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Recognizing abuse within sports teams

Participating in sports is a quintessential part of the middle or high school experience for many students. Playing basketball, football, soccer, running track or participating in gymnastics are much-loved activities by young adults looking to practice their skills, compete, and participate in a team environment.

Unfortunately, there is a dark side to school sports organizations.

According to the Department of Education, up to 7 percent of students in middle school or high school have experienced some type of sexual abuse by coaches, teachers or other school staff.

Unfortunately, some students who have experienced sexual abuse by a coach or teacher are too afraid to speak out. Parents, friends, and loved ones should be on the lookout for some potential signs of sexual abuse:

  • Does the coach inappropriately touch the student?
  • Does the coach spend one-on-one time with the student?
  • Does the coach spend time in the locker room or in the shower area?
  • Does the coach offer to drive students home?
  • Does the coach make inappropriate comments or tell sexually explicit jokes or stories to the student or the team?

It is important to remember that not all of these situations definitively prove sexual abuse is occurring. But it is important not to ignore potential warning signs.

If something seems wrong - if the student experiences behavioral changes, sudden aggression, sleep disorders or fear of going to school or practice, for example - concerned loved ones should take action.

What can parents and friends do to help? Talk to the student to find out what is happening, report any inappropriate behavior by a coach or teacher, and take steps to ensure that the student is safe.

Students should be safe in school and while participating in sports and extra-curricular activities. Unfortunately, millions across the U.S. have experienced varying degrees of sexual abuse by those in charge of classrooms and sports teams.

Those students may have legal options. If a loved one has been targeted, it is advisable to speak to an attorney who focuses on representing sexual abuse survivors.

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