Have You Experienced Sexual Assault Or Abuse?
More than 1,200 sexual assault survivors helped since 2023.
More than 1,200 sexual assault survivors helped since 2023.

Coach Sexual Assault

Coaches often develop close relationships with the athletes they manage. Healthy and supportive relationships are beneficial to team members. However, some coaches have ulterior motives and use their authority to sexually assault athletes. Coach sexual assault can have disastrous consequences on an athlete’s mental and physical health. Recognize the signs of sexual assault and take action. Helping Survivors can connect you with qualified attorneys who can explore your legal options.
Have you experienced sexual assault or abuse?
We can help answer your questions and connect you with an attorney if you may have a case.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Survivor Advocate

No one wants to think of their sports coach as a sexual predator. However, some coaches use their authority as a basis for forming unwanted sexual relationships with athletes, from young children to adults. Coach sexual assault is a serious issue that affects the mental and physical health of victims who experience it. Paying attention to warning signs, like behavioral changes, can alert parents, friends, and other team members to potential assault.

Helping Survivors is devoted to helping victims of sexual assault. Contact us if you’d like to speak with an experienced attorney to evaluate your case.

What Is Coach Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault involves unwanted touching, groping, or fondling. It also includes attempted rape and rape. Victims of sexual assault don’t give their consent for the sexual actions of the perpetrator. In fact, many victims are underage and cannot legally give consent. Instead, the perpetrator uses force or coercion to achieve their goals.

Sexual assault can arise in sports, particularly between athletes and their coaches. Coaches often develop close ties with their team members, and sometimes, they exploit the relationship. They may use intimidation or persuasion to convince athletes to perform sexual acts.

Other players, staff members, and parents will likely feel the impact of coach sexual assault. Coaches may favor their targets, putting them in starring positions, even if stronger players are available. Conversely, some coaches take the opposite approach and downplay their target’s sporting abilities. Other players will likely notice the shifts and question the reasoning. Parents note changes in their children’s personalities. Children may become more withdrawn and exhibit signs of depression or unease.

Where Does Coach Sexual Assault Occur?

Coach sexual assault can arise in different locations, including locker rooms, the playing field, and celebratory parties. It’s more likely to occur when athletes and coaches are alone together. However, coaches may use public events to further their relationship and control a player. For instance, they may use an award ceremony to embarrass their target. Shaming the player can make them work harder to gain approval from the coach, on or off the field.

Cases of sexual assault arise at all sporting levels, from youth to professional leagues. Children, teenagers, college students, and elite Olympic athletes can all be victims of sports sexual assault.

Youth Sports and Sexual Assault

There are dozens of allegations and cases involving coach sexual abuse among youth sports teams. A few recent examples include:

  • A Franklin, Tennessee, cheerleading coach was convicted of ten counts of aggravated rape, statutory rape, and sexual battery. The 27-year-old coach was a well-regarded cheer instructor who engaged in a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old.
  • A Los Angeles, California, gymnastics coach was charged with sexually assaulting children under age 14.
  • A well-regarded Franklin, Tennessee, youth soccer coach was charged with raping ten children between ages 9 and 17. He scouted playgrounds looking for kids to join his soccer team and invited them to his home after befriending them.
  • A former school basketball coach in Louisville, Kentucky, was charged with sexually abusing a 17-year-old girl during private lessons.
  • A Texas Little League baseball coach sexually assaulted his team members between ages 9 and 11. He transported team members out of state and sexually abused them.
  • A 20-year-old Carbondale, Colorado, assistant soccer coach was charged with multiple counts of sexual assault on a child.

College Sports and Sexual Assault

Sexual assault occurs at the collegiate sports level, too. One recent case involves an assistant women’s basketball coach at Vanderbilt University and a student-athlete. The student played on the school’s women’s basketball team and allegedly endured years of abuse from her female assistant coach. It started when the student experienced several hardships, including the death of a family member. The coach allegedly used the situation to begin grooming her.

