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Former Matildas star Lisa de Vanna has come forward with alarming allegations of sexual abuse dating back to her days with the Young Matildas team in 2001.
De Vanna, who played 150 games in a glittering international career with the Matildas, made her claims public in an interview with the Daily Telegraph which was published on Wednesday.
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She and fellow former teammate Rhali Dobson made claims of a toxic culture within the national program, with their reports coming amid similar allegations being dealt with other sporting officials in Australia.
A Swimming Australia investigation is ongoing into allegations of an abusive culture in the sport while women's hockey and gymnastics in Australia have also probed similar claims.
Her claims come as allegations of sexual misconduct and abusive behaviour are roiling the top US professional women's football league, with the US Soccer Federation naming a former federal prosecutor to lead an investigation.
In the interview, de Vanna described an incident where she was pinned down by teammates and attacked early in her career.
"I was pulled down from behind and dry-humped by a few of my teammates," she told News Corp.
"I fought my way off the floor kicking and screaming.
"They thought it was funny. I was just a young kid from Perth, I didn't know any different. I lost my shit and wanted to punch them.
"Have I been sexually harassed? Yes. Have I been bullied? Yes. Ostracised? Yes. Have I seen things that have made me uncomfortable? Yes.
"As a youngster and a player I didn't know how to address this ... but it is still happening across all levels and it's time to speak up."
— Michael Cain (@caineyten) October 5, 2021
De Vanna went on to say the 'unprofessional' behaviour made her 'feel sick'.
She said she was a teenager at the time and did not know how to handle the situation but had broken her silence because "it is still happening across all levels and it's time to speak up".
However Matildas veteran Elise Kellond-Knight appeared to cast some doubt on De Vanna's story, posting on Twitter that she had not witnessed the type of behaviour described by her former teammate.
“As someone who has been part of the national team set up for well over a decade, I’m unsure of this," she wrote.
In reply, De Vanna simply asked "what part, KK?"
As someone who has been part of the national team set up for well over a decade, I’m unsure of this. https://t.co/qdwkXKGJym
— Elise Kellond-Knight (@elise_kk8) October 5, 2021
Investigation promised into alarming Lisa de Vanna claims
Football Australia, which took over running the sport in 2005, said it was unaware of the specific allegations raised by De Vanna but would investigate if she and Dobson lodged formal complaints.
"Australian football takes a zero-tolerance approach to any conduct which breaches the standards and values expected of people involved in the game," it said.
The governing body said it was working with Sport Integrity Australia to set up an independent inquiry looking at the broader issue of historic abuse allegations.
"We have... been engaging with Sport Integrity Australia to develop an additional process for independently investigating allegations of a historical nature as they relate to former players and staff — such as Lisa and Rhali," it said.
"We will announce the joint initiative with SIA once the details have been finalised."
Football Australia added that they had not been given details of de Vanna's story in an earlier meeting they had conducted with the former Matildas star, but said every effort would be made in order for her to speak with them, as well as Dobson.
W-League stalwart Dobson has also alleged she was a target of sexual harassment in her career.
Australia's soccer players' union, Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), said it was "deeply concerned" at the claims.
"We recognise that the decision to speak publicly would not have been made lightly," the PFA's co-chief executives Beau Busch and Kathryn Gill 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."
De Vanna's story comes days after she re-tweeted a post about abuse perpetrated by men working in women's football by US star Megan Rapinoe.
The National Women's Soccer League in the US is also dealing with allegations of assault which have been levelled against a head coach.
— Michael Cain (@caineyten) October 5, 2021
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