It was April 2021 and Bianca tedesco, a basketball referee, had not received any appointment to direct games for more than a month. His state of despair was total. Added to the economic issue was an even more serious one: She had been sexually harassed for five years and harassed by the person in charge of appointing the judges, that is, by her boss. At that moment he said enough and, after a process that took several months, denounced -publicly and in court- to Sebastián Moncloba.
Today Bianca goes through days in which anxiety is diminishing. Exposing his attacker, starting a cause and getting the Argentine Basketball Confederation (CAB) to remove him from his post was not an easy path. Even today, on a physical and psychological level, the Traces left by mistreatment that at first he could not recognize as such, but that was taking a toll on his spirit and his integrity.
“The first time I remember being harassed was in 2016. It was in person: We were at a party and he hit me on. I did not understand what was happening because his girlfriend was present. He told me that she did not have to find out and began to give a certain curiosity and a certain darkness to the situation. It was something that little by little was planted until I managed to recognize what was happening, “said the 30-year-old referee to Infobae.
That approach that was promoted by the director of the Argentine School of Referees (EAAB) was the starting point of a situation of sexual harassment that lasted until February 2021. The issue did not occur continuously: for some periods of time it ceased and in others it became more intense. There were even moments when they had what the young woman calls “a normal relationship between boss and employee”, but then Moncloba returned to the load, especially with written and audio messages through WhatsApp and Instagram.
The first alert that something was wrong came in 2019. “I felt very bad, very uncomfortable with a lot of issues and I didn’t understand why. I was having a hard time and I was very distressed. I lived with my parents and with my sisters and it was a recurring topic of conversation that I loved what I did but that I felt bad and it distressed me a lot. Later I realized that this was coming from him silencing of many things that I had begun to naturalize, but inside they hurt me and I couldn’t see it, I didn’t recognize it ”.
It was one of his sisters who made him open his eyes and told him that those messages he was receiving from Moncloba were sexual harassment. Bianca first denied it. She was invaded by guilt for not having “sent him to m …” or for having answered with a simple “hahaha” every time that person who had her professional career in her hands made a hint or an intimate comment. The young woman felt – wrongly – that she had endorsed or allowed that behavior by not reacting in time.
“There I began to pay a little more attention and to see patterns that were repeated and that were recurring in that conversation. It was at that moment that I began to understand what was happening and that I did not have to put up with it. The issue is that since I wanted to continue directing, I banked it, “he explained.
Until that moment, Bianca directed men’s games in the Argentine League (second most important competition in the country) and in the Federal Tournament. They had already run her out of the women’s contest with the argument that she had had poor performances, despite the fact that she had already worked on the issues – in her opinion, doubtful – that they had marked her to correct. After a month without appointments (and without income), the referee had an anxiety attack. That was the trigger that made her break the silence regarding what was happening with Moncloba.
The first step was to approach the Gender Secretariat of the University of La Plata, an institution in which Bianca studies sports journalism at the headquarters of the former ESMA. There they advised her and confirmed that she was right: that what he was going through was a situation of sexual harassment and that the evidence he had was overwhelming to proceed with a complaint. Then it was the turn to seek psychological assistance. “I was unable to sleep for more than a month. Horrible things were going through my mind “recalls the referee with pain.
The Collective Basketball, a feminist group that fights for plurality and equity in that discipline, also accompanied her in the process. It was Monica santino, referent of La Nuestra Fútbol Feminista and activist for women’s rights, who made contact with Melisa Garcia (member of Abofem) and Paula Ojeda (Vice President of FAMUD), the two lawyers who decided to work together and Ad-honorem to bring Bianca’s cause to justice. “I have Banini and Bonsegundo on my team,” jokes Bianca regarding the legal support she has.
Last September, after presenting his complaint in court and with a crude statement on his social networks, the referee announced her withdrawal from basketball. That discipline with which he had been passionate since he was seven years old to the point of not leaving even a weekend from the courts, had begun to cause him rejection. Besides, there was another reason to come: “I was very afraid of everything that could happen, to lose my job, to be exposed, to be treated for the resentful ‘cake’ (lesbian), of which she wants five minutes of fame. I knew that it would be very difficult for my mental health to be in competition and at the same time to report because it was going to generate a great exposure. Furthermore, it is not only Moncloba: things are still being done very badly and there are many friends of power inside ”.
The Argentine Basketball Confederation activated its gender violence protocol once the case came to light and he removed Moncloba from his duties until the situation is resolved. This implies that the man at the moment cannot work in the area of appointments – the one that deprived Bianca of her work duties – and cannot serve as a referee in the National League.
“There are still people who are handling things the wrong way. Sebastián was the person to whom we were accountable, the one who decided if we were going to be there and how many games we were going to direct, but he can’t manage the whole country, so he needed to have friends who would work together with him. Those are the people in charge today. This is not a single name: it is a system in which he was the head – and fortunately he is no longer -, but we cannot pretend that nothing happened. It is a system that is handled with a lot of harassment and that hurts. I have friends who have stopped refereeing due to mistreatment of the person who is now in that position. That is why we must continue working and remove the people who do bad to this sport, whom I call ‘scourges’, and we have to stay inside. Hopefully this serves to move the structures, “he denounced firmly.
Already with a little more strength and courage, in recent weeks Bianca made the decision to return to arbitration. After four months, she resumed her training and last Friday she had a meeting with the CAB’s Women’s Department in which the institution promised to respect his working conditions and guarantee the signing of a contract, something that until now is only reserved for his male colleagues.
Regarding the judicial case, Bianca and her lawyers hope it will be labeled as sexual harassment compounded by her position of power. They have already presented all their witnesses and their evidence. In the Judicial Investigation Center all the information from the arbitrator’s cell phone was downloaded and the authorities issued a protection measure by which Moncloba cannot approach within 200 meters or contact the complainant by any means. The defendant had to appear to testify last Friday, but requested an extension and his version will be heard on October 14.
The referee today is somewhat calmer. The progress of the case, the measures taken against her stalker and the messages of support she received allowed her to leave behind those weeks in which she did not get out of bed and in which he had to start psychiatric treatment for his panic and anxiety attacks, and for his intentions to injure himself.
“This is a situation that he should not have experienced. I am looking for the best way to make this work, but not only for me, I do it for other colleagues, for those who do not dare, for those who have the same fear that I felt of losing everything, “he emphasizes. In this sense, he affirms: “My main objective is for something to change. The most important thing would be that the fight is won from within, that we are not the ones who have to abandon. The denounced man always remains in his position of power and one thinks ‘But you’ve already taken everything from me, you’ve already done everything you could and wanted with me.’ It would not be bad to take this case as something that moves the structuresLet another say ‘I stayed inside and the one who leaves is you.’
For Bianca, it is likely that these situations of abuse of power will continue to be repeated, so it is crucial that other women know how to recognize when they are being violated and that they find the necessary support to be able to report: say what is happening to you and think what can be done with it. It is important to open the game and say these things, not shut them up or feel guilty when they treat us as liars or exaggerated since that does not put us in a place of inferiority but practically nonexistence ”. And, like a mantra that helps her keep going, she repeats over and over again: “It’s for me, it’s for everyone.”