Sexual Abuse by Coaches

In recent years, the issue of coach sexual abuse in sports and educational environments has gained increasing attention, underscoring a problem far more widespread than previously acknowledged. Coaches are entrusted with guiding and mentoring young athletes, yet sometimes, these coaches exploit their position of authority, leading to devastating consequences for survivors. This form of abuse not only harms the individuals involved but also shakes the foundational trust in educational and athletic institutions.

At Cerri, Boskovich & Allard, L.L.P., we are deeply committed to supporting survivors of coach sexual abuse. We believe in empowering survivors and assisting them in the journey towards healing and justice. With our help, survivors of coach sexual abuse can hold their abuser accountable and the institutions that turned a blind eye to this abuse.

Understanding Coach Sexual Abuse

Coach sexual abuse occurs when an individual in a coaching position exploits their authority to engage in inappropriate sexual conduct with an athlete or student. This is referred to as the grooming process. This abuse can manifest in various forms, encompassing physical, emotional, and psychological dimensions. Physically, it may involve unwanted touching or other forms of sexual assault. Emotionally and psychologically, it can include manipulative behaviors such as grooming, where the coach builds a seemingly trusting relationship with the intent to exploit the victim sexually.

Common scenarios in which coach sexual abuse might occur include private training sessions, team trips, or one-on-one mentoring. Coaches may use their influence and authority to coerce or persuade athletes into situations where abuse can occur. These situations often begin subtly, with the coach showing favoritism, giving gifts, or sending inappropriate messages, gradually escalating to more overtly abusive behavior.

The impact of sexual abuse on survivors can be profound and long-lasting. Psychologically, survivors may experience depression, anxiety, and a loss of trust in authority figures. Emotionally, feelings of shame, guilt, and confusion are common, particularly as the abuser is often a trusted and respected figure in their lives. These effects can extend into various aspects of the survivor's life, including personal relationships, academic or athletic performance, and overall mental and emotional well-being.

Signs of Grooming by Coaches

Grooming by coaches is a manipulative process where a coach, someone in a position of trust and authority, systematically builds a close relationship with a young athlete. The primary aim behind this behavior is usually to exploit the child sexually. This form of manipulation is particularly dangerous because it can be very subtle and develop over time, sometimes years. This makes it difficult for parents, guardians, and even the children themselves to recognize it as abusive behavior.

The process of grooming often involves a calculated series of actions designed to establish an emotional connection and trust with the child. The coach may start by showing special attention or favor towards the child, setting them apart from their peers. This could be through extra training, personal mentoring, or gifts. The coach's intention is to make the child feel special and valued, creating a bond that the coach can exploit.

As the relationship develops, the coach may gradually push boundaries, introducing inappropriate topics of conversation or physical contact. This boundary-pushing is often so gradual that the child might not realize that the behavior is becoming increasingly inappropriate. The coach may also encourage the child to keep secrets from their parents or guardians, further isolating the child and increasing their dependency on the coach.

Coaches manipulate young athletes by playing on their desires to succeed in their sport, their need for approval, or their fear of disappointment. By doing this, the coach gains greater psychological control over the child, making it harder for the child to recognize or resist the manipulation.

Signs of grooming by coaches include, but are not limited to:

  • Excessive Attention: Singling out a child for special attention, gifts, or privileges.
  • Isolation Tactics: Attempts to spend time alone with the child, away from others.
  • Boundary Crossing: Engaging in inappropriate physical contact or conversations.
  • Secrecy Encouragement: Encouraging the child to keep secrets from their family.
  • Communication Outside of Scheduled Times: Frequent calls, texts, or social media interactions with the child outside of normal coaching hours.
  • Inappropriate Sharing: Discussing adult topics or personal issues with the child.
  • Favoritism: Showing preferential treatment or giving gifts to the child.
  • Testing Boundaries: Gradual introduction of sexually inappropriate behavior or discussions.
  • Emotional Manipulation: Making the child feel responsible for the coach’s feelings or actions.
  • Desensitization to Touch: Gradually making the child comfortable with touch, starting with non-sexual touching.
  • Role Blurring: Acting more like a friend or confidant rather than a coach.
  • Undermining Parental Authority: Suggesting that parents don’t understand or care about the child as much as the coach does.
Helping Young Athletes for Decades

For years, the sexual abuse lawyers at Cerri, Boskovich & Allard, L.L.P., have helped young athletes after suffering sexual abuse and molestation by a coach. We know that navigating the legal landscape can be overwhelming, especially for young victims and their families. That’s why we offer compassionate guidance throughout the legal process, from filing a lawsuit to your day in court.

Our success in holding abusive coaches and institutions accountable has gained us a national reputation. Attorney Robert Allard played a pivotal role in uncovering the largest sexual abuse scandal in U.S. amateur athletics. His representation of a 14-year-old girl, a victim of sexual abuse by a USA Swimming coach, led to significant changes in the way young athletes are protected in the country.

