Sexual Abuse by Athletic Coaches
Coaches are placed in a position of trust and authority by parents and children. Coaches often spend time with athletes without supervision by parents or other adults, such as in locker rooms or overnight tournaments. Coaches owe a legal duty to athletes to ensure their health and safety. The organizations that employ coaches or hire them as volunteers also have a responsibility to supervise their employees and/or volunteers to protect participants from harm and abuse.
An influential youth basketball coach, Greg Stephen, was recently sentenced to 180 years in federal prison for collecting sexual images and molesting boys over a 20-year period. The judge imposed the harshest sentence possible given the profound impact of the coach’s actions on the athletes he mentored. Several men have accused Robert Oliva, a former youth basketball coach at Christ the King Campus in Queens, New York of sexual abuse and molestation. Christ the King Campus includes Christ the King High School, Middle Village Preparatory School, Community Daycare, and Pre-K. Tony Sagona, a youth baseball and basketball coach, has been accused of sexually abusing at least seven children over a span of several decades. The allegations were made by former basketball players in Monmouth County, New Jersey and former Little League players in Richmond County, New York.
In many cases, children are unaware that the conduct is illegal; in other cases, they are too fearful or ashamed to report the abuse. Training and hiring of coaches, especially for recreational sports or young children, is often lax and lacks consistent standards. When athletes are under the direction of coaches in more advanced or professional settings, players may feel intimidated to reveal abuse for fear of losing their chances to succeed in their sport. Coaches may also use tactics to intimidate players to remain silent about the abuse.
The impact of sexual abuse by coaches on young athletes is significant and pervasive. Sexual abuse by coaches can remain hidden from parents and other concerned parties for years. It is important for parents to recognize possible signs of abuse by a coach. Often a coach who is abusing a child will go out of his way to spend a considerable amount of time with that child. The child may be given the impression that he is “special” and trust the coach to look out for his best interests. When a coach attempts to exert control over the child’s non-athletic activities or purchases gifts for the child, a parent should take steps to report the behavior to the athletic program and authorities, and ensure that an investigation is conducted or the coach is removed from his position if necessary.
While parents may be able to recognize initial signs of abuse before it progresses, in many cases the sexual abuse can remain undetected for long periods of time. The abuse can manifest in psychological and emotional trauma and impair the child’s life into adulthood. Filing civil claims against the coach and the institution can give families the opportunity to the redress harm suffered by the child and provide some sense of justice for the victim.
Levy Konigsberg LLP is a nationally recognized law firm that has recovered millions of dollars for victims of sexual abuse. If you or a member of your family has been the victim of sexual misconduct by a coach or athletic director, please contact our lawyers for a free consultation by calling 1-800-225-9825.