California is famous for sports like soccer, football, basketball, etc. Many parents enroll their youths in these sports to foster their social, emotional, cognitive, and athletic development and expect the sports leagues to provide a safe setting for their children. Unfortunately, parents are often unsuspecting of the children's elevated risks from sexual predators in these organizations. Sexual abuse accusations and high-profile cases involving coaches’ sexually abusing children have become prevalent in many sports organizations nationwide, including California.

At Sex Crimes Attorney, we understand that coaches or adult athletes can take advantage of the youths, sexually abusing those they should be protecting. So, we focus on investigating cases of youth sports sexual abuse in sports organizations and evaluate the policies these associations have in place to deter this kind of behavior. If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse in youth sports, you should talk to us to commence civil action and seek monetary compensation.

Youth Sports Sexual Abuse Statistics

Sexual abuse of children and teenagers occurs in all sports all the time. Emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual molestation are widespread in organized sports. Additionally, it is not only the female athletes who experience sexual abuse. Male athletes are equally exposed to the same danger of sexual abuse, with various polls showing that nearly 40% to 50% of all athletes have experienced some kind of abuse. Some of these athletes were informed or reported to have suffered mild abuse, while others serious molestation that led to physical and emotional harm.

Similarly, other studies have reported that between 2% to 8% of athletes have suffered some form of sexual exploitation in particular sports. It is worth noting that sexual, bodily, or emotional abuse can happen to any youth or child regardless of religion, social status, location, or race. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how these cases occur because you or your child could fall victim.

Sexual Abuse Cases in Organized Youth Sports

Nationally, many news centers have focused on USA Gymnastics Team after the former team doctor Nassar was found guilty by the court for sexually assaulting young patients. A federal judge sentenced the doctor to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing 156 women and female sports athletes who sort treatment. Shockingly, many of the survivors who came out to testify in court claimed that when they made assault allegations to the administrators in the gymnastics organization, their allegations were minimized, thrown out, or silenced, allowing the perpetrator to continue the act for twenty-five years.

While the number of Nassar’s victims is astonishing, what is even more surprising is that these cases happen in organized sports. For many sexual predators like Nassar, the culture in sports organizations enables them to continue their behavior. According to The Foundation of Global Sports, many coaches in youth sports leagues play parental roles in the lives of young athletes. They have access to these young athletes and spend time alone with them, a role played by parents or trusted adults. Coaches engage in one-on-one training sessions with these teenagers and sometimes even drive them home.

Most of these coaches use the grooming technique to develop trust and loyalty in these young athletes. Once allegiance is in place, the perpetrator can isolate and control the child, making them vulnerable to sexual assault.

With the USA Gymnastics team example, you realize that sexual exploitation in youth sports is prevalent even in the highest level of sports leagues. Some of the examples that demonstrate the pervasiveness of these cases in organized youth sports are:

  • In 2015, a softball coach hired by a Christian college in Nyack, New York, was charged with ninety-four counts of abuse and accusations of inappropriate touching of players. By the time the coach was presented in court, many other softball players had come out to file civil and criminal suits.

  • In 2016, a civil case or suit was filed against the Florida Youth Soccer Association by Harmon Law. The claim was filed on behalf of a youth player who alleged that his assistant coach, William Burton, had sexually abused him.

  • Another organized youth sports sexual molestation case that hates the headlines is the USA Swimming organization in 2010. A television investigative piece revealed that coach Andy King had been sexually exploiting more than a dozen women along the West Coast for at least three decades. After the news told what had been going on, the coach was found to have had a pattern of sexual abuse and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Additionally, the USA Swimming organization found another coach who had installed cameras in the female athletes’ locker rooms to watch them taking showers. As a result, more than 100 coaches received a life ban from working with any clubs affiliated with the USA Swimming organization. Today, the organization faces multiple civil actions from former athletes for failing to protect them or put measures to prevent sexual abuse.

These coaches had a role very similar to that of a parent because they were to take care of the young athletes and protect them from any form of abuse. Sadly, these perpetrators abused their position and unsupervised time with the children to cause physical and emotional turmoil through sexual assault.

Youth sports organizations should be protecting young athletes and not exposing them to these cruel acts. And when you or your child has been a victim of the abuse under these organizations, you should consider speaking to an attorney with experience in these cases to explain your rights and the legal actions you can take to obtain monetary damages for the short and long-term effects of sexual abuse.

Youth sports organizations are responsible for the victimization of their athletes. Unfortunately, many of these organizations lack the structures and policies to deter sexual abuse. Again, they have no procedures to screen and monitor volunteers and formal workers. Further, sports organizations cultivate a culture that shapes how young athletes view and respond to sexual molestation. The administrators in these organizations also make it particularly difficult for victims to speak against these actions. Sports organizations worked to silence or suppress those who reported these cases, implicitly victimizing many young athletes from the examples above.

