Sexual Assault by Coaches

We trust the coaches who lead our teams to victory or keep us encouraged and motivated despite failure. A great amount of trust is placed in high school, college and professional coaches, and the institutions and organizations that hire them are responsible to ensure coaches are properly vetted and supervised, and that any evidence of abuse is promptly and properly investigated.

These agencies have a duty of care to protect students from foreseeable risk of harm. sex assault attorneys in Fort Lauderdale at The Ansara Law Firm know that in this modern era, there is shrinking credibility to defense that schools, non-profits and professional leagues have no duty to conduct background checks or carefully monitor the coach-athlete relationships or take reports of abuse by coaches seriously.

Civil litigation is considered even more important because criminal prosecutions are so often unsuccessful, not just with convictions but even the pursuit of charges. Civil cases:

  • Give victims more control in deciding what to pursue;
  • Adhere to a lesser burden of proof than criminal cases (i.e., liability based on preponderance of the evidence, as opposed to criminal guilt beyond a reasonable doubt).
  • Result in monetary damages against the perpetrator and/ or the institutions that protected the perpetrator (when it should have protected the victim), serving as incentive for all organizations to hold themselves to a higher standard.

Examples of these abuses in sports are legion. They include:

  • USA Gymnastics and a gymnastics school sued by a former U.S. national team member alleging the gym director, a coach for the U.S. Olympic team in 1984, molested her for eight years, starting when she was just eight. She alleged she was later molested by the national team’s physician (who was convicted and later sentenced to 175 years in prison for decades of sexual abuse against young female athletes).
  • A Penn State assistant football coach was convicted on 52 counts of molestation for engaging in more than 15 years of sexual abuse of children, many of whom he met and groomed through his charity organization founded for troubled youth. The school’s board of trustees commissioned an independent report, later used by the NCAA in lieu of its own investigation, to fine the school’s football program $50 million. Federal and state prosecutors launched their own investigation into the school’s conduct and response to allegations of sexual misconduct by the coach.
  • USA Swimming has been accused of ignoring or covering up hundreds of cases of sexual abuse over several decades, according to a lengthy investigative report published by the Orange County Register. The report alleged the predators, mostly coaches, had sexual relationships with underage athletes and that executives, officials and other coaches knew of multiple sexual predators in coaching positions over the years and did nothing to stop it. The organization $7.5 million on legal fees (though it’s not clear how much of that was spent on actually settling the cases) and also spent $75,000 to lobbying firms in California that would make it harder for sexual abuse survivors to file civil lawsuits against their abusers and the organizations for whom he worked.

In cases against the coach directly, one can pursue claims like civil assault, battery or intentional infliction of emotional distress.

To prove civil assault, one needs to show the coach actions were intended to cause harmful/ offensive contact and the plaintiff reasonably believed he or she would be touched in a harmful way. Secondly, claims for battery require proof the coach touched the student/ athlete with intent to harm/ offend and a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position would have offended or harmed by the touching. Finally, claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress require proof the abuser/ coach acted intentionally in a reckless manner, that the coach’s actions were extreme and outrageous, that the coach’s actions were the primary cause of plaintiff’s emotional distress and that plaintiff suffered from severe emotional distress because of the way the abusive coach acted.

Separately, civil lawsuits against the school or institution will focus on the institution/ organization’s duty to protect against a foreseeable risk of harm. These claims may include:

  • Negligent hiring.
  • Negligent supervision.
  • Negligent retention.

If you or your child have been a victim of sexual assault or abuse by a coach, we can help.

Contact The Ansara Law Firm for more information about pursuing a civil claim for damages after sexual assault, abuse or molestation. Call us at (954) 761-3641 for a free case review.

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