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Preventing Abuse - Resources and Statistics

While abuse is a difficult subject to talk about, it's incredibly important that we talk about it. We need to talk about it and acknowledge it and when we talk about it. we can prevent it.

Sexual abuse has been featured heavily in the news lately, because of the Marvin Sharp story and   Sadly, it's nothing new. However, we can't shy away from this topic because it is scary. The more you know, the more you can do to prevent something like what happened with Sharp's athlete.

There are many national and local organizations you can reach out to to help or get resources. Their services can include anything from counseling to crisis hotlines.

Here are some statistics:

  • Sexual violence/abuse/assault is a grossly under-reported crime. 68% of these crimes will never be reported to police. In fact, out of the crimes reported and unreported, only 2% ever spend any time in prison.
  • 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are victims of child sexual abuse.  Sexual assault of men is thought to be greatly underreported
  • A study conducted in 1986 found that 63% of women who had suffered sexual abuse by a family member also reported a rape or attempted rape after the age of 14.
  • According to a 2003 National Institute of Justice report, 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well
  • Offenders are overwhelmingly male, ranging from adolescents to the elderly
  • Approximately one-third of offenders are themselves juveniles
  • Approximately 4/5 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim
  • 82% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger.
  • 47% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.
  • 25% are an intimate [relationship]
  • 5% are a relative.
  • Approximately 50% of all rape/sexual assault incidents were reported by victims to have occurred within 1 mile of their home or at their home.

Of course, abuse in sports is not always limited to sexual abuse, but can be physical, emotional abuse or even bullying. Parents and athletes need to know what they can do and what their resources are if this happens

Per Safe 4 Athletes, here are somethings parents can do to prevent abuse:
  • Ask the sports club or program whether all coaches, volunteers, and staff undergo criminal background checks before they are hired.
  • Ask whether the club has written policies that clearly define coach misconduct, prohibit romantic or other nonprofessional relationships between coaches and athletes, define and prohibit emotional, verbal, and physical abuse, bullying, hazing, initiation rituals, harassment, and physical punishment by staff or athletes.
  • Ask whether the sport club has education sessions for athletes to help them identify inappropriate behaviors and a process to report such behaviors.
  • Ask if the sport club has an independent athlete welfare advocate or athlete protection officer who athletes know they can go to in complete confidence to help them address concerns.
  • Ask whether the sports club conducts education sessions for coaches, staff, and volunteers regarding professional behavior and behaviors that they must stop if they observe them.
  • Talk to your children regarding all inappropriate or abusive behaviors and what they should do if they observe or are subjected to such behaviors.
If you're an athlete, encourage your gym to have an Athlete Welfare Advocate. This is a third party adult, not a coach. His person is a volunteer who is available to an athlete who wants to discuss the conduct of a coach, staff member, or another athlete and advise what to do.

Encourage your gym club to adopt the Safe 4 Athletes policies (read more about them on their website). Or at the very least, make sure your gym has adopted USA Gymnastics Clubs Care and We Care campaigns, which are aimed at preventing sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior.

Remember, talk to someone if something doesn't feel right. Trust your instincts. Here are some guidelines from Safe 4 Athletes on what athletes can do:

   When should you speak to an adult and ask for help?
  • Whenever something happens that to “you,” it is important that you speak up.  See the list below.doesn’t feel right 
  • Sometimes athletes are worried that if they complain about a situation with a coach or an adult, the coach will no longer like them or give them good instruction.  Or, you may think your teammates will get mad at you.  Don’t be afraid to speak up!  Everyone deserves respectful conduct.
  • If any of the following happens to you,you should speak up to protect yourself and your teammates:
No Bullying, Emotional or Verbal Abuse Allowed!
  • When an adult or another athlete who is bigger, stronger or older tries to make you do something wrong, makes you feel worthless or makes fun of you in order to embarrass you or make you feel bad
  • When someone yells at you, calls you names or swears at you
  • When someone pushes, shoves, punches, pinches or hurts you in any way
  • When someone tries to make you feel like you are a bad person
  • When someone repeatedly attempts to control your personal or social life
No Sexual Abuse! 
  • Sexual contact, sexual attention, and any other behavior with sexual overtones that make you uncomfortable and you do not want to have happen
  • Sex jokes, sexual cartoons or photos
  • If someone touches you inappropriately, tries to pinch, fondle or kiss you  
  • Someone talking to you about sex, asking you to have sex,  asking you to touch them or kiss them
  • Someone talks about your body or your dress or calls you “hot”
  • Emails, text messages or uses social media to talk about sex or suggest sexual things or send sexual photos
  • If anyone tries to hurt you sexually or forces you to touch them 
No Hazing, Initiation Rituals, or Physical Punishment!
  • No team is allowed to have an initiation ritual or make you think that you have to do something embarrassing to be accepted on the team 
  • Activities that ARE NOT ALLOWED:
  • pressuring you to drink alcohol, take drugs, or eat or drink something you don’t want to
  • giving you any substance for the purpose of improving performance
  • making you shave of any part of the body or take off clothes or show body parts
  • making you dress up and look silly
  • forcing you to do 100 sit-ups or run laps or do hard physical activity as punishment
  • asking you to perform a physical activity that is clearly beyond your ability and may cause injury 
No Romantic or Dating Relationships with Coaches!
  • Your coach must treat every athlete equally and should not be spending time alone with any athlete
  • The coach is your teacher and romantic relationships are NOT OK
Physical Contact!
A coach must always ask for permission prior to any touching of an athlete.  The following situations are generally accepted unless “you” the athlete feels uncomfortable:
  • when the coaches asks for permission to put a body part in a correct mechanical position or correct physical form;
  • a “high five” or pat on the head or back when congratulating an athlete for a good performance;
  • “spotting” or any protective coaching intended to reduce the risk of practicing or performing a skill that may cause harm with “spotting” techniques explained to the athletes beforehand;
  • In general, if a coach or anyone else touching you makes you feel uncomfortable for any reason, it is okay for you to ask the person to stop and such physical contact must stop immediately no matter what the reason.  

RAINN Rape Abuse Incest National Network
SATI provides a list of resources per state:
USA Gymnastics Clubs Care Campaign
Safe 4 Athletes founded by former Olympic swimmer, Katherine Starr this organization helps to promote awareness of abuse in the sports world and works to prevent abuse in sports. e


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