Manifestations of Sexual Abuse in Young Athletes

Several red flags or warning signs can indicate sexual abuse in youth sports. These signs are:

  • Skipping training or practice

  • Decreased desire to train

  • Fear of being left alone with particular team members or staff

  • Loss of interest in a sport once loved

  • Underperformance in the sport in question

  • Withdrawal

Other red flags of childhood sexual abuse include:

  • Contracting sexually transmitted illnesses or infections

  • Manifestations of trauma around the genitals

  • Mysterious bruising or bleeding

  • Bloodstains on the young athlete’s clothing, innerwear, or sheets

Additional warning signs to look out for are:

  • Sudden keeping of secrets by the child when they are generally open

  • Variation in eating patterns

  • Change in sleeping patterns

  • Self-esteem issues

  • Reduced confidence

  • Self-injure habits

  • Fearfulness

  • Isolating from others

  • Regressive behavior like bedwetting

  • Talking less when you are ordinarily talkative

  • Excessive knowledge or talking about sexual topics and matters

As a parent of a young athlete, you should look for these patterns and many others to quickly identify when your child is being sexually abused. If these signs are spotted on time, it becomes easy to talk to the child or the sports organization they are in to stop the behavior before it progresses, causing severe physical or emotional trauma. When on the lookout for these manifestations, ensure to keep an eye on abrupt behavior change.

Factors Elevating the Risk of Sexual Abuse Among Youths in Sports

When enrolling your child in a sports league, you expect those in the organization to take good care of your young athlete and foster their social and athletic skills. Unfortunately, sex predators use these sports leagues and organizations to prey on children. The standard technique used by these perpetrators is the grooming method mentioned earlier. Coaches and other adults in youth sports use this technique to make children vulnerable to abuse. They create a friendship bond with their prey, and once they have established loyalty and trust, they find time alone with these young athletes, which is when they commit sexual abuse. After the act, they use commitment and control over the child to keep them silent. The common grooming behaviors used by these predators include:

  • Preferential treatment

  • Giving gifts

  • Manipulating the youth

  • Gradually building a friendship bond that results in trust

Note that the grooming technique works because coaches who are sexual predators spend time alone with the athletes, especially during private training sessions. This one-on-one time is what makes the abuse possible.

Another risk factor that elevates the risk of sexual exploitation in youth sports is traveling out of town and the locker rooms. The locker rooms enable the perpetrators to isolate the children from others, thus sexually abusing their prey. Also, when teams are traveling out of town, the child sexual abuse perpetrators use these opportunities to fulfill their desires when the minor is away from home. Additionally, sometimes coaching staff sharing hotel rooms with the young athletes increases the likelihood of sexual assault.

Furthermore, advancement in technology has enabled non-contact sexual abuse where adults easily reach out to young athletes through electronic devices. The common non-contact sexual assault examples are:

  • Sending explicit messages to the child

  • Sending young athletes pornographic content or forcing them to view

  • Masturbating while the minor is watching

  • Perpetrators exposing their genitals to the child

  • Threatening or harassing a minor through messages or phone calls

Other factors in the youth sports setting that increase the risk of sexual abuse are:

  • Cutthroat competition between young athletes

  • Mutual silence on sexual matters in the sports organization

  • Close one-on-one contact between young athletes and their coaching staff

  • The power disparity between coaches and their athletes

  • Oppressive authority systems

When children compete for starting positions in the first team in their respective sports, sex predators can use the chance to favor some athletes over others in exchange for sexual favors. Also, because most youth sports organizations want to maintain their reputation, they could silence or suppress abuse allegations to protect their image or coach.

If you wonder whether your child is at risk of sexual abuse in a youth sports association, the answer is yes. No matter how organized the sport is, some dangers of sexual abuse exist, but this should not mean that all youth sports leagues are dangerous. In collaboration with parents and legislators, sports associations can have measures in place to reduce or prevent these cases and make the sporting environment safe.

Ways of Preventing Young Athletes From Molestation and Sexual Abuse in Organized Sports

First, as a parent, you can begin by encouraging your child to open up to adults around them about their lives, especially information regarding their sex life. Also, you can prevent grooming by sex predators by encouraging an open dialogue with your child at an early stage. Talking to your young athlete regularly and asking questions will ensure you play a proactive and observant role in their lives. That way, the child will open up to you if they encounter any signs of molestations by the coaches in their sports.

Similarly, before enrolling your child in a sport’s organization, ensure to conduct thorough background checks on the coaches and staff who will be training with your child. Although it is the role of the sports association to screen coaches when formerly recruiting, you also have a role to play as a parent for your child’s safety.

Also, you can regularly engage your child in open-ended questions like:

  • How are you progressing in sports?

  • Are you comfortable talking?

  • Is there anything you would like to share?

  • Is there anything confusing that you would like clarification from me?

By asking the minor these questions, you can understand what they are going through in the youth sports league. However, even if the minor opens up about a sexual abuse incident, never blame them because this will discourage them from opening up the next time they are faced with the same situation.

