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Jonathan Rosenfeld
J.D

March 2, 2023

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Childhood sexual assault affects hundreds of thousands of children around the world. While sexual abuse can happen in virtually any environment, some are more conducive to assault than others.

Unfortunately, sexual molestation in youth sports activities is rampant and offers a place where adults often have unsupervised alone time with children. Protecting young victims from sexual abuse in sports programs and youth sports organizations/leagues has been ineffective for many children.

Was your loved one abused in a youth games program? If so, the sexual abuse attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC can help you file a claim to receive compensation for your family’s pain and suffering.

Contact our youth sports sexual abuse attorneys at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) for a free legal consultation to discuss the details of your case.

A Sports League Sexual Abuse Injury Attorney Can Help

If someone involved in an organized sport sexually abused you as a minor, or if you believe a coach is now sexually assaulting your child, contact the personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC immediately.

We offer a free case evaluation to protect your rights. You might be eligible for compensation from the perpetrator or another party.

Youth Sports Sexual Abuse Lawyer

The Prevalence of Youth Sports Sexual Abuse

The case against Dr. Larry Nassar [1], a former Olympic USA Gymnastics doctor convicted of sexual abuse against young gymnasts, brought new attention to the problem of sexual violence in child-related sports.

The USA Gymnastics team doctor at Michigan State University has been sexually abusing his victims. The issue, however, is far from new. Reports focusing on USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming, fencing, and figure skating have led to criminal cases.

Studies show two to eight percent of child athletes are victims of sexual predators in organized sports. The youth athletic environment can cultivate many opportunities for sexual misconduct against young victims instead of turning a blind eye to possible sexual abuse cases.

Sexually Abused by Coaches, Teachers, and Mentors

Coaches or supervisors grooming the child are among the most common signs leading up to sexual violence in child sports organizations. Grooming behaviors include showing preference to or giving special treatment to one athlete over the others, often to gain the athlete’s trust.

Some high-risk locations in organized sporting environments for sexual abuse include locker rooms and trips that involve overnight travel. One-on-one training or rehabilitation sessions are also common locations for sexual violence that harm victims.

In about ninety-eight percent of sexual violence cases in organized sports for youth, the perpetrator is the victim’s coach, instructor, or teacher. Females are more common young victims of sexual abuse than males.

Young athletes at an elite level within their sport are statistically more likely to experience sexual violence or abuse than lower-level athletes. The type of sport, however, does not impact a child’s risk for sexual violence.

Signs of Child Sexual Abuse

Many children do not come forward about sexual violence in a sports environment on their own. Reporting a problem often takes a parent or guardian to notice possible signs of sexual abuse or assault.

If you have a child enrolled in organized sporting activities at school, church, or elsewhere, look for these red flags:

  • Victims do not want to be alone with specific coaches or staff members
  • Suddenly expressing disinterest in favorite activities
  • Unusual knowledge of sexual activities
  • Regression, such as thumb-sucking or bed-wetting
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Victims displaying signs of trauma to the genitals, such as bruising or bleeding
  • Nightmares or trouble sleeping
  • Excessively fearful victims

You might also notice signs of sexual violence in the perpetrator’s behavior.

Is a sports coach giving your child gifts without an occasion, does not respect your child’s boundaries, trying to be an essential part of your child’s life, expresses an unusual interest in physical development, or has age-inappropriate relationships?

These behaviors could be signs of sexual misconduct. As soon as you notice something wrong, contact law enforcement.

How to Handle Childhood Sexual Abuse by a Coach or Other Official

First, speak to your child. Look for clues that they want to say something but cannot, such as dropping hints about talking about a specific coach or teacher. Let your child know you are listening and not fear retaliation. Believe what your child says.

Fear of not being believed is one of the main reasons that children stay quiet about sexual violence. Express to your child that they are not to blame.

Then, report your suspicions to a local Illinois agency. Calling a hotline phone number such as (800) 656-HOPE, for example, can connect you with resources that can help, such as mental health counseling for your child. In many jurisdictions, knowledge of sexual abuse requires mandatory reporting.

In the meantime, keep your child out of organized sports and away from the alleged perpetrator. Speak to someone with the training to help you through this difficult time.

Sexual Violence Cases Involving Organized Youth Sports

Sexual violence is prevalent in every state; Illinois is no exception. In 2018, a committee in the Illinois Senate listened to testimony against a volleyball coach in Aurora who alleged he assaulted women when minors in the 1980s. Five women in total filed a lawsuit against their high school volleyball coach, Rick Butler, for ongoing sexual violence, assault, and rape.

