CW: mention of sexual violence and discrimination

Atalanta’s, Oxford University’s society which promotes and supports women in sports, has released an open letter standing “in solidarity with those who have been affected by acts of sexual violence perpetrated by men, or discrimination based on their gender, sexuality or race”. The letter outlines various pledges of action against sexual violence and discrimination. The letter also invites Oxford sports captains and presidents to sign it in order to show that Oxford’s sports clubs “share these commitments” that hope to eradicate these behaviours from Oxford’s sporting societies. 

Founded in 1992, Atalanta’s aims to “recognise and foster the impressive achievements of sportswomen across the University”. The society is not exclusive to female members and the website states the society has members from over 24 sports clubs. Atalanta’s letter follows the death of Sarah Everard, as well as other recent discussions over forms of discrimination that occur every day. 

The letter wishes to take strong action against forms of sexual violence and discrimination and outlines its pledges to “facilitate a discussion on sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination among our community”. The letter also outlines its pledge in “supporting our members in holding our perpetrators accountable”, and to “put in place institutional changes within our society” so that forms of sexual assault and discrimination can be eradicated. 

The operationalisation of these pledges is also outlined in the letter. The society wishes to hold a “society wide discussion group” and create an “anonymous form” in order for experiences of sexual violence, harassment and discrimination can be registered and so that wrong behaviour does not occur again. The society also hopes to introduce a welfare secretary into its committee to “act as a go-to point for members”. 

As harassment and discrimination is an intersectional issue and some individuals may feel the effects even more commonly or acutely, the society hopes to introduce “leads” in its committee “so that the voices of BAME, LGBTQ+ and disabled members are always being considered”. 

The letter also addresses the Sports Federation, and requests for it to implement “a clearer and more sign-posted system for reporting harassment within the sporting environment”. The reporting system would be “open to all members of Oxford University” and “all teams should be made aware of this”. 

Sofia Baldelli, president of Atalanta’s Society, told Cherwell: “Following recent events, Atalanta’s recognised the need for change in the Oxford sport community in order for victims of sexual violence, harassment or discrimination to be supported sufficiently.

“Along with the changes we are implementing to our society and what we are asking of the Sports Federation, we are asking captains and presidents of Oxford University sports teams to sign this letter and pledge to bring about changes within their clubs so that everyone can feel safe and supported within Oxford sport.”

If you are a captain or president of a sports team, you can contact [email protected] or click on the link in Atalanta’s Instagram bio to sign the letter.

Image courtesy of Atalanta’s Society.

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