Lisa De Vanna, one of Australia’s all-time top scoring leaders in women’s soccer, came forward on Wednesday with allegations of sexual abuse permeating all throughout the Australian Soccer league, Football Australia.
The 36-year-old former Matildas striker felt that now was the time to speak out about abuse dating back to her start in the league at age 17, since her career had just recently ended prior to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games.
“Have I been sexually harassed? Yes,” she said. “Have I been bullied? Yes. Ostracized? Yes. Have I seen things that have made me uncomfortable? Yes.”
Inspired by Sinead Farrelly, Mana Shim, and the women who came forward last week with allegations against U.S. women’s soccer coach Paul Riley, Lis De Vanna detailed a history of abuse in Australia witnessed and experienced during her 150-game career.
In the wake of the allegations, the U.S. National Women’s Soccer League’s commissioner, Lisa Baird, resigned, with Football Australia asking for other players to come forward and aid them in their investigation.
Speaking with Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, Lisa De Vanna said that she witnessed “cultural problems at all levels,” citing sexual harassment, grooming, and predatory behavior.
When she was just 17, she said she experienced her first case of sexual assault in the Australian league when fellow teammates pulled her to the ground and dry-humped her.
“They thought it was funny. I was just a young kid from Perth, I didn’t know any different,” Lisa De Vanna said. She fought her way off them “kicking and screaming.”
“As a youngster and a player I didn’t know how to address this,” she said, “but it is still happening across all levels and it’s time to speak up.”
One of De Vanna’s former teammates, Rhali Dobson, has also come forward with allegations of grooming as a young player. “It’s a world that’s very much still going” she revealed, even “at the top levels.”
“Until you start addressing this, nothing is going to change,” Rhali Dobson said.
Elissia Carnavas, another former teammate, and her ex-manager, Rose Garofano, have both backed up their claims. So has U.S. soccer star Meghan Rapinoe, who tweeted “Men protecting men, who are abusing Women.”
Football Australia met with Lisa De Vanna to discuss her “grievances,” as the international women’s soccer club called it, but said that no specific events were detailed over the course of their meeting.
“We have no knowledge of what steps, if any our predecessor organisation, Soccer Australia, undertook in 2001, but in the event that Lisa chooses to lodge a formal complaint through the appropriate channels, we will be in a position to investigate and, if appropriate, act accordingly,” Football Australia said in an official statement.
“We encourage anyone to bring forward their concerns through Football Australia’s formal complaints process,” the league said. “Any such matter will be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. The same process is open to Rhali Dobson and other former players and staff to formally bring forward any claims.”
Lisa De Vanna told ESPN that she was “just struggling to deal with it,” especially coming to terms with the end of her career as well. “I can’t look at a football right now. I can’t even walk my dog on a field,” she said.
Professional Footballers Australia, the national women’s soccer players union, is standing behind Lisa De Vanna, saying that it was “deeply concerned.”
“We recognize that the decision to speak publicly would not have been made lightly,” the players union said in a statement. “It is critical that the sport provides a safe and inclusive workplace and, importantly, the players are supported to come forward.”