The coach’s actions soon escalated into stalking, and the two began to spend lots of time together. The coach invited the student to use her locker room and started making sexual advances. Eventually, the student left to attend law school in another state, but the coach continued to use text messages, phone calls, and visits to control her.

The student filed a lawsuit against Vanderbilt University in April 2023, which is ongoing.

Additionally, hazing in college sports is an issue that is becoming increasingly public. For example the Northwestern football and New Mexico State basketball teams are leading examples. In many cases like this, the coaches of the team do not do enough to prevent this type of assault, which often has a sexual nature to it.

What Are the Warning Signs of Coach Sexual Assault?

Victims of sexual assault may be scared to talk about their experiences. They may feel ashamed of the situation or believe that no one can help them. However, those close to them may notice changes in their behavior or appearance that might indicate sexual abuse.

A few behavioral changes common among victims include the following:

  • Unfounded anger or aggression
  • Deciding to quit the team or exhibiting reluctance to participate
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Declining grades
  • Disinterest in talking
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Running away
  • Increased sexual behavior or sudden interest in sex

Physical signs of sexual abuse aren’t always present. However, parents, colleagues, and friends should question unexplained injuries, such as:

  • Scratches
  • Inflammation
  • Bruises or lesions
  • STDs
  • Pregnancy

It’s important to consider the behavior of coaches, too. Be wary of coaches who seem overly familiar with the athlete, or try to spend lots of time alone with them. Some coaches may use gifts or offer special treatment to athletes as part of their grooming strategy.

The Jerry Sandusky Case

The Jerry Sandusky claim is one of the most infamous coach sexual assault cases. Jerry Sandusky is a former Penn State University defensive coordinator. He held the role for over 20 years before retiring. Aside from his football activities, he founded a group foster home called The Second Mile.

The charges against Jerry Sandusky arose from The Second Mile. Between 1994 and 2008, he sexually assaulted ten boys in the program. One of the assaults occurred in a Penn State University locker room in 2002. A graduate assistant witnessed the abuse and notified the head coach of the school’s football team. The coach reported the issue to Penn State’s athletic director and SVP of Finance and Business, but they failed to act against Sandusky.

Sandusky continued to abuse boys from The Second Mile until 2008 when police opened an investigation into his activities. They found evidence of abuse that led to several trials, and he was sentenced to prison for a minimum of 30 years.

Penn State University officials faced their own legal battles for failing to investigate or take action on the graduate assistant’s report. They pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child. Victims of Sandusky sued the university, which settled the claims for nearly $60 million.

What Can You Do if a Coach Sexually Assaults You?

Sometimes, victims of sexual assault don’t realize the abuse is happening, especially if a coach uses grooming tactics to gain their trust. Victims may feel they’re to blame for the incident and decide not to report it. Others may feel ashamed or worry about the repercussions of a report, especially if the coach is well-liked in the community.

If you think a coach is sexually assaulting you, knowing you’re not responsible for their actions is important. Sexual assault is a severe crime that can have legal consequences, including jail time. Other parties may be accountable, too, especially if they knew of the crime and didn’t report or investigate it.

It’s essential to document any evidence you have of sexual assault. Keep any texts or written notes from the coach, and note the dates abuse occurs. If a coach rapes or attempts to rape you, visit a hospital and tell medical providers what happened. They’ll examine you for signs of rape and preserve DNA evidence they find.

Parents or adults who believe a child has been sexually assaulted should report the case to the police and speak to a lawyer. The police will investigate the claim and take appropriate action.

Adults should speak with an attorney and tell them what happened. Even if you’re unsure whether to pursue a legal claim, experienced lawyers can advise you of the available legal options.

If you’re unsure what your next steps should be, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE. Counselors are available to answer your questions and lend their support. They can also help you connect with law enforcement or other resources in your area.

Want To Speak With A Lawyer?

Understand your legal rights and options as a survivor of sexual assault and abuse.