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Keep Your Child Safe on a Team Trip Get Details, Ask Questions and Openly Talk to Your Child

Several recent events highlight sexual abuse of children in sports. There has been national and international publicity surrounding Jerry Sandusky and Penn State football with the long-term failure to report his ongoing and persistent abuse of a number of boys. Kayla Harrison, the 2012 Olympic judo gold medalist, faced years of sexual abuse from age 13 to 16 by her former coach.

Both of these cases eventually went to court and the offenders were jailed, but identification and prosecution is unusual in sexual abuse cases in youth sports. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, there are more than 200,000 sexual assaults in the U.S. annually and more than 50 percent are never reported to police.

The annual rate of known cases is 8.6 per 10,000 children. Lifelong dangerous and deleterious effects can ensue. Unwanted and illegal contact can erode family, community, and athletic relationships, academic and athletic performance, and can have long-lasting effects.

What can you do to help your child be safe?

• Talk to your child about appropriate relationships with adults and appropriate boundaries.

• Make sure they can talk to a parent or safe adult if they feel uncomfortable with someone or if they are in an uncomfortable situation.

• Ensure your team completes background checks on all coaches and has rules for team trips.

Some examples for consideration include:

• Athletes should not ride in a coach’s vehicle without another adult present who is the same gender as the athlete.

• During overnight team travel, athletes should only be paired with other athletes of the same gender and similar age.

• When only one athlete and one coach travel to a competition, establish a “buddy” club where other athletes or coaches are always present at the competition and at any other activities.

• No male athletes in female athlete rooms, no female athletes in male athlete’s rooms.

• Establish a “team” area with an open door for appropriate team interactions.

Questions to ask your team administrator or head coach

• What training do coaches receive about preventing child sexual abuse?

• Is there a policy or code of conduct concerning interactions between coaches, employees, volunteers, and children?

• Do team policies minimize opportunities for children to be unsupervised?

What should be included in a coach’s or official’s background check?

For example, USA Swimming utilizes Acxiom Information Security Services, a member of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners.

Any background check should include a local and national search for any felony; any misdemeanor involving any sexual crime, drug use or possession, other drug related crime, child endangerment, neglect or abuse. Other considerations should include violence, destruction of property, animal abuse, or neglect

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