Other child sports leagues with reported sexual violence include soccer leagues, wrestling teams, swimming and diving teams, and baseball teams.

More than twenty years ago, the women came forward but could not file their lawsuits because of the statutes of limitations. Under new Illinois regulations that increased the age of consent, the victims could finally come forward and seek justice.

Sexual misconduct is a widespread issue in child sports activities that lawmakers need to address.

Sports League Sexual Assault FAQs

Below are some frequently asked questions raised by people who have been abused or assaulted in a youth sports setting. We appreciate the sensitive nature of these cases and understand your feelings of concern, anger, and fear.

Contact our law firm for a free consultation of your legal rights and options with an experienced youth sports sexual abuse attorney.

What Are the Physical and Behavioral Signs of Abuse in Youth Sport Activities?

Many parents might not recognize the obvious physical and behavioral signs of a loved one who has been sexually assaulted. Your child’s unexplained physical or behavioral changes might include:

  • Unusual aggression
  • Quitting their youth organization, including the team, Boy Scouts, YMCA, Little League, Boys and Girls Club, etc
  • Running away from home.
  • The fear of closed doors, locker rooms, or washrooms
  • Slipping grades at school
  • Reluctance to speak to others
  • Sudden age-related inappropriate interest or discussions about sex
  • Emotional disorders
  • Difficulty in eating, or a sudden spike in appetite
  • Genital injuries
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Bruises and scratches

What about Sex Abuse in Youth Sports Leagues?

In 2017, the United States Congress enacted the Safe Sport Authorization Act (SSAA) [2] to protect vulnerable child athletes from sexual abuse. However, even with the new law, parents and youth sports organization administrators must remain vigilant in protecting children from youth sports coaches and others in authority by taking actions including:

  • Regulate contact between the child and a sports coach to minimize the potential of molestation
  • Youth sporting organizations must conduct comprehensive background checks to prevent sexual predators’ access to adolescents and young children
  • Sports administrators should require that at least two coaches are present on every away game or road trip
  • All physical activity between coaches and children should be limited to verbal praise, fist bumps, and high five while avoiding hugging and patting children.

How Do I Deal with a Teenager’s Sexual Abuse?

Do you know that your child was sexually molested by a family friend, sports coach, youth counselor, or staff member? Speak with trained professionals to deal with the situation correctly.

You likely need to notify local law enforcement to begin an investigation into a criminal case and turn to counselors to help the child through the process. Likely, your teenager, like all sexual abuse victims, is experiencing psychological and emotional trauma over physical molestation.

You can also seek financial compensation to pay for your child’s healing by filing a civil claim before the statute of limitations expires.

Are My Kids Safe from Abuse in Sports?

While there are significant benefits from your child participating in new sports activities, problems could arise when the boundaries between athletes and coaches are violated. Sadly, research indicates that there are coaches and other staff members who sexually molest many young athletes.

Because of that, parents and others must pay attention to the warning signs that their loved one has been sexually assaulted.

What Are the Risk Factors of Child Abuse in Minors Participating in Sports?

Recent statistics revealed that every young athlete is vulnerable to inappropriate sexual conduct by coaches, teachers, instructors, staff members, and others. Some studies show that between two percent and eight percent of all underage athletes become victims of child sexual abuse while participating in sports activities.

Young female athletes are more likely to be sexually assaulted in sports activities than young males. Many abused children develop eating disorders, low self-esteem, and strained parent/child relationships.

How Do I Protect My Child From Sexual Molestation?

Sports administrators for youth organizations must develop and enforce behavioral rules, background checks, and screenings to protect young children from sexual violence.

The youth group must also follow the “Rule of Two,” where two adults are always present when working with one or more children, never leaving a sports coach alone with the child for an extended time.

No coach or staff member should be hired for the job until they successfully passed security screenings, including interviews, reference checks, comprehensive job histories, and criminal background checks.

Contact a Youth Sports Sexual Abuse Attorney to File and Resolve a Compensation Claim

Sexual abuse in youth organized sports can devastate a child physically, mentally, and emotionally. It could take years for you or your child to heal.

A youth sports sexual abuse attorney can help you hold the abuser accountable. A lawyer can help you seek justice, take legal action, and file a civil lawsuit against a sports coach, school, or another party.

Contact our dedicated attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or through the contact form to schedule a free consultation. All discussions with our legal team remain confidential through an attorney-client relationship.

Resources: [1] The WashingtonPost, [2] GovInfo.gov

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