His unyielding legal efforts resulted in USA Swimming, the body responsible for selecting the Olympic swim team, overhauling its child protection policies. This shift wasn't isolated; it prompted the United States Olympic Committee to implement centralized and uniform background checks across all Olympic sports, safeguarding approximately one million young athletes.

How Does Coach Sexual Abuse Happen?

Coach sexual abuse often persists due to the failure of institutions to adequately address allegations and prioritize the safety of the young athletes under their care. Instead, these institutions may turn a blind eye to sexual abuse even when athletes come forward. Their main goal is to protect their school or club’s reputation, achievements, and financial interests. This leads to a culture where abuse can continue unchecked.

When an institution fails to address allegations of sexual abuse or turns a blind eye to suspicions, it can - and should - be held accountable. Holding these institutions responsible is not just about seeking justice for the past; it's about instituting change for the future, ensuring that such neglect and oversight are not repeated.

At Cerri, Boskovich & Allard, L.L.P., we are committed to this pursuit of accountability. Our firm stands ready to challenge athletic institutions that fail in their duty to safeguard against sexual abuse. By taking legal action, we strive to bring about not only recompense for survivors but also systemic change, reinforcing the message that turning a blind eye to abuse is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Our goal is to create a safer, more responsible environment for all, where the well-being of individuals is prioritized over institutional reputation or success.

Steps to Take After Coach Sexual Abuse

Coaches and other sports officials in California are often classified as 'mandatory reporters.' This means they are legally required to report any suspected child abuse, including sexual abuse, to the authorities. But what happens when the coach is the abuser?

Other coaches, support staff, athletes, and families can report any coach that they suspect is sexually abusing young athletes, children, or adults in their care. While families or other coaches may be inclined to report their suspicions to the school, club, or facility where the coach works, the most direct way to report sexual abuse is by contacting the local police department or sheriff's office. They can initiate a criminal investigation and take immediate action if necessary.

Individuals can also report it to the appropriate authorities within that institution, such as the principal, athletic director, or human resources department. Most organizations have specific protocols for handling such reports. If the coach is a licensed professional (such as a teacher or a certified coach), you can report the abuse to the state board responsible for their professional license. These boards can investigate and take disciplinary actions, including revoking licenses.

Your next step is to help the survivor seek medical care and attention. Even if the abuse did not occur recently, there may be long-term physical effects. A medical examination can identify and address any physical health issues that may have resulted from the abuse. Sexual abuse can have profound psychological impacts. Healthcare professionals can assess the survivor's emotional and mental health needs and provide or refer them to appropriate counseling or therapy.

Filing a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Against a Coach in California

If you want to hold your coach accountable for the harm they’ve caused, our law firm can help. At Cerri, Boskovich & Allard, L.L.P., we have the resources to conduct thorough investigations and gather crucial evidence that might not be easily accessible to anyone else. This can include obtaining records, interviewing witnesses, and working with forensic experts.

Our sexual abuse attorneys will analyze the specifics of your case in the context of California's statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases. We can help determine if your case is still eligible for legal action. Even if your abuse occurred decades ago, there may be ways you can file a claim against your abusive coach and the institutions that allowed this abuse to continue.

Under California law, individuals who have survived childhood sexual abuse have extended time to file a civil lawsuit. They can initiate legal action until they reach 40 years of age or within five years from when they first discovered the abuse. This marks a significant extension from earlier laws, providing survivors additional time to process their experiences and consider pursuing legal recourse.

Additionally, "look-back windows" exist, which could enable you to pursue legal justice, even if the statute of limitations has seemingly lapsed. It's important to note that laws are continually evolving, and our law firm diligently monitors these changes to stay abreast of any developments that could benefit your case.

Every case is unique, and our law firm can develop a legal strategy that aligns with your specific circumstances and needs. We understand the emotional toll of recounting abuse. As such, we can handle many aspects of the case without requiring the survivor to discuss traumatic details repeatedly. We also know that maintaining the survivor's privacy is paramount. Our sexual abuse attorneys handle all sensitive information with the utmost confidentiality.

Contact Our Sexual Abuse Attorneys Today

If you are a survivor of sexual abuse by a coach or you suspect that your child or a young athlete in your community is, don't stay silent. It's time to take a stand and seek justice. Our law firm is dedicated to fighting for the rights and protection of all individuals and families who suffer because of sexual abuse and molestation.

At Cerri, Boskovich & Allard, L.L.P., we won’t let the abuse go unchallenged. We’ll work together to hold your abusive coach and the institution accountable for everything you’ve suffered. Contact us today for a confidential consultation. Your courage to step forward can also protect other young athletes and contribute to safer sporting environments.

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In my experience and in my abusive past, the power was taken away from me. I received my power back going through this process. I received my voice back. Allison B.
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There's a lot of people who are focused on monetary gain and I didn't feel that with attorney Bob Allard. I felt like their priority, in addition to vindicating me, was to take care of me and to get justice for what was right. Stevie G.
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The compassion Bob Allard felt for our needs and concerns was immeasurable. He knew and understood our apprehensions and fears, and dealt with them in a professional and caring manner. Laura H.
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