Sexual Abuse in Sports

Sexual abuse in sports is a critical issue that impacts athletes at all levels, from local teams to Olympians on the international stage. This abuse can take many forms, including but not limited to inappropriate physical contact, sexual harassment, and exploitation of power dynamics by coaches, staff, or fellow athletes. Athletes, especially young and vulnerable ones, often find themselves in situations where they are at risk, and the competitive, high-pressure environment of sports can sometimes foster a culture where abuse is overlooked or unaddressed.

The courage of survivors who speak out against sexual abuse in sports cannot be overstated. It takes immense bravery to come forward in an environment that often values success and reputation, potentially at the expense of athlete welfare. These survivors not only face personal challenges in their recovery but also often risk their careers and face social stigma. Their strength in sharing their stories paves the way for change and opens the doors for others to come forward.

Our Sexual Abuse Lawyers Fight For Systemic Change

At Cerri, Boskovich & Allard, L.L.P., our commitment to survivors of sexual abuse in sports is deeply rooted in our dedication to justice, change, and healing. Leading our efforts is Attorney Robert Allard, an attorney whose work in the field of athlete sexual abuse, particularly within the Olympic Movement, has been groundbreaking and transformative.

Our role in advocating for survivors goes beyond the courtroom. We believe that positive change can emerge from tragedy. This philosophy has driven our efforts in enacting new laws and forcing institutions to adopt stronger child protection rules and procedures. Our litigation efforts, including a high-profile case against USA Swimming, have directly strengthened child protection programs within the Olympic Movement and youth sports. These include expanded background checks, mandated training, and clearer reporting mechanisms.

Some of our most notable cases and successes include:

  • United States Taekwondo (USAT): Representing female athletes in a multi-victim claim against USAT for sexual abuse by former gold medal athlete Steven Lopez and his brother, Olympic coach Jean Lopez.
  • USA Gymnastics and Larry Nassar: A federal claim in Indiana involving Terin Humphrey, a former silver medalist and national champion, who suffered sexual abuse by former Olympic physician Larry Nassar.
  • USA Swimming and Sean Hutchison: Case in Southern California on behalf of former swimming national record holder Ariana Kukors-Smith, who was sexually molested as a minor by her former Olympic coach Sean Hutchison.
  • USA Swimming Coaches (Mitch Ivey, Andy King, Don King): Representing former female swimmers across California who were sexually abused as children by former silver medalist swimmer and Olympic coach Mitch Ivey and coaches Andy King and Don King.
  • United States Youth Soccer Association (USYSA): A case in Santa Clara County based on the claim that a coach who sexually abused a minor athlete had not been appropriately background screened.
  • United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and USA Taekwondo (USAT): Matter in Southern California involving the USOC and USAT, addressing the "Sexual Abuse, Exploitation, and Trafficking" of athletes.

Choosing Cerri, Boskovich & Allard, L.L.P. means partnering with a team led by a lawyer whose dedication, expertise, and integrity have been proven in the fight against sexual abuse in sports. Our approach is trauma-informed, empathetic, and focused on individual justice and broader systemic change.

Understanding Sexual Abuse in Sports

Sexual abuse in sports refers to any sexual conduct that is non-consensual or where consent cannot be given (due to age or power imbalance), including unwanted sexual touching, harassment, exploitation, or assault. It can occur in various sports settings and involves athletes of all ages.

This can range from inappropriate comments and advances by coaches, staff, or fellow athletes to more severe cases like sexual assault. It also includes situations where athletes are coerced into sexual relationships due to unequal power dynamics.

Power Dynamics in Sports That Can Contribute to Abuse

The inherent power imbalance between coaches and athletes, where the coach holds significant influence over the athlete's career and opportunities, can create an environment ripe for abuse. Athletes, especially young or aspiring ones, may depend on their abusers for training, opportunities, and support, complicating the dynamics of reporting abuse.

In many sports organizations, there is also a strict hierarchy that can discourage athletes from speaking out against higher-ranked individuals. This culture also prioritizes winning and reputation over athlete welfare and contributes to silence around abuse, making it difficult for survivors to come forward.

We understand the difficulties you face when trying to come forward after suffering sexual abuse in sports. That’s why we listen without judgment and offer you a safe and private place to discuss what happened to you. When you call our law firm, you take a step towards healing. This might not include filing a lawsuit, but you have that option. When you meet with us, we’ll discuss your legal options and help you make the decision that is best for you and your recovery.

The Impact of Sexual Abuse on Survivors

Sexual abuse impacts young athletes in many different ways. Survivors often experience severe trauma, which can manifest as mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). This trauma is intricately linked to issues of trust, as survivors may find it increasingly difficult to trust others, leading to significant challenges in personal relationships. Alongside these trust issues, many survivors grapple with low self-esteem and a tendency to blame themselves for the abuse, which can result in a profound sense of diminished self-worth.

