Athletics help teach leadership, accountability, teamwork, and other critical social skills to young people. While organized sports can be a positive, healthy environment for kids and teens, they can also be marred by sexual predators. Trainers, coaches, and team doctors all have access to young athletes– often in one-on-one situations. Unfortunately, there are adults who use their position and authority to take advantage of both male and female athletes.

Data indicates that sexual assault in sports is disturbingly common, yet more than 60 percent of cases go unreported. Minors and young adult victims are often too embarrassed to speak out or are fearful of negative repercussions.

Showard Law Firm provides compassionate representation to those who have experienced sexual assault in an amateur or professional sports setting. We can help survivors seek justice and legal damages against negligent parties, including organizations that turned a blind eye to repeated misconduct.

Legislation to Protect Youth in Sports

The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017 was signed into law in 2018 to prevent the sexual abuse of minor amateur athletes. It requires immediate reporting of abuse to law enforcement and social service authorities.

The bill expands the Victims of Child Abuse Act by extending the duty to report suspected sexual assault or abuse by adults– who are sanctioned to interact with minors or amateur athletes at a sports organization facility or an event authorized by a national governing body.

This legislation holds youth sporting organizations to a higher standard of care regarding reporting, policies, and risk management procedures to prevent amateur athletes’ physical, emotional and sexual exploitation.

A civil lawsuit may be warranted in situations where it can be proven that:

  • The defendant failed in their duty to provide a safe environment for the minor
  • The defendant did not properly vet staff, volunteers or perform background checks
  • The defendant abused their position of trust and authority to sexually exploit victims
  • The defendant had reason to know that abuse was taking place but did not take action to stop it
  • The sexual perpetrator acted as an agent of the defendant
  • The defendant took steps to hide sexual assault incidents

Since many young victims of sexual assault do not realize they were exploited until they are adults, the bill also extends the deadline for seeking legal action.

Sexual Assault in Professional Sports

Sexual assault can occur at all levels of youth sports, but the incidence of exploitation seems to escalate for elite athletes. This assault can take many forms, from fondling and groping to indecent exposure and forced penetration. Women are victimized more frequently than males, who are often reluctant to disclose their abuse.

Studies indicate that athletes at higher levels of competition are more susceptible to grooming—a systematic process used by predators to break down barriers and manipulate their victims into compliance.

Sexual abuse in youth sports may be committed by:

  • Trainers
  • Coaches
  • Team doctors or medical staff
  • Volunteers
  • Sports facility staff

Recognizing Signs of Sexual Assault

Sudden emotional and behavior changes are often the first signs a child exhibits after traumatic situations. Parents who have children engaged in sports are encouraged to keep an open dialogue with them.

Potential warning signs include:

  • Drastic weight loss or changes in eating habits
  • Sudden decrease in self-image and confidence
  • Chronic complaints of headaches, stomachaches, or other health issues
  • Unusual lethargy and depression
  • Changes in personality including increased aggressiveness
  • Isolation, withdrawal from social activities
  • Self-harming behaviors

Research shows that young victims of sexual assault are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and have difficulties in academics.

Legal Counsel for Arizona Sexual Assault Victims

To learn more about your options for filing a sexual assault case in sports, reach out to Showard Law Firm for a free and confidential consultation. We provide tenacious, compassionate advocacy for clients throughout Tucson, Sierra Vista, and Southern Arizona.

Additional Resources:

  1. The Guardian, Sexual Abuse in Sports
  2. Science Direct, Sexual abuse in sport: What about boys?
  3. MomsTeam, Sexual Abuse in Sports: The Problem No One Wants To Talk About
  4. British Journal of Sports Medicine, Sexual harassment and abuse in sport


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