Warning: This story contains some descriptions of sexual assault
Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw says she was raped and sexually assaulted by three different men involved in Dutch football.
The 59-year-old, who played for the Netherlands and managed them for six years, has been the Irish boss since 2019.
In a statement released on Twitter, she said: “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.”
She says she was raped by a “prominent football official” when she was a young player – and later sexually assaulted by two other men.
All three were employed in Dutch football at the time of the incidents, her statement said.
In response, the Dutch FA said it had launched an independent investigation in the past, with Pauw’s co-operation, and admitted it had made mistakes.
“We acknowledge the errors identified in the report and it 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,” it said.
Pauw added that she was exposed to systematic sexual abuse, abuse of power, bullying and intimidation in her time in the Dutch set-up as a player and manager.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
She says she filed five reports to the Dutch FA without getting a satisfactory response so has recently reported the offences to the Dutch police.
The Dutch FA said: “At the KNVB we are very shocked by the experiences from a not recent past that Vera Pauw told us about in a conversation last year.”
An independent investigation “showed that the KNVB should have approached a number of issues differently”.
It found that Pauw had been subject to errors and harmful comments from Dutch FA employees and that the KNVB did not respond sufficiently to Vera’s first “first signals in 2011 about sexually transgressive behaviour” or have the right policies in place.
It said that, in a further 2017 conversation about Pauw’s experiences, she “explicitly” asked them not to take any action.
Pauw said: “That [going to the police] 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,” she said.
She says she hopes others who have had similar experiences “will now feel brave enough to come forward and share their stories”.
Her statement also asked for “what is left of my privacy” and thanked the Football Association of Ireland for its support.
“I have always felt safe and continue to feel safe and supported in Ireland and I cannot tell you how good that feels,” she said.
“This is who I am, I don’t have to hide any more. I hope I can continue my life in freedom.”
An FAI statement read: “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 Dutch FA said it will take action following the recommendations of the report.
- If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this story, there are details of organisations that offer advice and support at http://bbc.co.uk/actionline or you can call 0800 066 066. Lines are open 24 hours a day and calls are free.