Sexual Abuse in Coaching

You read in the news or online too often that a coach had a sexually abusive relationship with one of the team members.  These student athletes are just growing into their formative years, whether it be high school or college, and usually not fully equipped mentally to even know how to identify and deal with this when it happens.

Now, a coach’s relationship with his or her student athletes is a close one and depending on the sport, can take up a lot of time outside of home and classroom.  With that close and constant proximity, strong and important relationships can be formed, often lasting a lifetime.  And many of these relationships are thriving and wonderful friendships where even years later the coach is a steadfast anchor and role model.

The majority of coaches who get into the profession do so from a place where they want to make a difference in the lives of their student athletes by teaching them how to be a team player, work hard and keep healthy.  However, there is a minority of coaches who do use that opportunity to start exploring inappropriate sexual relationships with their student athletes.

This minority of coaches, which can be men or women, use these close bonds that are formed with their student athletes and exploit them.  Using that bond, coupled with their overall authority and size, they prey upon their young athletes in a variety of lurid manners.  From secret videotapes, inappropriate touching to forced sex, these coaches do more damage to these students psychologically than what any sports injury could do them physically.

So, if a case of sexual abuse of any kind arises, what are you to do?  The first would be to remove the student athlete from harm and alert the institution they are affiliated with.  The police are certainly to be alerted simultaneously so that they can begin an investigation and take the proper steps to remove the person from the position of authority. You may also want seek out professional psychiatric help as the trauma of abuse and the betrayal will have lasting emotional scars and problems.

Too often, parents and the student just want the matter to go away as it’s painful and embarrassing – as it is with any type of sexual abuse by someone in a position of authority. Because of that, parents and victims often avoid taking legal action as they don’t want to relive the abuse, face their abuser or deal with the pain.

However, a civil lawsuit allows the victim to go after the abuser and/or institution financially for the damages done.  Civil lawsuits can’t undo the past or erase the injuries, however, they can cover the costs associated with the professional help needed in order to have the student recover.

Civil suits also go a step further by holding the coach, as well as the institution that let it happen, be held accountable both morally and financially.  Doors are also opened so other victims feel comfortable to step forward and receive the justice they deserve as well.  With the justice system working in favor of the victims, you can remove one less abuser and make it easier for others to come forward and make the world of student sports a safer place.

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