire-Department of Defense (SEQ-DoD), part of the Status of the Armed Forces Survey: 1995 Form B-Gender Issues (U.S. Department of Defense, 1995).

  26. Koss et al. (2007).

  27. Hartill (2009).

  28. Brackenridge et al. (2011).

  29. Leahy et al. (2002).

  30. Sport Australia, formally the Australian Sports Commission, is the Australian Government agency responsible for supporting and investing in sport in Australia. The commission is composed of Sport Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport.

  31. Marshall (1999), p.37.

  32. O’Brien (2007)

  33. Koss (2013).

  34. Blackley and Bartels (2018).

  35. ibid.

  36. Fox (2013).

  37. Wilson et al. (2009).

  38. Duwe (2018).

  39. Braithwaite (1989).

  40. Braithwaite (2002).

  41. Abdul Rahim (2017).

  42. Goodstein and Aquino (2010).

  43. Salm and Sefiha (2021).

  44. ibid.

  45. European Union (2012), Art. 12.

  46. 2017 toolkit

  47. Mountjoy et al. (2015).


  • Abdul Rahim RB (2017) Business ethics and prospects for restorative justice in selected commercial organisations based in Singapore. figshare. Thesis

  • Acquaviva BL, O’Neal EN, Clevenger SL (2021) Sexual assault awareness in the #Metoo era: student perceptions of victim believability and cases in the media. Am J Crim Justice 46:6–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Alexander K, Stafford A, Lewis R (2011) The experiences of children participating in organised sport in the UK. Summary report. University of Edinburgh/NSPCC Child Protection Research Centre

  • Blackley R, Bartels L (2018) The sentencing and treatment of juvenile sex offenders in Australia. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, No 555, Australian Institute of Criminology

  • Borumandnia N, Khadembashi N, Tabatabaei M et al (2020) The prevalence rate of sexual violence worldwide: a trend analysis. BMC Public Health 20:1835.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brackenridge CH (2001) Spoilsports: understanding and preventing sexual exploitation in sport. Routledge, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Brackenridge C, Bishopp D, Moussali S, Tapp J (2011) The characteristics of sexual abuse in sport: a multidimensional scaling analysis of events described in media reports. Int J Sport Exerc Psychol 6:10–1080

    Google Scholar 

  • Braithwaite J (1989) Crime, shame and reintegration. Cambridge University Press, New York

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Braithwaite J (2002) Restorative justice and responsive regulation. Oxford University Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Duwe G (2018) Can circles of support and accountability (CoSA) significantly reduce sexual recidivism? Results from a randomized controlled trial in Minnesota. J Exp Criminol 14:463–484

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dworkin ER, Krahé B, Zinzow H (2021) The global prevalence of sexual assault: a systematic review of international research since 2010. Psychol Violence 11(5):497

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fasting K, Brackenridge C, Sundgot-Borgen J (2004) Prevalence of sexual harassment among Norwegian female elite athletes in relation to sport type. Int Rev Sociol Sport 39:373–386

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fitzgerald LF, Magley VJ, Drasgow F, Waldo CR (1999) Measuring sexual harassment in the military: The sexual experiences questionnaire (SEQ—DoD). Mil Psychol 11:243–263

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fox KJ (2013) Restoring the social: offender reintegration in a risky world. Int J Compar Appl Criminol.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gage EA (2009) Gender attitudes and sexual behaviors. Violence against Women 14:1014–1032

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goodstein J, Aquino K (2010) And restorative justice for all: Redemption, forgiveness, and reintegration in organizations. J Organ Behav 31:624–628

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hartill M (2005) Sport and the sexually abused male child. Sport Educ Soc 10:287–304.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hartill MJ (2009) The sexual abuse of boys in organized male sports. Men Masculinities 12:225–249.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Koontz JS, Mountjoy M, Abbott KE et al (2021) Sexual violence in sport: American medical society for sports medicine position statement. Br J Sports Med 55:132–134

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Koss MP (2013) The RESTORE program of restorative justice for sex crimes: vision, process, and outcomes. J Interpers Violence 29:1623–1660.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Koss MP, Abbey A, Campbell R et al (2007) Revising the SES: A collaborative process to improve assessment of sexual aggression and victimization. Psychol Women Q 31:357–370

