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Alarming Facts About Sexual Abuse in Youth Sports

Participation in youth sports has been linked to a variety of compelling benefits for children: it can help encourage better physical health and ward off obesity, foster stronger social skills, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve academic performance. Sadly, however, young athletes sometimes become the victims of abuse, including sexual abuse. In fact, given the close and trusting relationships that develop between children and their coaches, trainers, and other adults who are supposed to ensure their safety, the unique context of youth sports may be particularly conducive to abuse.

A study from Childhelp’s Speak Up Be Safe for Athletes initiative revealed some alarming statistics about sexual abuse in youth sports:

  • Between 2-8% of minor athletes are believed to experience some form of sexual abuse. However, abuse is likely significantly underreported.
  • Ninety percent of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way.
  • Research indicates that between 40-50% of young athletes have experienced some type of mistreatment, ranging from mild harassment to severe abuse.
  • Sexual abuse can occur in all types of sports, at all levels of education, and across gender, socioeconomic, religious, and ethnic or cultural lines.

Another study commissioned by Lauren’s Kids, a nonprofit organization based in South Florida that seeks to educate adults and children about sexual abuse prevention, found that sexual abuse appears to be even more prevalent among college athletes, with more than one in four reporting that they’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted by someone in a position of power on campus. Nearly half of these athletes also said that they feared the perpetrator would retaliate against them.

Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse in Young Athletes

For the parents of children participating in sports, it can be difficult to tell if they have been the victims of abuse—many kids do not speak out due to a sense of shame or fear. However, the following warning signs could potentially indicate that abuse is occurring:

  • Missing practices
  • Loss of interest in the sport
  • Declining academic performance
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Change in eating habits
  • Physical illness or unexplained injuries
  • Changes in mood, including new symptoms of anxiety or depression

If you find yourself in the heartbreaking situation of suspecting that your child has been abused by a coach, trainer, or other trusted figure in a youth sports program, it can be difficult to know where to turn. A good first step is consulting an attorney with experience handling the delicate matter of sexual abuse. At Leighton Law, our team offers both the skill and the compassion needed to guide abuse victims and their families through the complex process of pursuing civil cases against perpetrators. We have successfully represented survivors of sexual abuse and assault throughout Florida and the U.S., and recently won a $49.3 million verdict for a victim of child sex abuse. Call us today at 888.988.1774 to schedule a consultation.

 

 

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