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#gymnastalliance: An international study on women's gymnasts speaking out about abuse

About this project

Project information

Project status

In progress


Natalie Barker-Ruchti

Research subject

Research environments

Since June 2020, women’s gymnasts around the world are speaking out about abuse. Using #gymnastalliance (and national variations of the hashtag), gymnasts are giving accounts of emotional/psychological, physical and sexual abuse, including body-shaming, bullying and intimidation; racism; dietary control and restriction; overtraining and forced training and competing while injured; medical neglect; and sexual harassment and rape.

Research on women’s gymnastics has long documented the sport’s abusive nature and its detrimental effects on gymnasts’ health and wellbeing. No research has, however, examined athletes' speaking out about experiences of abuse, largely because this phenomenon has never occurred to the extent it is presently happening in women's gymnastics.

The purpose of this study is to understand gymnasts’ speaking out about abuse. The questions that guide the research are:

1. What media do gymnasts use to speak out about abuse?

2. What abusive behaviours and practices do they disclose?

3. What has influenced the gymnasts to speak out now?

4. How do gymnasts experience their speaking out?

5. What demands do they request for the future?

The investigation is designed as a sociological study involving two iterative research methods: Collection of 30 media and social media disclosures about abuse by gymnasts from around the world; and semi-structured interviews with 12 gymnasts who have spoken out about abuse. Using a feminist perspective on women speaking out about abuse, data will be analysed as individual cases and as a corpus of collective material.

This investigation will be the first of its kind to examine the phenomenon of athletes speaking out about abuse in sport. It will include an international sample of gymnasts and follow a social movement as it unfolds. Knowledge gained from the investigation will advance our understanding of abuse in sport; provide insight into athletes recognising and speaking out about abuse; and generate much needed strategies for how sport organisations can prevent abuse in sport.

The project has gained ethical approval from the Swedish Ethical Review Authority (Dnr 2020-06357).


Research funding bodies

  • Swedish Research Council for Sport Science