Many coaches continue getting away with sexual abuse – but why?

On Behalf of | Jan 19, 2023 | Schools & Universities, Youth Athletic Organizations

Coaches and student-athletes often have close relationships. And as we’ve seen over the last few years, countless coaches have used that close relationship to sexually abuse student-athletes. However, only some coaches faced accusations, charges or arrests for their actions.

While seeing more students come forward about this mistreatment is encouraging, a lot of sexual abuse by coaches goes undetected, sometimes for years. So, how and why do so many get away with it for so long?

Lack of national data/information may play a role

According to a report by Business Insider, the United States does not keep track of coaches who’ve sexually abused students nationwide. That’s because states typically oversee K-12 schools and public universities and not every state has a database. However, some do, like Pennsylvania. It keeps online records of educators across the state who have been accused or charged with some form of misconduct, including sexual assault and abuse.

However, even if states have a database, they may not account for every coach or other educator who sexually abused someone. That’s because many survivors still remain hesitant to talk about their abuse. That can leave states with limited information to create full reports off of. Plus, not every case of sexual abuse makes it on the news, so the broader public doesn’t always know how many coaches are committing these acts.

Their actions can go unnoticed by student-athletes and their parents

Coaches that make it onto the news for sexual abuse typically already face accusations or criminal charges for their actions. However, many abusive coaches continue to fly under the radar, including by the same students they’re abusing. That may be due to coaches’ unique privileges with student-athletes; they can easily cross certain boundaries without notice or concern. Because coaches are helping student-athletes perfect different movements and maneuvers, they’re often touching student-athletes’ bodies as part of their instruction. And in some sports, like gymnastics, coaches may have much one-on-one time with student-athletes. Plus, for a sport like gymnastics, alone time can include overnight stays out of town before a competition.

Aside from the close access coaches can often get to student-athletes, there are instances where student-athletes don’t know they’re enduring abuse. That’s because coaches can easily cross the line from a helpful mentor to an abusive predator. A coach’s title and authority can confuse many students and make them second-guess their judgment, even if they’re experiencing abuse. These coaches may convince student-athletes that their actions are necessary and will help them perform better.

Look out for the warning signs of sexual abuse

If your child is a student-athlete and you’re worried they’re being groomed or sexually abused by their coach, there are a few key signs to look for. And if they come forward to you about their coach, it’s important to believe them, listen to them and support them in every way you can. Knowing what steps to take after learning about this news can be difficult.

If you’re looking to take legal action against a sexually abusive coach, a compassionate, dedicated and aggressive sexual abuse attorney can help guide you through the process.