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Sexual Abuse in Youth Sports | Civil Lawsuits

This post was written before the passage of AB-218. For information regarding the statute of limitations for filing a civil lawsuit for childhood sexual assault/abuse, click here or contact our team of experienced representatives.

Oftentimes, the same factors that create a nurturing environment and foster positive personal growth can also open the doors for sexually abusive behaviors. Pedophiles are often drawn to settings that bring them into contact with potential targets. This is one of the reasons sexual abuse occurs within youth sports. 

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, nude photography, offensive sexual jokes, intimidation, threats, and unsuccessful sexual advances. If you or your child has been a victim of sexual abuse in youth sports, the experienced attorneys at Lewis & Llewellyn may be able to help.

What Can Be Done About Sexual Abuse in Youth Sports?

When a child is sexually abused while participating in youth sports, the following steps should be taken:

Report it to the school. Filing a formal complaint places the onus to rectify the situation on the school. Individual administrators, the school, and the school district must all follow standard protocol to investigate the claim, remove the child from danger, and place sanctions on abusers. If the school, school district, and sports organization fail to take action, these parties can be held liable in civil court.

Contact the police. If the abuse was physical and you wish to get a forensic medical examination done, you can ask to speak with a police officer directly from the hospital. Should you wish to pursue legal action, the police can forward your case to the District Attorney’s office. If there is enough evidence to convict the individual perpetrator “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the district attorney will likely press criminal charges, resulting in arrest, possible prison time, fines paid to the state, probation, and registration as a sex offender.

Call a civil attorney. In addition to pressing criminal charges, you can seek financial redress for the harm suffered. Victims of child sexual abuse may suffer losses in productivity, as well as enjoyment in life. Filing a civil lawsuit against those who were, directly and indirectly, responsible for the abuse holds negligent parties accountable and works to provide victims with the financial security needed to get the help they deserve.

In some cases, California law protects your right to file as a “Jane or John Doe.” This can keep your identity private, while still allowing you to pursue justice. Contact us to discreetly discuss your case.

The Role of Mandated Reporters

can I sue my coach for sexually abusing me

California enacted the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA) to increase vigilance in childcare settings to better protect youth. Under this law, just about anyone working with children is designated a “mandatory reporter.”

According to the law:

  • Those designated as “mandatory reporters” have a legal obligation to act upon known or suspected child abuse, including sexual assault, rape, grooming, prostitution, exhibitionism, pornography, severe neglect, physical abuse, and emotional maltreatment.
  • Mandatory reporters are required to document and report any abuse to the local police or sheriff’s department, county welfare department, or county juvenile probation department.
  • When a mandated reporter fails to take action, he or she faces a fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail. When the abuse results in grievous bodily harm or death, the fine increases to $5,000 with up to one year in jail. Mandated reporters may also be sued for damages in civil court for failing in their duty to protect a child entrusted to their care.

Child-On-Child Sexual Abuse in Youth Sports

Overall, it is believed a third of sex abusers are under the age of 18. Electronic communication open the doors to abuse from fellow athletes. Sexual abuse-related hazing is particularly problematic at the college level. When child-on-child sexual abuse occurs, both parties require therapeutic intervention.

The State of California will not initiate criminal proceedings on athletes under the age of 14. However, minors ages 14-17 can be arrested and brought to delinquency court to determine if custody of the child should be remanded to the state juvenile facility or foster care.

Children can be sentenced to home probation or detention until age 25, depending on the severity of the crime. Minors over age 14 can also be brought up on felony charges as an adult, facing prison time, fines of up to $10,000, and sex offender registration depending on the crime.

What Are the Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse?

sexual grooming in youth sports

The deadline for seeking redress varies:

Section 340.1 of the Civil Code allows children until age 26 to file a civil lawsuit, or within three years of discovering harm, whichever is later. To seek criminal punishment, there is no deadline if the abuse occurred after January 1, 2017. If the abuse occurred before the passage of SB 813, the victim has 10 years from the most recent incident to bring a case against the abuser. 

If you or your child silently suffered sexual abuse while mandatory reporters looked the other way or attempted to cover up the abuse, contact a San Francisco attorney.

Identifying the Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse in Youth Sports

Predators often target, abuse, and silence their victims through sexual grooming, a process that involves seeking out a young athlete who may seem more vulnerable than others; developing a special friendship or relationship with that child; and making him or her feel more special than the rest. After isolation and contact occur, the pre-established bond 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 gain and maintain control over the child.

Children may not fully understand that certain adult behavior is improper, may be manipulated or misled into acceptance, or may even fear the repercussions of speaking up. As a parent, knowing what to look for is the first step in getting your child to open up to you about what’s going on. Here are a few tips to consider when it comes to youth sports:

  • Be wary of unsupervised or unstructured youth sports clubs or organizations. 
  • Try to reduce the amount of alone time a coach or volunteer has with your child. 
  • Pay close attention during out-of-town trips or social events and celebrations.
  • Stay involved in your child’s life. The more involved you are, the less likely a sexual predator will target your child.

Consider ways of talking to your child about sexual abuse to reduce the likelihood of victimization.

Did you know there are no upfront costs with Lewis & Llewellyn?

Every case review and consultation is free. Should we decide to take on your case, you will sign a contract defining payment, but no money is collected. Any fees required are factored into the settlement or compensation amount.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain from speaking with an experienced attorney regarding your legal options.

Taking a Stand Against Sexual Abuse in Youth Sports

As parents of young children, the civil attorneys at Lewis & Llewellyn understand the betrayal parents must feel when they entrust coaches and sports organizations with the safety of their children and that trust is violated. While holding individual perpetrators responsible is necessary, we also understand that we must go after sports organizations who aid and abet child predators if we wish to secure a fair settlement and send the message that there is no room for indifference to suffering.

The attorneys at Lewis & Llewellyn are passionate and have represented both adult and child victims of sexual abuse in youth sports across the nation. Recognized for our track record of multi-million-dollar settlements and awards, our passion lies in holding the worst type of predators accountable for their wrongs and helping survivors in the aftermath of trauma. Contact our team online for support and guidance to see you through this emotional time, or call +1 (415) 800-0590 to schedule an appointment with an advocate today. 

DISCLAIMER: The information in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this blog or on this website should be construed as legal advice from Lewis & Llewellyn LLP. Neither your receipt of information from this website, nor your use of this website to contact Lewis & Llewellyn LLP creates an attorney-client relationship between you and the firm or any of its lawyers. No reader of this website should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this website without seeking the appropriate legal advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s jurisdiction.