No one likes to think that their friends and neighbors could be capable of physically, emotionally, or even sexually abusing a child. That happens in other towns, other communities, other leagues, right? And while most sports organizations have various measures in place, such as volunteer background checks, to keep predators out of positions of power within, background checks aren’t foolproof. Some background checks won’t find crimes that occurred in another state, so a predator could easily slip through the cracks if they moved across state lines. And if the volunteer has no criminal past to report obviously no red flags would be raised. But no matter how much we want to trust our friends and neighbors, we as parents have to keep a watchful eye for any inappropriate behavior that puts our children at risk.
As Bob Cook, contributor to Forbes.com pointed out;
I think I can safely say the vast, vast majority of coaches, whatever their faults, keep their hands to themselves. But the risk of your child playing for a coach who would get arrested and/or convicted on child sexual abuse charges (which may or may not involve someone on the team) is very real.
Most coaches, even the bad ones, are trust-worthy and honest people who would never hurt a child. They may not know how to run a practice, have terrible rapport with the parents, or play favorites with their own child, but they would never abuse or assault a player. Unfortunately, even if 99 coaches out of 100 would never touch a child that still leaves one predator on the loose and cases of physical and sexual abuse in youth sports are, sad to say, not all that uncommon. Just recently a cheerleading coach was arrested, accused of molesting a 14 year old girl, an assistant football coach was arrested on felony sex crimes, and a gymnastics coach was arrested after being accused of inappropriately touching a young girl. These three stories all hit the news is just the last month…and there are plenty more out there.
How often have you dropped your child off at practice, run a few errands, and picked them up an hour later? 99% of the time our kids are in capable hands. But 99% of the time in not 100%, and that uncertain one percent is what we as parents have to keep in the back of our minds when we drop our kids off at sports practice. Only 7% of child sexual abuse cases involve abuse by a stranger and that means that the vast majority of the time the child knows, trusts, or even loves their abuser. Sports coaches are in a unique position of power that sexual predators can use to find new victims and create a culture of silence that keeps their activities carefully hidden.
Most parents think that if someone were abusing their child they would find out about it immediately but statistics show that 73% of children do not tell anyone about their sexual abuse for at least one year. Parents are the last line of defense when it comes to protecting kids from sexual predators and we need to make sure we are paying attention. If something strikes you as odd or inappropriate speak up! As national expert on child abuse Michelle Peterson said, sports parents need to;
Report it. Period. They are not to think about it…or discuss it with others, investigate it or sleep one it…they are simply asked to report it.