It’s mid-August. Children are back to school for academics, activities and athletics. Youth sports in particular can offer children valuable life lessons about team work and commitment but, as we have seen recently in the Jerry Sandusky case, they can also teach us parents that we must be vigilant about the potential for sexual abuse in a sports settings. If you have a child-athlete who wants to participate in school or league-sponsored events, it is important that you educate yourself and your child about measures that can be taken to prevent their sexual exploitation and their peers’ as well.
Here are some basic questions you should ask any youth organization about its sexual-abuse safeguards:
- Does it have policies and procedures to address sexual abuse and exploitation? If not, why not?
- Does it conduct background checks on coaches and others, including volunteers who supervise and have access to children?
- Does it communicate with parents and guardians regarding activity schedules?
Additionally, you should consider these areas of inquiry:
- Besides the coach, are there other adults present to assist in supervising children during team events and practices, including any off-site travel?
- Does it use a locker room for children to dress in, and, if so, is there more than one adult present in any locker room where there are children?
- Does the coach or other involved adults pay equal attention to all children?
- Does the coach or other involved adults seek ways to spend time alone with children outside of the sport activity?
- Does the coach or other involved adult engage in atypical communication with children, such as texting or social media?
In developing protocols for youth-serving organizations, The Unites States Centers for Disease Control emphasize that organizations that “work with children and youth must strive to create safe environments for youth, employees, and volunteers so that young people can grow, learn, and have fun. It is vital that youth-serving organizations create a culture where child sexual abuse is discussed, addressed, and prevented.”[http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pub/preventingchildabuse.html]. The Sandusky case, for example, could be used to identify what sexual predators in positions of authority, such as coaches, have done to gain the trust of children.
So please take time before school is underway to talk with your child about sexual abuse in youth sports. The child you save may be your own.
The Law Office of Tahira Khan Merritt stands ready to help you with your legal needs. If your child was sexually abused by a coach or volunteer in a youth sports related environment, our law firm can help. For almost twenty years, we have exclusively represented victims of sex crimes in civil cases against institutions, youth sports organizations, schools, youth camps, churches, daycares, scouting and the like. You may confidentially contact our office at 214-503-7300 or through our website : http://tkmlawfirm.com/.
You can also connect with The Law Office of Tahira Khan Merritt through LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook to stay up to date on the latest information on issues important to survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse and their families.