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Understanding the Signs of Sexual Abuse by a Coach

Parents trust coaches to be guides and mentors to their children. Unfortunately, there are a few individuals who take advantage of their position of authority. Sexually abusive relationships between coaches and their players aren’t uncommon and have similar warning signs. Knowing these red flags will help parents identify and intervene in inappropriate relationships. Signs of potential sexual abuse in a coach include:

Inappropriate Gifts or Attention

Molesters typically start with a “grooming” phase in which they devote extra attention to their target. This could come in the form of inappropriate gifts, extra attention, or seemingly innocuous (but still inappropriate) personal contact. Examples may include:

  • Giving one player more attention than the rest
  • Acting differently in private than in front of others
  • Attempts to control the child
  • Trying to gain your favor or trust
  • Telling your child not to talk about encounters they have
  • Giving one player gifts

Unfortunately, a child may not know the behavior is inappropriate until it crosses the line. Even then, molesters are master manipulators – they may make your child feel it’s his or her fault or that the child is to blame for their behavior. It’s essential for parents to keep an eye out for these grooming signs and keep an open dialogue with their children. Speak with a San Diego molestation lawyer for more information if your unsure of the signs of abuse.

Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse

If a coach has initiated a sexually abusive relationship with your child, you may notice behavioral changes. Keep in mind, physical warning signs are rare, especially in the early days when an assailant might be grooming a child for abuse. These warning signs might not signal sexual abuse, but they should be taken seriously, no matter the circumstances. Most warning signs of sexual abuse are difficult to detect, but be cautious if your child begins acting out of character or exhibiting the following symptoms:

  • A decrease in personal hygiene
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Self-mutilation or suicidal behavior
  • Acting more distant or distracted than before
  • Mood swings
  • Sudden changes in behavior or eating habits
  • Adult-like sexual behavior
  • Drawing or writing about sexual topics or frightening images

The presence of one or several of these warning signs does not necessarily mean there is sexual abuse, which makes reporting your suspicions difficult. If you believe a coach is abusing your child, you may not have proof, but you can intervene immediately by withdrawing your child from the activity and initiating a conversation with your child about this person. It may be helpful for him or her to see a counselor. If your child admits to any inappropriate contact to you or a counselor, it’s time to report the abuse.

Reporting Child Abuse

Reporting suspected sexual abuse may be uncomfortable, but it’s vital. The law requires some professionals to report suspected abuse. These include physicians, teachers, coaches and assistant coaches, school staff, and more. Failure to report sexual abuse is a crime under “mandatory reporting” laws, and someone who fails to report sexual abuse may face fines or jail time.

The law considers parents “permissive reporters.” These are people who report sexual abuse voluntarily, and the courts cannot punish them for failing to report. It’s important to realize, however, that you won’t be punished for reporting – even if the allegations prove to be false. As a voluntary reporter, you’ll have immunity from liability as long as you make your report in good faith.

When in Doubt, Report

One of the strongest tools against sexual abuse is early reporting. By intervening as soon as possible, you may save more than a child’s innocence and mental health – you may save a life. Reporting isn’t always easy, but it’s right. This is why the state offer anonymous reporting tip lines. Find where to report abuse by county.

Remember, there’s no punishment for reporting, but certain professionals may face misdemeanor charges for failing to report. If you have any other questions about reporting sexual abuse, whether by a coach or anyone else, talk to our Oakland personal injury attorneys with experience in California family law.

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