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lang M, Mergaert L, Arnaut C, Vertommen T (2021) Gender-based violence in sport: prevalence and problems. Eur J Sport Soc.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Leahy T, Pretty G, Tenenbaum G (2002) Prevalence of sexual abuse in organised competitive sport in Australia. J Sex Aggress 8:16–36

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Longman J (2019) Coach is sentenced to 24 years in prison for sexually abusing skater: sports desk. The New York Times, Late Edition (East Coast), New York Times Company, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • MacGregor W (2018) It’s just a game until someone is sexually assaulted: Sport culture and the perpetuation of sexual violence by athletes. Educ Law J 28(1):43–73

    Google Scholar 

  • Marshall T (1999) Restorative justice: an overview. Home Office, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Mountjoy M, Rhind DJA, Tiivas A, Leglise M (2015) Safeguarding the child athlete in sport: a review, a framework, and recommendations for the IOC youth athlete development model. Br J Sports Med 49:883–886.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • O’Brien SP (2007) Restorative justice: principles, practices, and application. Prev Res 14(5):16

    Google Scholar 

  • O’Leary-Kelly AM, Bowes-Sperry L (2001) Sexual harassment as unethical behavior: the role of moral intensity. Hum Resour Manag Rev 11:73–92.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ohlert J, Seidler C, Rau T et al (2018) Sexual violence in organized sport in Germany. Ger J Exerc Sport Res 48:59–68

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Olafson E (2011) Child sexual abuse: demography, impact, and interventions. J Child Adolesc Trauma 4:8–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Salm J, Sefiha O (2021) Restorative justice in sports: does restorative justice have a place in anti-doping governance? Sport Soc.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sánchez J, Serrat S, Castillo E, Nuviala A (2021) Confirmatory Factor Analysis and Validity of the Sexual Harassment Scale in Football Refereeing. Int J Environ Res Public Health 18:1374

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stöckl H, Sardinha L, Maheu-Giroux M, Meyer SR, García-Moreno C (2021) Physical, sexual and psychological intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence against women and girls: a systematic review protocol for producing global, regional and country estimates. BMJ Open 11(8):e045574.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Timmerman G (2004) Adolescents’ psychological health and experiences with unwanted sexual behavior at school. Adolescence 39(156):817–825

    Google Scholar 

  • Timpka T, Spreco A, Dahlstrom O et al (2021) Suicidal thoughts (ideation) among elite athletics (track and field) athletes: associations with sports participation, psychological resourcefulness and having been a victim of sexual and/or physical abuse. Br J Sports Med 55:198–205.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Toftegaard Nielsen J (2001) The forbidden zone: intimacy, sexual relations and misconduct in the relationship between coaches and athletes. Int Rev Sociol Sport 36:165–182.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vertommen T, Schipper-van Veldhoven N, Wouters K et al (2016) Interpersonal violence against children in sport in the Netherlands and Belgium. Child Abuse Negl 51:223–236

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Volkwein KAE, Schnell FI, Sherwood D, Livezey A (1997) Sexual harassment in sport-perceptions and experiences of American female student-athletes. Int Rev Sociol Sport 32:283–295

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • WHO (2013) Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence. World Health Organization, Geneva

    Google Scholar 

  • WHO (2018) Violence against women prevalence estimates. World Health Organisation, Geneva

    Google Scholar 

  • Wilson R, Cortoni F, McWhinnie A (2009) Circles of support and accountability: a Canadian national replication of outcome findings. Sexual abuse. J Res Treat 21:412–430

    Google Scholar 

Download references


Not applicable.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



Not applicable.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Razwana Begum Abdul Rahim.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

Not applicable.

Ethical approval

Not applicable.

Consent to participate

Not applicable.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Abdul Rahim, R.B. The potential of restorative justice in advancing safe sport. Int Sports Law J (2022).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI:


  • Safeguarding
  • Sport
  • Sexual violence
  • Abuse
  • Restorative justice
  • Trauma