Attorneys Fighting For Survivors of Sex Abuse in Youth Clubs and Sports
Sexual abuse is one of the most horrific crimes, and when the victim is a child, it’s inconceivable. Yet, child sexual abuse statistics reveal a disturbing reality: According to the Rape, Assault, & Incest National Network (RAINN), 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys are sexually abused by an adult before turning 18.
In the United States, Child Protective Services substantiates or finds evidence of a child sexual abuse claim every nine minutes. And unfortunately, 93% of the predators who commit child sexual abuse are someone known to the victim.
Abuse typically occurs in settings that are supposed to be safe for children, with adults who are trusted to care for, guide, and teach those in their care. Child sexual abuse happens at religious institutions, schools, camps, and homes, but it’s also rampant in youth organizations and sports clubs.
In fact, childhood sex abuse in sports and youth clubs has become a severe problem in the United States. Over the last three decades, there have been numerous disturbing scandals that involved youth organizations; Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, USA gymnastics, USA swimming, YMCA, 4-H, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club of America, and others have all made headlines for childhood sexual abuse lawsuits.
The effects of child sexual abuse are far-reaching and often lifelong. Coaches, trainers, doctors, parents, and volunteers involved with these organizations have grossly abused their power and broken the trust of children, their families, and those they work or volunteer for. There are serious behavioral, emotional, social, and physical effects when this trust is broken.
The Louisiana child sexual abuse attorneys at Herman, Herman & Katz are committed to protecting children and youth from these heinous crimes. While civil claims can’t take back what happened, they can help survivors of child sex abuse seek accountability and provide financial compensation for their suffering.
Prevalence of Youth Sexual Abuse in Sports
According to Childhelp, 40-50% of athletes have experienced something from mild harassment to severe abuse, and research suggests that 2-8% of all athletes suffer sexual abuse. There’s also a trend of sexual abuse against athletes through all levels of sport; many victims of this trauma as a child or teenager are often sexually abused later in life when they continue competing at the college and professional levels as adults.
Whether these victims were previously silenced or not believed after reporting abuse, are afraid of losing their spot and advancing their play, are unsure who to turn to, or are fearful of coming forward, the culture of sexual abuse in sports is a serious crisis. Change is needed, and thankfully, new legislation in several states, including Louisiana, is providing survivors a chance to hold their abuser – and the organizations that failed to protect them and act appropriately – accountable.
USA Gymnastics was involved in one of the most well-known child sexual abuse scandals in the United States. Over 300 victims came forward about Dr. Larry Nassar sexually abusing them. Nassar was the team doctor of the USA’s women’s national gymnastics team, and he abused athletes for decades before finally being sentenced to prison in 2017. He’s serving 60 years for child pornography charges and up to an additional 175 years for criminal sexual conduct. Over 150 women testified against Nassar, revealing he used his position and access to children and young adults to repeatedly assault them under the guise of treatment.
Plaintiffs also alleged that several institutions didn’t act on the Nassar allegations or were too slow to act. In May, some of Nassar’s victims were seeking $130 million from the FBI for mishandling the Nassar allegations. Now, it’s jumped to more than 100 of his victims seeking over $1 billion. They claim the FBI neglected to properly investigate the abuse, which allowed Nassar to continue abusing young women and children athletes far longer than he should have been able to.
The Boy Scouts of America is another youth organization facing sexual abuse claims. Lawsuits surged following extensions to the statute of limitations and special lookback windows in many states. Legislation changes opened the door for victims previously past the deadline to make a claim to seek compensation from their abusers and the organization that they were a part of. More than 82,000 claims have been filed against the Boy Scouts, resulting in the youth organization filing for bankruptcy in 2020.
When predators in sports and youth organizations sexually abuse children, it can forever change their lives. Knowing your legal options is important if the worst happens and you’re a victim of childhood sexual abuse. The sexual abuse attorneys at Herman, Herman & Katz have extensive experience helping those who suffered this trauma get the compensation and justice they deserve.
Effects of Child Sexual Abuse
Predators in youth organizations and sports clubs have unique and trusted access to children and youth. Coaches, club leaders, volunteers, and others involved often have many opportunities to sexually abuse children in their care. For example, they treat injuries, provide one-on-one training or mentorship, and take children on overnight trips (like camps and out-of-town competitions). These situations and environments make children extremely vulnerable.
