Vera Pauw says she was raped and sexually assaulted

Ireland manager says her rape was ‘at the hands of a prominent football official’

Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw has provided details to Dutch police of being raped and sexually assaulted, on three separate occasions, when she was a player.

Pauw, 59, also alleged the men who assaulted her were employed within Dutch football at the time.

The Netherlands football federation, the KNVB, have apologised to their former player and head coach. Last night they sought to enter “recovery mediation.”

“For 35 years I have kept a secret from the world, from my family, from my team-mates, my players, my colleagues and, I can now accept, from myself,” began Pauw’s tweet on Friday evening. “Even those closest to me have not known of the rape I endured at the hands of a prominent football official when I was a young player.

“Later two sexual assaults by two other men were added to this record. All three men were employed within Dutch football at the time of these incidents.”

Pauw levelled accusations of “systematic sexual abuse, abuse of power, bullying, intimidation, isolation and framing” against football authorities in Holland during her 89 caps for her country between 1984 and 1998 and also when she was national coach from 2004 to 2010.

“I have allowed the memory of it to control my life, to fill me with daily pain and anguish, to dominate my inner feelings,” said Pauw. “To many I am 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.”

The FAI have been aware of Pauw’s ongoing interactions with the Dutch federation “for some time” and offered their full support “at this difficult time in her life as she makes very brave revelations about her past.”

Pauw detailed the difficulties in having her case heard by football authorities in the Netherlands, which prompted her to make a statement to police.

“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,” she said. “I can no longer share the silence.

“After failing to get a satisfactory response to my request for action on an investigation initiated by the Dutch FA following my fifth report to them, I recently reported my rape and sexual assaults to the Dutch police.

“Trust me, my story is very real and very true.”

When contacted by The Irish Times, the KNVB revealed that last year they commissioned Verinorm, an independent research agency that specialises in social safety, to investigate the allegations, at “Pauw’s request.”

A report, with “the sole purpose of finding the truth,” the KNVB stated, was subsequently published “outside our control.”

“This independent investigation shows that the KNVB should have approached a number of issues differently,” they conceded. “For example, in the past Vera was unfortunately confronted with a number of errors and harmful comments by former KNVB employees.”

The Dutch federation concedes that they were not “sufficiently alert to Vera’s first signals” back in 2011 about “sexually transgressive behaviour.”

“The KNVB did not react sharply enough to this at the time,” they continued before insisting that in 2017 Pauw “explicitly asked us not to take any action.”

“We acknowledge the errors identified in the report and should not have happened to her. It is unacceptable that Vera did not experience the safe working environment to which she was entitled at the time. In personal contact with Vera, we have experienced that this situation unfortunately has a lot of impact on her and we are sorry for that.”

The KNVB added they are seeking to meet with Pauw with a view to “recovery mediation.”

Ireland’s next match under Pauw’s guidance is the crucial World Cup qualifier against Finland at Tallaght stadium on September 1st. She has signed up to work for RTÉ during the European Championships which begin in England on July 6th.

Vera Pauw statement in full

For 35 years I have kept a secret from the world, from my family, from my team-mates, my players, my colleagues and, I can now accept, from myself.

Even those closest to me have not known of the rape I endured at the hands of a prominent football official when I was a young player. Later two sexual assaults by two other men were added to this record. All three men were employed within Dutch football at the time of these incidents. Only those I can trust have known until now of the systematic sexual abuse, abuse of power, bullying, intimidation, isolation and framing I was exposed to as a player and as National Coach in Dutch football.

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 am 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 offering me the support I need by opening this story to the world. I can no longer share the silence.

After failing to get a satisfactory response to my request for action on an investigation initiated by the Dutch FA following my fifth report to them, I recently reported my rape and sexual assaults to the Dutch police. That already feels like the beginning of the end for me but I know there will be more heartache to come. Stories may appear in the Dutch media of my horrific ordeal and I know claims may be made against me in an effort to tarnish my story. I take full responsibility for what I did and what I failed to do.

Trust me, my story is very real and very true. I know that going public is going to throw the spotlight on my life in a manner I have never experienced before but I also hope that 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.

This will not be an easy time for me and my family and for now I ask you all to respect what is left of my privacy.

Finally, I would like to thank my Irish backroom staff and my players, the FAI’s management and Board, all my FAI colleagues and the Ireland fans for the support they have shown me as manager of the Ireland team. I have always felt safe and continue to feel safe and supported in Ireland and I cannot tell you how good that feels. I hope that support will continue in Ireland for me now that I have shared my story and my pain.

This is who I am, I don’t have to hide any more. I hope I can continue my life in freedom.

If you are affected by topics in this article, support is available from the National 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800 77 8888

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent