Keeping youth athletes safe from sexual predators
Child sexual predators fall into one of two categories: “grabbers” and “groomers”. Most sexual misconduct involves grooming, which can easily be confused with innocent behavior. The best way to protect children against sexual grooming and thus sexual misconduct is to protect them against inappropriate boundary invasions.
Sexual grooming by adults involves a process with the following elements:
- Finding a vulnerable child lacking self-confidence, low self- esteem, or parental attention.
- Involving the child in peer-like activities such as hanging out away from the ball park.
- Desensitizing the child to touch such by tickling, patting, stroking, or wrestling.
- Isolating by spending a large amount of time alone with the child and urging them to keep secrets.
- Making the child feel responsible for the sexual misconduct that has occurred.
Inappropriate boundary invasions involve the adult invading the child’s personal life or personal space by the following actions:
- Showing undue interest in a child
- Giving gifts
- Peer-like behavior like hanging out
- Granting special privileges
- Discussing adult matters
- Keeping secrets
- Being alone with, attending outings with, transporting to school and events
- Telling sexual jokes, showing pornography, asking sexual questions
- Hugging, kissing, physical contact
The following steps help preventing inappropriate boundary invasions:
- Educate administrators, employees, and volunteers on the definition and associated behaviors inappropriate boundary invasions, sexual grooming, and sex abuse/molestation.
- Expressly prohibit inappropriate boundary invasions.
- Require all employees, and volunteers to report all inappropriate boundary invasions to administration.
- Correct and discipline offenders and those who fail to report.
It is also interesting to note that litigation for sex abuse and molestation can occur decades after the incidents since there is no statute of limitations on this type of behavior. The alleged abuser, the legal entity, and respective directors and officers will all be sued for failure to screen, failure to respond to an allegation, or failure to implement policies and procedures to prevent occurrences. It is critical for organizations to keep all General Liability policies on hand indefinitely in the event of future litigation. In addition, the past administration will be held accountable for their lack of oversight based on today’s standards instead of past standards which were much more relaxed.
The delayed reaction nature of litigation for sexual abuse and molestation is another reason why a claims-made policy form is inferior to the occurrence policy form under a General Liability policy. Please read our article “Occurrence vs Claims Insurance Made For Sports Organizations” for more detailed information.
Source: “Protecting Children from Sexual Misconduct by School Employees”, Donald F. Austin and Michael Patterson.