for Parents

As a parent, you want to keep your kids safe on the field and off. Learn the basics about abuse and what to look for, so you can focus on what matters: Watching your child play, grow, and learn.

All kinds—and we focus our education, training, and policy work in these areas:

•  Sexual
•  Physical
•  Emotional (includes bullying, harassment, and hazing)

For young athletes in organizations recognized in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movement, we provide a safe way to report abuse, and we can help bring abusers to justice.

Possibly. Too often, parents think of abusers as strangers. But abuse is most often perpetrated by people we know and trust, such as family members, family friends, neighbors, or your children’s teachers, coaches, teammates, or schoolmates.

Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse – a form of child abuse that involves sexual misconduct. The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of a child to engage in, or assist another person to engage in, sexually explicit conduct or sexual exploitation of children, including child pornography.

Types of child abuse include:

•  Contact behaviors – sexual touching or intercourse.

•  Non-contact behaviors – taking pictures of a minor’s breasts, buttocks, or genitals.

•  Example: An assistant coach offers to give a minor athlete a massage and then rubs her breasts.

Sexual or gender-related harassment – any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or other unwanted conduct of a sexual nature (whether verbal, non-verbal, graphic, physical, or otherwise) related to gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression when employment or participation in sport is determined, at least in part, by if the person accepts or submits to the conduct; or the conduct is severe, persistent, or pervasive enough to limit the opportunity to participate in sport.
Example:  A coach offers an athlete a starting position in return for oral sex.

Sexual exploitation – observing, allowing observation of, recording, or photographing private sexual activity or intimate parts without consent of all parties involved, or disseminating images of the same. Also includes engaging in prostitution, trafficking, or intentionally exposing another to a sexually transmitted disease without that person’s knowledge.
Example: A teammate records sexual activity without their partner’s knowledge and then posts the video online.

Intentional exposure of private areas – when an adult intentionally exposes (or makes someone else expose) their breasts, buttocks, groin, or genitals to a minor, or to an adult when there is a power imbalance.
Example: A coach changes in the locker room with the team and purposefully exposes his genitals while talking to the athletes.

Inappropriate physical contact – when an adult who has power over someone intentionally touches, slaps, or otherwise contacts their buttocks or genitals; excessively touches or hugs them; or kisses them.
Example: A volunteer repeatedly hugs an athlete, even after the athlete asks the volunteer to stop.

Physical Abuse

•  Intentional contact or non-contact behavior that causes, or reasonably threatens to cause, physical harm to another person.

  • •  Contact behaviors – punching, slapping, knowingly allowing an injured athlete to compete without proper medical clearance, damaging an athlete’s adaptive equipment.
  • •  Non-contact behaviors – isolating someone in a confined space, withholding water or nutrition, providing illegal drugs or non-prescribed medications; preventing someone from seeking medical care.

•  Does not include professionally accepted coaching methods or contact reasonably accepted as part of the sport.

•  Example:  An athlete breaks another athlete’s adaptive equipment.

Emotional Abuse

•  Behaviors and actions that cause emotional harm to another person including:

  • •  Verbal acts – screaming at, berating, insulting, body-shaming, or ridiculing someone.
  • •  Physical acts – punching walls or throwing objects at someone
  • •  Acts that deny attention or support – isolating someone for extended periods of time or arbitrarily excluding an athlete from practice.
  • •  Stalking – a course of conduct where one person repeatedly follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about another person and causes the person fear or emotional distress.
  • •  Other conduct described as emotional abuse or misconduct under federal or state law.

•  Emotional misconduct is different from tough coaching. Tough coaches combine high expectations with positive motivation, respect, and care. Coaches who engage in emotional misconduct use fear, intimidation, and punishment.

•  Example:  A coach makes fun of an athlete’s mental health disability by calling the athlete “crazy” and asking if they are “off their meds” in front of the team

Grooming is where someone engages in a series of behaviors with the goal of engaging in sexual misconduct. In situations of child sexual abuse, the abuser targets a minor and works to earn the trust of the minor, the minor’s family, and the community. It can also be manipulative behavior the abuser uses to prolong the abuse and make the minor fear reporting or be less likely to be believed if they do report. Grooming behaviors include:

•  Attempts to befriend the minor as a peer or “cool adult”

•  Giving the minor gifts and special attention

•  Talking to the minor about sexual experiences or desires

•  Being helpful and non-threatening to the minor’s family

•  Volunteering for situations that involve spending time alone with the minor

•  Using organizational status to have one-on-one interactions with the minor

For age-specific recommendations and advice, download our Parent Toolkit.

•  Do make open communication with the child a priority.

•  Do remain calm if a child confides abuse. Your initial response to their disclosure has a significant impact on what happens next. Make sure to document emotional abuse, so if a pattern develops you can report all the incidents.

•  Do use broad, open-ended questions tolisten to their concerns.

•  Do tell the child you’re glad they shared the information with you, that their safety is your first priority, and encourage them to come to you whenever a boundary has been crossed.

•  Do reach out to report abuse and to local support providers for assistance.

•  Do seek medical attention if necessary.

•  Don’t doubt your child or ignore their feelings.

•  Don’t model inappropriate behavior by yelling at a coach, another child, or another parent.

•  Don’t assume your child just wants to quit the sport.

•  Don’t question whether your child “deserved” such treatment