Child abuse in sportJune 12, 2012
In the USA a high profile child abuse trial has begun today. Jerry Sandusky, a University American football coach is accused of abusing 10 boys at Penn State University.
Sandusky stands charged with 52 counts of abuse spanning a 15 years period. He denies all charges however, a number of the alleged victims are due to give evidence at the trial.
The charges and subsequent trial has generated a media frenzy in the USA with the University subsequently dismissing the team’s head coach and the University President.
As a child abuse lawyer I am regularly instructed to bring cases on behalf of victims of abuse who have been abused in the course of their membership of a sports team or club and I am currently acting on behalf of clients who were abused by rugby, cricket, cycling and watersports coaches.
It seems that the nature of the relationship between the abuser as sports coach and the victim allows the abuser almost unfettered access to the child. Often they spend a significant amount of unsupervised time together training and it is this unsupervised access that allows the abuse to take place.
It is almost always the case that the victims feel unable to report the abuse until many years later for fear of risking their prospects of succeeding in their sport and for fear of bringing their sports club / team into disrepute.
Sadly sports clubs and teams need to be much more vigilant and aware of the risk of child abuse occurring given the unique nature of the relationship between coach and child.