This psychological toll has a direct and lasting impact on personal and athletic development. For athletes, the emotional aftermath of abuse can severely hinder their concentration and motivation, negatively affecting their performance and potentially disrupting their career paths. Sometimes, the trauma is so overwhelming that athletes may leave their sport prematurely.

The impact is not confined to athletic pursuits alone; for younger athletes, academic performance and interest in education can also suffer. In their social lives, survivors might withdraw and isolate themselves, impacting their ability to work within a team and their overall social development.

No matter how your abuse occurred, it is not your fault. Nothing you did contributed to the trauma you suffered. Let us help you hold your abuser accountable so that you can reclaim your power and move forward.

Fighting Back After Sexual Abuse in Sports

Survivors of sexual abuse in sports deserve justice and closure. One of the ways they can do this is by holding negligent coaches, sports organizations, and institutions accountable for their actions or inactions that contributed to the abuse.

You can file a civil lawsuit against your abuser and possibly against the sports organization or institution for failing to protect them. This can lead to compensation for the harm suffered, which might cover medical expenses, therapy costs, lost income, and other damages related to the abuse. In some cases, criminal charges may also be brought against the abuser, which is a separate process handled by the criminal justice system.

At Cerri, Boskovich & Allard, L.L.P., we play a pivotal role in guiding survivors through this process. Our firm handles these sensitive cases with the utmost care and professionalism. We work closely with survivors, ensuring they understand each step of the legal journey. Our goal is to alleviate the burden on the survivor, handling the legal complexities while they focus on their healing journey. We stand by our clients, fighting tirelessly to ensure that those responsible for the abuse and the institutions that enabled it are held accountable. Our dedication to our clients goes beyond seeking compensation; it's about restoring a sense of justice and contributing to broader changes in sports organizations to prevent future abuse.

Laws and Policies That Protect Young Athletes from Sexual Abuse

There are several key laws in place designed to protect athletes from sexual abuse. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program that receives federal money. It's been instrumental in addressing sexual harassment and abuse in school-based sports programs, ensuring equal protection for all students.

The SafeSport Act (Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017) expanded the mandatory reporting requirements for sexual abuse to national governing bodies and affiliated organizations in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movements. It also established the U.S. Center for SafeSport, an independent body investigating and resolving sexual misconduct allegations in the Olympic and Paralympic community.

Who Can Be Held Accountable When Sexual Abuse in Sports Occurs?

When sexual abuse occurs in sports, responsibility and accountability can extend beyond the individual perpetrator. Various parties may be held responsible, depending on the circumstances of the abuse:

  • The Abuser: Primarily, the individual who commits the abuse — be it a coach, trainer, team staff member, or fellow athlete — is held responsible. They can face criminal charges, civil lawsuits, and disciplinary actions from the sports organization or governing body.
  • Sports Organizations and Teams: If the abuse occurred within an organizational context, the sports organization or team might be held responsible, especially if they failed to provide a safe environment, ignored signs of abuse, or neglected to act on reports of abuse. This responsibility is grounded in the duty of care these organizations owe their athletes.
  • Governing Bodies: Governing bodies in sports, like national and international federations, can be held accountable if they fail to enforce policies that protect athletes from abuse or inadequately respond to allegations of abuse.
  • Educational Institutions: In cases where the abuse occurs in a school or college sports program, the educational institution may be responsible. Under laws like Title IX, schools are required to protect students from sexual harassment and abuse and may face legal consequences if they fail to do so.
  • Coaches and Staff Members: Individuals in positions of authority, such as coaches, trainers, and administrative staff, can be held accountable, particularly if they were aware of the abuse and did not take appropriate action or enabled the environment that allowed the abuse to occur.
  • Event Organizers: Organizers of sports events may be held liable if the abuse occurs during their event and they fail to implement adequate safety and protection measures.

At Cerri, Boskovich & Allard, L.L.P., we seek to uncover not just the actions of the individual abuser but also any systemic failures or negligence that allowed the abuse to happen. The goal is to hold all responsible parties accountable and implement changes to prevent future abuse in sports settings.

We Will Stand By You

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse in sports, please know that you are not alone and that what happened is not your fault. The journey towards healing and justice begins with a single, brave step forward. At Cerri, Boskovich & Allard, L.L.P., we are committed to standing by your side every step of the way.

We understand the difficulties in coming forward and how difficult it might be to face your abuser. That's why we are here to guide you through every stage of the process with empathy, respect, and expertise. Our commitment to you goes beyond the courtroom – we strive to be a source of support, empowerment, and advocacy.

Contact Cerri, Boskovich & Allard, L.L.P. today for a confidential consultation. Together, we can seek the justice you deserve and work towards a safer future in sports. Your story matters, and we are here to listen.

Client Reviews
★★★★★
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.
★★★★★
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.
★★★★★
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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