You cannot protect your child from youth sports sexual assault alone. The sports association has a role in creating a safe environment for young athletes and reducing sexual abuse cases. The preventative measures these organizations can put in place are:

  • Thorough vetting and screening of all workers, volunteers, and staff members by running criminal background checks

  • All the stakeholders, parents, workers, staff members, and volunteers must undergo training on warning signs of sexual abuse and the necessary measures to prevent or report these cases.

  • Organizations must define boundaries so that all stakeholders can understand what is right or wrong within the association’s settings. For instance, they can eliminate the one-on-one time by requiring two adults to be present during these private sessions. Also, when traveling out of town, coaches should not share hotel rooms with young athletes because this elevates the risk of sexual abuse.

  • Easy and definite reporting procedures will also ensure parents and their children can report abuse cases without setbacks. Young athletes will find it easy to register having been sexually abused. The staff or coaches responsible would be exposed, protecting those who could have fallen victims if the matter was never reported.

When parents and youth sports associations adopt these measures, issues of sexual assault on youth athletes will reduce significantly.

Offering Assistance to Sexually Abused Young Athletes

You will probably feel confused and overwhelmed about taking action after your child informs they have been sexually abused. Sexual abuse is an action that could damage the minor’s entire adult life because of the psychological, emotional, and physical trauma. Nevertheless, survivors of youth sports sexual abuse can have a clean slate and become happy, healthy, and productive adults if they obtain the proper support.

The first step towards offering support is letting the young athlete know how much you love them and care about their welfare. Besides, you should make sure the child understands that the abuse is not their fault because most survivors tend to blame themselves for the abuse, making it challenging to move on. However, emphasizing that the perpetrator is to blame makes it easy for the victim to heal.

Secondly, therapy and counseling can help the child heal and overcome the trauma caused by the abuse. You can combine family, group, and individual therapy sessions to ensure the child receives all the help and support necessary to heal.

Lastly, you can help your child after sexual abuse by consulting an attorney with knowledge in this field to explain the minor’s rights. Again, you need help paying the medical bills and other losses resulting from the sexual abuse. An attorney will evaluate the minor’s civil case and help you seek compensation from the liable parties to aid the healing process and make it more comfortable.

Note that if you or a child has been assaulted in a youths sports association, you should report the case and take further legal action regardless of the perpetrator’s position or influence. All sports associations should have standard guidelines for reporting these cases to make it easy for victims to report sex predators regardless of their position or power.

Again, you can file a report with the law enforcement and children advocacy agencies. An experienced attorney can also help gather the necessary evidence of sexual abuse and file a statement with the relevant authorities.

Reasons Why Youth Sports Associations Conceal Sexual Abuses Cases

Young athletes fail to report sexual abuse cases because they are afraid no action will be taken, believe it is their fault, are traumatized or fearful of retaliation by the perpetrator. However, the sports organization does not have any genuine reason for hiding these cases. Sadly, many youth sports associations and leagues administrators are aware of these sex predators reported to them but fail to take any action. These cover-ups are prevalent in many organizations because they fear denting their reputation. Besides, where coaches are the perpetrators, most organizations are reluctant to report them because of the influence or revenue they bring to the association. Unfortunately, some sports associations will put the value of the perpetrator before the welfare and safety of the young athletes, failing to report sexual abuse.

The Safe Sports Act

Also called Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017, the Safe Sports Act defines the US Center of Safesport as the sovereign, national safe sports association. The center responds and acts on all reported allegations of sexual abuse or molestation in the USA Olympic and Paralympic Movement. The Act enacted reporting requirement to the authorities to prevent sexual abuse among children and young athletes.

Suing the Youth Sports Association for Sexual Abuse

After enacting the Safe Sports Act in 2017, youth sports associations negligent in recruiting employees or failing to put measures to protect young athletes can be sued for sexual abuse perpetrated by their workers. You will obtain compensation if you can prove the sports association was negligent.

Sports associations have an obligation to amateur athletes. When they breach this duty and allow young athletes under their care to be sexually assaulted, then they will be civilly liable for the damages caused, even if only a single coach is the perpetrator of the heinous act. Nonetheless, you must go after the abuser and not the entire association when taking criminal action.

When planning to take civil action against an organized sports entity, you should contact a sex abuse attorney to understand the deadlines for filing the claim and the financial damages you should claim as compensation.

Find an Experienced Child Sexual Abuse Attorney Near Me

If you or your child is a survivor of youth sports sexual abuse, you should start by recognizing that it is not your fault. Also, you should seek treatment and report the matter to the association or law enforcement. After this, you should talk to a sexual abuse attorney for case evaluation and guidance. At Sex Crimes Attorney, we are here to help you claim the compensation you are entitled to from the sports association in question. Call us today at 888-666-8480 if you are in California to understand your civil rights and the way forward.