The Football Association of Ireland has given its full support to the women’s national-team head coach, Vera Pauw, after her revelations of rape and sexual abuse.
The former Netherlands defender Pauw, who has been in her role for nearly three years, has said in a statement on social media that she was raped by “a prominent football official” when she was a young player.
The 59-year-old, who has previously managed Scotland, the Netherlands, Russia and South Africa women and made 89 appearances as a player for her country, has also claimed she was sexually assaulted by “two other men”.
In a statement on Twitter, Pauw has accused the Dutch football association of trying to keep her ordeal quiet by refusing to open a full investigation.
The Dutch FA (KNVB) has admitted it did not respond quickly enough when first approached by Pauw about the accusations and had made mistakes, but said it passed the case on to an independent investigator, as requested by Pauw.
The FAI, who appointed Pauw in September 2019, said in a statement: “The FAI has given its full support to Republic of Ireland women’s senior team manager Vera Pauw at this difficult time in her life as she makes very brave revelations about her past.
“Vera has engaged on this matter with the association’s senior leaders for some time now and the FAI has offered her all the backing she may need on a personal and professional level.
“The FAI is absolutely aware of the impact these revelations will have on Vera’s well-being and have assured her of the ongoing full support of the FAI board and all her colleagues at the association.
“The FAI will be making no further comment on this matter and asks the media to respect Vera’s privacy at this very difficult time.”
Pauw thanked the FAI, her players and backroom staff for their support. In a statement posted on Twitter, Pauw said: “For these past 35 years I have kept the abuse private. I have allowed the memory of it to control my life, to fill me with daily pain and anguish, to dominate my inner feelings.
“To many I’m 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.
“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 no longer share the silence.”
Pauw said she had reported her ordeal to the Dutch police, adding: “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 other 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.”
The KNVB said it had been “very shocked” by Pauw’s revelations and acknowledged its response had been unacceptable. “As a result, we have jointly decided to have research done. Vera wanted this to be carried out by Verinorm, an independent research agency that specializes in social safety,” the KNVB said.
The governing body said it had “not been sufficiently alert to Vera’s first signals in 2011 about sexually transgressive behaviour”.
“This independent investigation shows that the KNVB should have handled a number of things differently,” the statement said. “In the past, Vera has unfortunately been confronted with a number of [estimation] errors and harmful comments from [former] KNVB employees. With the investigation, Verinorm also found that there was no plan or policy of the KNVB behind this.”
The KNVB added: “We want to discuss the recommendations from the report internally and with Vera as soon as possible but with the utmost care so that we can set out actions. Also with a view to recovery mediation.”