The reactions from the public have shown me that I am not alone
Sport is an important part of life for many people. But it is also a place where people can experience sexualised violence. This was show jumper Lisa-Marie Kreutz's experience – and she showed the extent of what happened to her in a campaign.
About Lisa-Marie Kreutz
Lisa-Marie Kreutz is a professional show jumper. She was born in Magdeburg and now lives in Baden-Wuerttemberg. She has a degree in sports journalism.
How did you become a professional show jumper? Had it always been your dream?
I was always very sporty as a child, trying out all kinds of sports. I first started with athletics and was a sprinter. I was very meticulous about it and trained a lot. But I already also loved horses a lot. I always wanted to be near them. At first, I only rode during the holidays and I had the occasional riding lesson. My aim was to become an athlete and have horses as my hobby. But on the day the team was selected, they told me I had to choose – either horses or athletics. And I chose horses.
When did you decide to take the first step and confide in someone and tell them your story?
In my early 20s, I had severe mental health problems. I told my therapist what had been going on in my life during the third or fourth session. I never used the word "abuse" then. It was not part of my vocabulary in connection with what I had experienced. But I had already started dealing with my experiences a little earlier than that. It was when I read an article on incest as an adolescent. That's what got things rolling. I then realised, over the course of my therapy, that I was abused by a woman.
Sexualised violence in sports is common. What was your experience of it in horse riding?
In equestrian sports the perpetrators have a lot of opportunity. People who train children and adolescents often work very closely with them. They see each other almost every day in the stable. They are often alone with the children because the parents say: "You're going to do your thing for three or four hours, and afterwards I'll pick you up." In addition, the horse can be used as a bargaining chip, especially with younger riders. Horses are not tennis rackets. You love the animal, you have a partnership with it. And when someone says to you: "You can't ride my horse anymore. You're not allowed to take it to tournaments anymore. I'll make sure it gets sold.", then this can be very hard on young children in particular and silence them.
How can such situations be prevented? What can parents look out for?
Unfortunately, we cannot completely prevent sexualised violence in sport. But as a society we can learn to take a closer look and believe the survivors. When we have a suspicion, we can ask the person how they are doing and if everything is really okay. It's better to ask too often than not often enough. And parents who send their children to sports should obtain detailed information: How long has the coach been at the club? Where was he previously? It's important to know their background. After the training session, parents can ask their child how it was and pay attention to their behaviour.
The reactions from members of the public showed me that I am not alone. There are a lot of people who feel the same way. Today I am happy. My life goes on. I have a good relationship with my body and my sexuality.
You launched a campaign against sexual violence in equestrian sports in 2019. How did this come about?
Unfortunately, my sport is sexualised an awful lot. But I see myself first and foremost as an athlete. The breeches are my workwear. And yes, I post photos on Instagram where I find myself attractive. Unfortunately, in addition to 'likes', I also get messages that hit well below the belt. There was one case where someone described to me in very explicit terms what they want to do with my body. I was disgusted by that and it made me very angry. I know that other female athletes also experience their sport being sexualised – athletics, for example, or beach volleyball, where they wear very skimpy clothing. But still, I couldn't let go of the topic. I felt that I had to do something about it.
And what happened then?
I took a video and just talked into the camera: "Hi, I'm not really an influencer, but I just have to do some venting: Isn't it terrible that we horse riders are so horrendously sexualised by society?" And then a lot of people got in touch with me and told me their stories. I created the hashtag #UYVEQUESTRIAN – USE YOUR VOICE! and asked people if I could tell their stories anonymously. Just to show that this is not an isolated case. Can we talk about this please? I used my voice and I want to encourage others to do the same.
What reactions did you get?
The reactions came in waves. It was a huge hype at first. But part of the truth is that there were also two shitstorms. A lot of older men found their way into my DMs and wrote things like, "You privileged kid, don't you have any real problems?" I was called a "disgusting man-hating feminist" and worse. Someone said that I should be grateful that anyone would want to touch me at all. Or that you have to enjoy these things if you can't prevent them. But there were also a lot of positive reactions.
Tell us more about that!
I was on television twice, on ZDF and MDR, and gave lots of interviews. After that, I got an enormous amount of messages – sometimes 1,500 in one day. I answered every single one of them. Because I wanted to show people that they are not alone. I wanted them to know that I respect them, that they should have the courage to talk about the subject. This took a lot of time. But I think it was worth it. The stories opened up a new perspective for me as well. Because I am myself affected. And I used the campaign to let people know.
How did you deal with it?
Many people don't know who they can turn to. So I did some research and published the information I found on a website. There is an anonymous helpline and an association where you can report incidents. I also talked to a lawyer and psychologist. They told me where survivors can find legal help and what therapy options there are. It was really important to me to get that knowledge out there. Many people wrote to me and said that the information helped them a lot.
Has the campaign also changed you personally?
The campaign made me realise how important it is to tell your story and come to terms with it. This does not necessarily have to happen publicly. But the reactions from members of the public showed me that I am not alone. There are a lot of people on the other side of the screen who feel the same way. Today I am happy. My life goes on. I have a good relationship with my body and my sexuality. I was able to help other people with my campaign. That is a nice feeling.
What gives you courage?
This may come as a bit of a surprise, but my horses give me courage. Because no matter what happens in my life, they are always by my side. They don't judge. My love for and partnership with my horses is more important than anything for me.
Stories that inspire courage
Give us a call – even if you're unsure
Talk to the advisors of the Sexual Abuse Help Line. Your call is anonymous and free of charge.
Mon, Wed, Fri: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Tues, Thurs: 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Send us a message
– securely and confidentially
The Sexual Abuse Help Line also offers advice by email. By registering, the advice service remains confidential.