Working together to create a safer community
The skydiving community has a long and good tradition of systematic safety work and we have a low proportion of injuries compared to potential risk. At the same time, like many other similar organisations (military, other sports etc), we have not focused on sexual harassment and abuse among our members.
In 2021, Anna Fasting wrote her C-thesis (This is part of the course to gain the highest level of Norwegian Instructor rating) about sexual harassment of women in skydiving. In her 14 years as a skydiver, she had heard of several episodes of people being exposed to sexual harassment.
A real issue
The results of Anna’s thesis showed that more than 2 out of 5 women have been exposed to sexual harassment in skydiving. 56.5 % of the ladies had witnessed or heard about others being sexually harassed. In addition, Anna received information about inappropriate messages from instructors, inappropriate touching and instructors who used their position to make sexual advances. One girl was offered money for sex, and one had been banned from her home DZ after reporting offensive behaviour. A lot of the reported incidents occurred while the women were new jumpers or students.
The skydiving community is a small community where “everyone knows everyone”. This can make it difficult for those who are experiencing sexual harassment to report it. According to Anna’s findings, the instructors’ or experienced jumpers’ position can contribute to secrecy and lack of reaction to reported problems.
Some of the ladies tried to approach various people at their dropzones, but none of the incidents led to consequences for the person who was sexually harassing. Anna Fasting’s study showed that 86.8 % of the cases were never reported.
Anna wrote in her thesis that sexual harassment does not have to be an assault. It can also be suggestive comments, lecherous look, an uncomfortable or slightly too long hug, sexualized situations, sending inappropriate messages or private photos, or information that is spread without consent. Although this is prohibited through law, Anna stated that for many young people this has become a “part of everyday life” and “something you just have to put up with”.
Working for a safer skydiving community
Skydiving is an important part of most jumpers’ lives, and it should be a positive experience to be at the dropzone. The Norwegian Skydiving Federation will work to ensure that members are safe, not only in the air, but also on the ground and in the social settings in skydiving.
The Norwegian sport federation has guidelines to prevent sexual harassment and abuse. All skydivers are responsible for following these, as well as reporting. Instructors and staff have an extra responsibility to take action.
Skydive Tønsberg – taking it seriously
Skydive Tønsberg is one of the dropzones in Norway that has taken the findings in Anna’s thesis very seriously. They have made a work group to handle reported cases. They have also set out very clear guidelines for instructors and staff.
We are so focused on avoiding accidents and incidents. We are logging everything in order to execute our sport in a safe way. Anna’s findings show us that we are missing the very basics of treating each other with respect. This is also about safety, and everyone should be safe when they are at a dropzone.Odd Pedersen, Chief Instructor, Skydive Tønsberg
I wanted to write this article summarising Anna’s findings in Norway, to raise awareness of this issue worldwide in the skydiving community. We are known for looking after each other in many ways.
When most National Skydiving Associations are currently running initiatives to increase intake and retention in our sport, this kind of unacceptable behaviour counteracts this positive work, as well as being personally offensive or upsetting.
- DZ management teams and national associations should create clear guidelines to avoid sexual harassment in skydiving, especially amongst instructors, who are responsible for the safety of their students.
- If you experience or observe inappropriate sexually suggestive behaviour on the dropzone, please report it to the DZ managerial team.
- If you are part of managing a dropzone and receive such a complaint, please treat the information with the respect it deserves, and take appropriate action to discipline, or remove, or report the offender (after due process to confirm the validity of the incident(s).
Let’s work together to create an atmosphere where such unfitting behaviour is not tolerated in our community, to improve the sport now and protect its future. Thank you.
This article was originally published in Fritt Fall magazine here, kindly translated and republished by permission of author and editor Stine Solberg