Participating in sports is a quintessential part of the middle or high school experience for many students. Playing basketball, football, soccer, running track or participating in gymnastics are much-loved activities by young adults looking to practice their skills, compete and participate in a team environment.

Unfortunately, there is a dark side to school sports organizations.

According to the Department of Education, up to 7% of students in middle school or high school have experienced some type of sexual abuse by coaches, teachers or other school staff.

Unfortunately, some students who have experienced sexual abuse by a coach or teacher are too afraid to speak out. Parents, friends and loved ones should be on the lookout for potential signs of sexual abuse:

  • Does the coach inappropriately touch the student?
  • Does the coach spend one-on-one time with the student?
  • Does the coach spend time in the locker room or in the shower area?
  • Does the coach offer to drive students home?
  • Does the coach make inappropriate comments or tell sexually explicit jokes or stories to the student or the team?

It is important to remember that none of these scenarios prove that sexual abuse is occurring. But it is important not to ignore potential warning signs.

If something seems wrong – if the student experiences behavioral changes, sudden aggression, sleep disorders or fear of going to school or practice, for example – concerned loved ones should take action.

What can parents and friends do to help?

Talk to the student to find out what is happening. Report any inappropriate behavior by a coach or teacher, and take steps to ensure that the student is safe.

Students should be safe in school and while participating in sports and extra-curricular activities. Unfortunately, millions of children across the U.S. have experienced varying degrees of sexual abuse by those in a position of authority.

Those students have legal options. If your loved one has been targeted, it is advisable to speak to an attorney who focuses on representing sexual abuse survivors.