The issue of sexual abuse in California sports has received increased attention in recent years after several high-profile cases of sexual abuse occurred in other areas of the country. These incidents and their effects on victims simply cannot be overstated. The physical, emotional, and psychological damage often lasts well after the initial abuse. Because the issue is so serious, its important for victims to understand how they happen and what they can do to hold organizations and abusers accountable.
Work With Experienced California Sexual Abuse Lawyers
When you or someone you know is being sexually abused by a coach, trainer, or someone else involved in sports, it’s not only a betrayal of the trust and confidence you have in them as a leader, but it’s also a violation of your legal rights.
At Maison Law, we recognize the immense emotional and psychological impact that sexual abuse can have on survivors, and we are dedicated to offering customized and empathetic legal support to every one of our clients. Our team of experienced California sexual abuse lawyers will listen to your story, provide compassionate support, and fight tirelessly on your behalf. Take the first step towards justice and healing by contacting us for a free, no-obligation consultation.
How Are Sports Organized in California?
As the most populous and one of the physically largest states in the country, California has an extensive network of sports organizations and entities that oversee the regulation and structure of various sports. These sports are organized at different levels, ranging from local youth leagues to professional sports teams.
Generally speaking, there are four levels of sport in California: youth, high school, collegiate, and professional.
At the youth level, many sports leagues are organized by:
- Local municipalities
- Community centers
Many of these youth leagues are also affiliated with national organizations, such as Little League Baseball or Pop Warner Football.
In high school, sports teams are typically organized by:
- School districts, which are governed by state athletic associations, such as the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF).
At the collegiate level, sports teams are organized by universities and colleges, many of which belong to the:
- National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
Professional sports teams in California are organized by private organizations, such as the:
- National Football League (NFL)
- National Basketball Association (NBA)
- Major League Baseball (MLB)
- National Hockey League (NHL)
As it relates to sexual abuse, each level of the organization has both the moral and legal responsibility to take measures to prevent and address incidents of sexual abuse to players. Unfortunately, many of these organizations not only fail to protect their players from sexual abuse, they also fail to address the culture and environment that leads to the abuse.
How Does The Culture Around Sports in California Lead to Sexual Abuse?
The culture that surrounds sports in California is one that fosters an environment in which sexual abuse not only occurs, but often goes unpunished. Especially in collegiate and professional ranks, sports are big business, bringing in huge revenues. Protecting these revenues is usually enough motivation for these organizations to cover up sexual abuse.
Then there is the dynamic between athletes, their teammates, coaches, and others involved with the team. Often, there is a normalization of abuse in many sports. A strong emphasis on mental and physical toughness can discourage athletes from reporting abuse or seeking help for fear of being perceived as weak or failing to meet expectations. Further, it can create a culture of silence and shame around sexual abuse, which can allow abuse to go unchecked and perpetrators to continue their abusive behavior.
Types of Sexual Abuse
While the environment around sports is certainly a contributing factor to sexual abuse, another issue is the widespread nature of sexual abuse itself. Simply, it can involve a wide variety of different types of mistreatment. Some of the most common types of sexual abuse in sports includes:
- Physical sexual abuse – Physical sexual abuse involves any type of unwanted or non-consensual physical sexual contact, such as groping, fondling, or sexual assault.
- Verbal sexual abuse – Forms of verbal sexual abuse includes any type of unwanted or non-consensual sexual comments, jokes, or innuendos, or any other verbal conduct that is sexual in nature and creates a hostile or intimidating environment for the athlete.
- Emotional sexual abuse – Emotional sexual abuse involves any type of unwanted or non-consensual emotional manipulation or grooming behavior, such as using power or authority to coerce an athlete into sexual behavior or threatening negative consequences for refusing sexual advances.
- Non-contact sexual abuse – Sexual abuse can also be “non-contact”, and can include any type of unwanted or non-consensual sexual behavior that does not involve physical contact, such as exposure to pornography, voyeurism, or sexual harassment.
- Sexual exploitation – Sexual exploitation involves the abuse of power or authority by a coach, trainer, or other authority figure to exploit an athlete for sexual purposes. This may include soliciting sexual favors in exchange for athletic opportunities or threatening to withhold opportunities for refusing sexual advances.
Understanding the causes and types of sexual abuse is a good starting point for addressing the issue. However, a more practical approach involves holding perpetrators and organizations accountable under California law.
Who is Liable For Sexual Abuse in Sports?
In California, civil liability for sexual abuse in sports can arise in several ways. Sports organizations, coaches, and other authority figures may be held liable for sexual abuse that occurs on their watch if they:
- Failed to take reasonable steps to prevent it from happening
- Fostered an environment of abuse within the organization
In legal terms, these forms of negligence gave rise to the “injury” of sexual abuse and the harm it causes. As such, any of the following can potentially be held liable for sexual abuse of an athlete:
- Sports organizations
- Coaches and staff
- Third parties, like schools or clubs that employed the abuser
Civil liability is a a key part of holding an organization or abuser accountable for their sexual abuse. In order to fully pursue this option, consider speaking with our team of experienced California sexual abuse lawyers. We can help you understand your rights and legal options.
Filing a Sexual Abuse Case in California
In California, as in other states, sexual abuse carries both criminal and civil punishments. When you’re being sexually abused by a coach, teammate, trainer, or anyone else involved in a sports organization, there is a process you can follow to make sure they are held accountable. This process includes:
- Reporting the sexual abuse – Victims should always report sexual abuse, even though at times it can be quite difficult to come forward. Confding in someone you trust is another way of bringing the abuse to the attention of the organization or leadership, which will then require them to take action. The abuse should also be reported to law enforcement, who can investigate and render criminal charges.
- Filing a civil lawsuit – Even if criminal charges are handed down to the abuser, you can simultaneously file a civil lawsuit against them and the organization responsible for the abuse. California law gives victims of sexual abuse until they are 40 years old or five years after discovering the effects of the abuse to file a civil lawsuit. Working with our team can ensure that your claim is filed properly and that it remains strong throughout the legal process.
The purpose of any civil lawsuit is to recover damages from the responsible party. Damages is simply a legal term for the compensation that’s available for victims. In a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse, victims can potentially recover:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship
- Punitive damages, which are meant to act as a deterrent
It’s crucial to keep in mind that every sexual abuse case is different, and the amount of compensation you can ultimately receive can depends on several factors, like the severity and duration of the abuse and how it has affected your life. Working with our team of experienced California sexual abuse lawyers can ensure you get fair compensation for your abuse.
California Sports Sexual Abuse Victims Can Rely on Maison Law
Being sexually abused can leave you feeling targeted, isolated, and alone. At Maison Law, we want you to know that the abuse you suffered is not your fault. We’ll be with you every step of the way as you work to get your life back to normal and get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation. You can rely on our team.