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, organized sports for youth is one of them, offering a place where adults often have unsupervised alone time with children.
If someone involved in organized sports sexually assaulted you as a minor, or if you believe a coach is now sexually assaulting your child, contact us immediately. We offer free confidential consultations to teach you your rights in Illinois and across the U.S. You may be eligible for compensation from the perpetrator or another party.
The Prevalence of Sexual Assault in Youth Organized Sports
The case against Dr. Larry Nassar, a former Olympic doctor convicted of sexual abuse against gymnasts, brought new attention to the problem of sexual assault in youth sports. The issue, however, is far from new. Studies show between 2% and 8% of child athletes suffer sexual abuse within the context of organized sport. The youth athletic environment can cultivate many opportunities for sexual abuse against children.
One of the most common signs leading up to a case of sexual assault in organized sports is a coach or supervisor grooming the child. 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 sports 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 assault.
In about 98% of sexual assault cases in organized sports for youth, the perpetrator is a coach, instructor, or teacher of the victim. Females are more common victims than males. Young athletes who are at an elite level within their sport are statistically more likely to experience sexual assault or abuse than lower-level athletes. The type of sport, however, does not impact a child’s risk for sexual assault.
Signs of Childhood Sexual Assault
Many children do not come forward about sexual assault in a sports environment on their own. Reporting a problem often takes a parent or guardian noticing possible signs of sexual abuse or assault. If you have a child enrolled in organized sports at school, church, or elsewhere, look out for these red flags:
- Not wanting to be alone with a certain coach
- Suddenly expressing disinterest in favorite activities
- Unusual knowledge of sexual activities
- Regression, such as thumb-sucking or bed-wetting
- Depression or anxiety
- Signs of trauma to the genitals, such as bruising or bleeding
- Nightmares or trouble sleeping
- Excessive fearfulness
You may also notice signs of asexual assault on the perpetrator’s part. If a sports coach is giving your child gifts without occasion, does not respect your child’s boundaries, tries to be an important part of your child’s life, expresses an unusual interest in physical development, or has age-inappropriate relationships, these could be signs of sexual misconduct. As soon as you notice something wrong, contact the authorities.
How to Handle Childhood Sexual Assault or Abuse
First, speak to your child. Look for clues that he or she wants to say something but can’t, such as dropping hints about wanting to talk about a certain coach or teacher. Let your child know you are listening, and not to fear retaliation. Believe what your child says. Fear of not being believed is one of the main reasons children stay quiet about sexual assault. Express to your child that he or she is not to blame.
Then, report your suspicions to a local Illinois agency. Calling a hotline such as (800) 656-HOPE, for example, can connect you with resources that can help, such as mental health counseling for your child. In the meantime, keep your child out of the organized sport and away from the alleged perpetrator. Speak to someone with the training to help you through this difficult time.
Sexual Assault Cases Involving Organized Youth Sports in Illinois
Sexual assault 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 (Rick Butler) that alleged he assaulted the women when they were minors in the 1980s. Five women in total filed a lawsuit against their high school volleyball coach, Rick Butler, for ongoing sexual abuse, assault, and rape.
The women came forward more than 20 years ago, but could not see their lawsuits through because of the statutes of limitations. Under new regulations in Illinois that increased the age of consent, however, the victims could finally come forward and seek justice. One of the victims involved says sexual misconduct is a widespread issue in youth sports that lawmakers need to address.
Contact an Attorney in Chicago
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. An attorney can help you hold the abuser accountable. Hiring a lawyer to help you file a civil lawsuit against a sports coach, school, or other party. You have time to pursue compensation if you are under the age of 28, or if it has been five years of less since you discovered the occurrence of childhood sexual abuse.
To find out if you have a case, call (888) 424-5757 for a confidential consultation at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC. Request a free consultation online for a callback.