Former Manchester United and France star Patrice Evra has said he wants to use his platform to tackle violence against children after detailing the sexual abuse he allegedly suffered as a teenager.
In his autobiography “I Love This Game”, Evra writes about the abuse he says took place when he stayed with a teacher to cut down on trips to school.
Evra, who was 13 at the time, says the teacher came into his room every night he stayed and remembers tying shoelaces around his pajamas to try to stop the assaults.
Although he told his mother he no longer wanted to stay in that house, Evra says he only informed his family of the abuse weeks before his book was published in 2021.
“I don’t want people to suffer the way I suffered,” Evra told CNN senior sports analyst Darren Lewis.
“When these things happen, you’re ashamed of yourself, you feel guilty, you don’t know if people are going to trust you.”
Evra never filed a police report about the abuse and says he denied it happened when he was approached by police when he was 24.
It was only by opening up to his fiancée Margaux Alexandra that he decided to share his experiences.
“That’s why I don’t want people to say ‘Wow, Patrice, you’re so brave. You’re so brave to talk about it openly,'” he said.
“It’s not about that. The victim – it’s not because she’s brave. It’s because it’s the right time when you feel safe and confident.
“I was so lucky. I met the woman of my life, Margaux, and she helped me get rid of all that toxic masculinity and open up.
Now that the former defender has retired from his glittering career as a professional footballer – he won five Premier League titles and the 2007/08 Champions League at Manchester United and represented France 81 times – he wants to raise awareness of the child abuse and urge governments to help support these groups trying to help survivors.
He has since partnered with “End Violence”, an organization that seeks to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against children.
By sharing her own experience, Evra hopes others will feel more comfortable talking about uncomfortable topics.
“I won’t push anyone to talk about it,” he added. “I would say you’re going to get support because it’s really easy to open up, but what happens next? Support.
“That’s why it will be my cause after playing football, I have priority: children, gender equality, racism and mental health. All these things are really important to me.
Since retiring, Evra has used his social media presence to spread his joy and positivity, but he’s never been shy about tackling big issues.
In his autobiography, he details the racist abuse he suffered as a player, including as a youngster in Italy where he played for Marsala and Monza between 1998 and 2000.
Patrice Evra speaks out on racist abuse and how to fight it
“People were throwing bananas at me. People were making monkey noise every time I got the ball,” he said.
In addition to fan abuse, he also recalls an incident where he says a player called him a racial swear word before a hard tackle that left him in hospital.
He was also involved in a well-known incident in 2011 while playing for Manchester United.
Then-Liverpool striker Luis Suárez was given an eight-game ban for racially abusing the Frenchman in one match and then refused to shake his hand in the next game.
Suárez then apologized for refusing the handshake.
Evra said he took a long time to recover from that particular incident, but now wants to use his voice to eradicate racism from the game he loves.
“I will always support someone who wants to change things. First of all, the problem is not just in football, it’s in society. It’s a matter of education. No baby is born racist,” he said.
“We have to stop acting, pretending, we have to do something. Silence is a crime.
Premier League players knelt before every game last season in a show of solidarity against racism, and the game’s governing body FIFA has a framework that aims to punish racist behaviour.
Players or officials who engage in racist language and behavior can be sanctioned by a suspension of at least 10 matches, or “any other appropriate disciplinary measure”, according to the latest edition of the FIFA Disciplinary Code.
Clubs can be fined a minimum of $20,076 if their supporters engage in discriminatory behavior, the code adds. Other penalties include point deduction, playing a match without spectators, forfeit of a match, expulsion from a tournament or relegation to a lower division.
But in recent seasons, racism has also spread online, and players have been targets of abuse on their personal social networks.
Last year, a French court ordered Twitter to describe how it planned to tackle hate speech on its site. The social media giant has appealed the decision, despite six anti-discrimination groups saying the San Francisco-based company is failing to ban hateful users from the platform.
However, Twitter has recently introduced multiple tools and protocols in hopes of combating discrimination on its platforms.
“It is Twitter’s top priority to protect people from online abuse and to safeguard the health of the public conversation,” a Twitter spokesperson told CNN in a statement.
“As stated in our hateful conduct policy, we do not tolerate abuse or harassment of people based on race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation. .
“Today, more than 50% of non-compliant content is flagged by our automated systems, further reducing the burden on individuals to report abuse.
“While we’ve recently made progress in giving people greater control to manage their security, we know there’s still work to be done.”
Last year, Instagram launched a new tool that would automatically filter out abusive posts from accounts users didn’t know about.
Meta, owner of Instagram and Facebook, said it stands against discrimination and has rolled out several safety features across its platforms.
“No one should have to experience racist abuse anywhere, and we don’t want that to happen on our platforms,” a spokesperson for Meta told CNN in a statement.
“We remove hateful content as soon as we find it and have developed security features to filter out offensive comments and DMs.
“Nothing will solve this challenge overnight, but we are proud to work with the football community, law enforcement and NGOs to help solve this problem.”
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