Sex abuse by coaches is more prevalent than anyone wants to believe
Two years after Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison for child molestation, Outside Magazine published an article about the “tsunami of sex abuse” by coaches in club swimming. Although author Rachel Sturtz focused her efforts on the young women preyed upon by male coaches, the article makes it clear that the coach-athlete dynamic in many sports leaves a disturbing number of young athletes vulnerable to abuse.
Those familiar with the collegiate Title IX cases making headlines today will see troublingly familiar problems with the investigations of young athletes’ accusations against their coaches: individuals unfamiliar with and without any training in sex abuse cases given the authority to render decisions; peers blaming the accusers for trying to “ruin” their abusers; and the abusers left free to return to their old patterns.
Abuse in club sports is particularly troubling, as the club’s organizers and employees are not mandated reporters. Coaches can exercise a high degree of control over the child’s life. While this can be part of a normal mentoring relationship, control is one of the initial elements which abusers use to “groom” a child prior to molesting them.
Many of the individuals identified in the story discuss the need for legislative remedies, including governmental oversight of organizations like USA Swimming. While those may help, parents of young athletes should insist that their local organizations provide training to help identify possible abusers.