Because most children who suffer sexual abuse know their abuser, it’s difficult for them to comprehend what happened or even recognize that it was wrong. This is especially true when they’re manipulated or shamed by the abuser or they instill fear in their victim.
There is a wide range of effects of child sexual abuse, including:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Suicidal behaviors
- Substance abuse
- Difficulty trusting others
- Withdrawn behavior
- Mood swings
For sex abuse in youth sports, there’s the added fear that making an allegation will have a negative effect on the child’s involvement in the sport. Their abuser may outright threaten the child by saying they’ll be kicked off the team or sidelined if they tell anyone what happened.
Liability of Youth Organizations & Sports Associations in Child Abuse Cases
Every club or organization for children is responsible for creating and fostering safe spaces for them to develop and thrive, but often, they fail to do what they should to prevent abuse. They also fail to investigate or take claims seriously, report allegations and suspicions, and take appropriate action against a predator. Youth organizations have shielded abusers to protect their reputations and prevent a loss of support or involvement of others.
Throughout the years, we’ve frequently seen sports organizations and clubs silence victims of child sexual abuse in various ways. Their inaction has prevented others from coming forward and even affected whether survivors received the support they needed.
All child and youth organizations have a duty to:
- Screen coaches, volunteers, leaders, and others who have access to children
- Provide proper sexual abuse training and education
- Respond quickly and appropriately to allegations
- Implement clear policies and protocols that ensure the safety of those in their care
Youth organizations may face legal repercussions when the appropriate steps aren’t taken or abuse claims are kept quiet or dismissed. In some cases, such as with USA gymnastics, survivors of child sexual abuse may even file lawsuits against law enforcement to hold them accountable.
Another instance of an organization’s negligence following sexual abuse claims is when the abuser is removed from their role, only to be moved to another community or position. Instead of investigating and reporting abuse claims, they sweep it under the rug by quietly reassigning the predator. When this happens, more children are at risk of becoming victims of sexual abuse.
A prime example of an organization failing victims and protecting predators is the clergy sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church and Southern Baptist Convention. They reassigned clergy and kept allegations hidden instead of involving law enforcement.
Louisiana Child Sex Abuse Laws
Until the summer of 2021, Louisiana’s statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse was 28 years of age. This timeline was far too short and limiting, given that, on average, it takes survivors until they’re in their 50s to come forward about trauma of this kind. The previous statute of limitations caused many survivors never to seek justice or file a civil claim against their abuser.
But on August 1, 2021, Louisiana’s child sexual abuse laws drastically changed. Now, there’s no statute of limitations for sexual abuse in the state, and a three-year lookback window was enacted to allow survivors who were previously unable to make a claim to seek damages.
Both aspects of Louisiana’s new sexual abuse legislation were considered a major win to advocates, lawmakers, and survivors. With no statute of limitations, victims may come forward when they’re ready or when a repressed trauma is later remembered. Ultimately, it offers hope to those who felt or will feel hopeless.
There’s been a steady influx of claims since Louisiana’s sexual abuse laws changed. Thousands of child sexual abuse survivors have filed lawsuits against coaches, volunteers, parents, other leaders and employees, and the organizations and sports clubs they’re a part of. There have been countless claims against clergy, teachers, caregivers, daycare providers, and parents, and most recently, startling reports about sexual abuse on college campuses have also made headlines.
Legal Options for Survivors of Child Sex Abuse
Childhood sexual abuse is a horrifically violating crime that can impact all aspects of a victim’s life. Getting the proper treatment and support to work through the trauma is crucial to moving forward, but there are also legal options for survivors of sexual abuse.
At Herman, Herman & Katz, our experienced Louisiana sexual abuse attorneys have helped our clients seek compensation from their abusers and the institutions and organizations that failed to protect them. Our dedicated and compassionate team understands the delicate nature of these cases and offers a safe and confidential environment as we navigate the legal process. Whether the trauma was recent or decades ago, we do everything we can to seek justice and hold perpetrators responsible.
If you or a loved one was a victim of child sexual abuse, contact Herman, Herman & Katz to discuss your legal options. Contact us online or at 844-943-7626 for more information or a free consultation.