Unfortunately, youth sports programs are now a common target for sexual predators. Ensuring that coaches and staff are properly vetted is a duty owed by the organizations to the kids.
- We know how to handle the investigation and where to find evidence of negligence.
- We have a proven track record as child sex abuse lawyers.
- Several of our attorneys are former prosecutors from the sex crimes departments.
Our experienced attorneys are here to help. Your family shouldn't have to face this challenge alone. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Background checks are fairly easy to conduct these days. Not performing one is pure negligence.
"Caring." We didn't know what to do, they guided us all the way.
Though sporting programs can have a positive effect on children's lives when they're run properly, those that aren't conscientious in implementing and enforcing regulations aimed at ensuring child safety can seriously endanger their young members. For example, in youth organizations where adult volunteers are not carefully screened before they're allowed to participate as coaches or other authority figures, children are at a heightened risk of being sexually abused.
Sex Abuse Risks In League Programs
Like any type of teacher, coaches hold a lot of responsibility as mentors. At best, they can help a child grow and learn as athletes and inspire team members to great heights. But because youth sports coaches hold so much power over the children they train, the position can be misused by child molesters seeking to gain access to children and to use their power and influence to victimize them.
How Child Molesters Exploit Positions Of Authority
Some specific risks that may render children vulnerable to molestation or other forms of sexual abuse in athletic programs include:
- Long Hours After School. Children often go to sports practice after school or on weekends, during times when their parents aren’t available to watch them. If coaches aren’t diligent enough about watching team members, bullying, harassment, or abuse may occur between teammates. Worse yet, coaches themselves may take advantage of unmonitored time to prey on children in their teams, especially if the organization has hazy rules regarding appropriate conduct for coaches.
- Grooming. Predatory coaches may target one or a few children on the team with "grooming behaviors." Child molesters are known to “groom” potential victims by offering special attention, gifts, or making friends with the child’s family or circle of friends. This can manipulate a child into thinking he or she shares a loving relationship with the perpetrator, ultimately lowering defenses to unwelcome advances and making it more difficult for the child to report bad behavior. Many abused children think that no one will believe them, or fear displeasing the rest of the team. A similar dynamic can exist for family and friends who hold the coach in high esteem. You can read more about the characteristics and effects of grooming from the National Center for Victims of Crime.
- Overnight Camping. Some organizations hold summer camping trips or competitive events requiring travel. Such situations put children at an even higher risk of suffering sexual abuse, especially when parents or other loved ones are unable to come along to watch and care for them. Rooming or sharing a tent with their fellow athletes or with coaches and other adult volunteers renders them particularly vulnerable to attacks and other forms of abuse, as seen in heartbreaking sex abuse cases involving the Boy Scouts of America.
Organizations Should Actively Prevent Sex Abuse
Youth organizations have a duty to protect their members from harm. Risks of sexual abuse and violence should be considered unacceptable for organizations that families trust to provide children with safe after-school activities and a trusted community of peers and mentors.
Screening / Hiring
First of all, there should be strict criteria determining who can volunteer or work as a coach. Criminal background checks and other crucial hiring processes should be mandatory, but shockingly, some programs have only very recently adopted such measures, and others have guidelines in place but don't always follow procedure.
Response To Sex Abuse Reports
Another crucial element in child sex abuse prevention is the handling of abuse reports. An abuse reporting system should be well-established and respond quickly and effectively to complaints, so that all suspected sexual misconduct is properly investigated. This way, the organization can quickly end the abuse through removal of the perpetrator.
Also, it's crucial for law enforcement and / or child protective services to be notified of the incident(s), so that any further offenses can be prevented. Oftentimes, such reporting of abuse is mandatory according to child protection laws.
Monitoring Of Volunteers
As we've already discussed, coaches, volunteers and employees in sporting programs should be thoroughly informed on what constitutes proper interaction with youth members. Coaches shouldn't be permitted to spend a significant amount of time with children without the presence of parents or other trustworthy adults.
Bottom line — responsible organizations should take every measure to ensure that unscrupulous individuals won't have the opportunity to take advantage of children.
Taking Legal Action Against Youth Organizations
If sporting organizations fail to protect young children, they can be held at least partially responsible for abuse through civil lawsuits. If found liable for incidents of abuse, defendants may be ordered to pay thousands or even millions of dollars in restitution by court. Some organizations may attempt to resolve a complaint out of court through settlement negotiations.
Allegations Raised In Child Sex Abuse Cases
Common accusations leveled at sports program administrators in recent lawsuits include:
Children should be able to expect they'll be safe from harm when engaging in sports programs.
Organizations running these programs owe it to the the public and to their members to exercise “reasonable care” in developing, practicing, and enforcing safety measures to prevent and stop sexual abuse, and are expected to be aware of the ways in which children are particularly vulnerable to sexual predators in organized sports. For example, inadequate vetting, hiring, and monitoring of volunteers and employees can get organizations accused of negligence.
Concealment / Fraud
If abuse occurs within an organization and is kept a secret from the public, the organization may be accused of concealment. Hiding, attempting to minimize or downplay, or outright lying about risks of sexual abuse posed to children will likely lead to more youth members falling victim to abuse.
Can I File Both Criminal And Civil Suits?
Circumstances can vary dramatically depending on specific case details, so victims and their families are urged to explore their legal rights by contacting experienced lawyers.
In many cases, abuse survivors are indeed permitted to press criminal charges against perpetrators and also file civil claims against organizations that contributed to abuse through negligence or failing to warn the public of sex offense conviction records and other vital information on volunteers found guilty of sexual abuse.
Prosecutors File Criminal Cases, Not Victims
Unfortunately for victims, criminal trials are often focused on convicting the perpetrator, with little or no thought for much-needed psychological and financial support for the victim(s). Sexual abuse is tremendously damaging, especially for children, and can lead to a lifetime of pain and suffering. This is why many families must turn to civil lawyers to get help in seeking moral support and financial compensation.
How A Civil Attorney Can Help
Unlike many criminal prosecutors, civil lawyers keenly understand that victims need compassionate counsel to help them heal from their experiences. Survivors of sex abuse may need years of therapy and other forms of support to help them recover from trauma. Organizations that allow sex abuse to occur should be held accountable and required to help victims on their journey to recovery.
Taking legal action against those responsible for sexual assault and misconduct may also help parents and children throughout a local community, city, or even entire state protect their families from suffering similar abuse.