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Sexual Abuse of Children by Coaches and in Youth Sports Program

Coaches play an important role in the development of young athletes. Children often spend many hours training with coaches in competitive sports. Not only do coaches in sports organizations create strong interpersonal bonds predicated on trust and loyalty, they also assume legal responsibilities toward athletes to ensure their health and safety. Sports and recreational organizations have a duty to properly supervise their employees and volunteers to protect young participants from physical harm and sexual abuse.

Attention: New York and New Jersey Law Provides Additional Time for Sexual Abuse Survivors to Bring Action

Legal Theories of Liability for Coaches and Athletic Program Directors

Sexual abuse of athletes in youth sports programs demonstrates a fundamental failure to ensure a safe environment for children. Liability for sexual misconduct often extends beyond the individual coach or perpetrator of the abuse. If the organization fails to meet its legal duty to maintain the safety of players and such negligence or willful conduct causes harm to the athlete, both the coach and the organization may be held liable.

Title IX provides a tool for holding youth organizations accountable on a federal level. Under Title IX, once a sports organization knows or should have reasonably known about sexual abuse within its institution, it is required to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation and initiate steps to protect athletes from future harm.

The “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017” outlines standards for preventing and addressing sexual abuse of young athletes. The legislation was introduced to prevent sexual abuse of minors and amateur athletes by limiting certain interactions between coaches and athletes and mandating that inappropriate and illegal interactions be promptly reported to law enforcement.

In addition to properly supervising coaches, promptly investigating allegations, and initiating corrective action when warranted, supervising bodies for youth athletic programs are responsible for creating and maintaining written policies that define what constitutes acceptable contact and appropriate relationships between coaches and minor athletes. Failure to maintain policies that create a safe environment for young athletes in the care of a coach is indicative of negligent supervision. In light of the plethora of sexual abuse cases by coaches and athletic program directors across the country, those who work in youth sports should be on notice of the potential for sexual misconduct in this environment.

The Problem of Sexual Abuse by Coaches

The potential for sexual abuse by coaches or athletic program directors is especially concerning given the unique nature of the relationship between child-athlete and coach. Coaches and child athletes often come into close contact in locker rooms, overnight trips and travel tournaments where parents and other adults may not be present. In addition to the many opportunities for unsupervised interaction, coaches may insist that divulging abuse will harm the team or that such activities are part of a routine hazing process.

Levy Konigsberg LLP is a nationally recognized law firm that has handled all types of negligence cases for more than three decades. If you or a member of your family has been the victim of sexual misconduct by a coach, please contact our lawyers for a free consultation by calling (800) 315-3806 or submit an email inquiry.

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