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Child sexual abuse knows no boundaries and can happen in what seems like the safest of places, including at organized youth sports and clubs. As evidenced by the recent sexual abuse scandals that rocked USA Swimming and USA Gymnastics, trusted coaches or volunteers can use their authority as a way to manipulate and abuse young children.

It’s important to understand that child sexual abuse doesn’t necessarily involve touching or direct physical contact. It comes in many forms, including sexual exposure, offensive sexual jokes, intimidation, threats, and unsuccessful sexual advances.

Sexual predators target, abuse and silence their victims through grooming, a process that involves the predator to seek out a young athlete who may seem more vulnerable than others, developing a special friendship or relationship with the child; making him or her feel more special than the rest.

When the sexual predator identifies a potential victim, the abuser may give gifts and see if the child can keep a secret, to establish trust, loyalty and love. This makes it much harder for the child to report the sexual abuse, allowing the cycle to continue. The sexual abuser may also use threats, violence, secrecy, shame, guilt and intimidation tactics to get what he or she wants – whatever it takes to gain control over the child.

Watch for unsupervised or unstructured youth sports clubs or organizations. The less structured the organization, the higher the risk for sexual abuse to occur. Additionally, pay attention to places and events, like the locker room, out of town trips, social events or celebrations, and the home or vehicle of the coach, volunteer or other authority figure. These are all opportunities for a predator to strike. And most important, stay involved in your child’s life. The more involved you are, the less likely a sexual predator will target your child.

At Lewis & Llewellyn, we believe victims of child abuse deserve justice and compensation. Our attorneys are trial-tested sexual abuse litigators, and they have been athletes and coaches of numerous youth sports, from grade school tee-ball to elite Division I college athletics. We have the experience needed to help you fight back.