Sports-Related Sexual Abuse
In the United States, sexual abuse and assault are widespread problems. Though women are commonly thought of as the typical victims, anyone can suffer abuse—including males, females, or non-binary individuals. Abuse can happen to all ages and ethnicities. Statistics show that:
1 in 5 women and 1 in 14 men have experienced rape or attempted rape
43.6% of women and 24.8% of men are victims of some type of sexual violence
New sexual assaults occur approximately every 68 seconds
39% of sexually violent acts are committed by an acquaintance of the victim
The greatest risk of sexual violence is for those younger than 35
Approximately 7% of athletes are victims of sexual assault
There are many cases of sports-related sexual abuse by coaches and other individuals who have regular contact with athletes.
One of the most notorious cases involved highly prominent gymnastics physician, Larry Nassar, which resulted in the sexual abuse of more than 350 girls. In the wake of his arrest, he was found to have over 37,000 videos and images of child pornography, and he was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison.
Multiple investigations revealed that many institutions, such as MSU, USAG and USOPC, failed to act. As a result of their inaction, Larry Nassar was never stopped and the abuse persisted for decades.
It is very important to realize when sexual assault occurs and to report it so that victims can get their lives back on track. Contact Melissa Hague, an experienced sexual assault lawyer, for a free, confidential consultation if you have suffered sexual abuse.
Understanding Sexual Abuse
The term ‘sexual abuse’ refers to any type of sexual conduct that is unwanted and against the consent of the recipient. There can be physical contact involved, as well as non-physical behaviors that are sexual in nature. Common examples of sexual abuse or assault include:
Coercing someone into having sex
Insulting someone in sexual ways or calling them sexual names
Cyberstalking or online harrassment of a sexual nature
Exposing someone to unwanted, sexually explicit images
Groping or touching inappropriately
Any unwanted sexual behavior can be considered abuse.
Common Effects of Sexual Abuse
The effects of sexual abuse can be devastating for the victim. A person who has been raped or attempted to be raped can suffer severe mental and physical injuries, especially if they have been affected by forceful or violent penetrative sexual abuse. Additionally, the victim might be exposed to a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or an unwanted pregnancy.
If you have been abused sexually, you should go to a hospital to have a sexual assault nurse exam (SANE) performed, along with a rape kit. Following a SANE, a medical nurse may recommend certain medications to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. The medications may occasionally cause side effects requiring additional medical attention.
When a person is sexually assaulted, emotional trauma is often the most severe injury. In the absence of treatment or resolution, the victim may suffer serious lifelong effects. Emotional effects of abuse can include:
Trauma survivors often develop depression. Depressive episodes interrupt a person’s regular thought patterns and cause long periods of sadness and hopelessness.
A person suffering from depression may not have the motivation to perform regular daily activities, such as spending time with friends and family or taking care of chores.
A flashback to a past trauma can feel as if it is happening right now. Flashbacks are common in survivors of sexual violence, which can interrupt a person’s daily routine. Therapy may reduce the frequency of flashbacks.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
A person who has survived a sexual assault can develop an anxiety disorder called PTSD. PTSD sufferers may feel on edge or have trouble sleeping. Additionally, they may intentionally avoid scenarios associated with the traumatic event.
It is not uncommon for people who have been sexually abused to be unusually concerned about their bodies. This may manifest itself in overeating, undereating, or excessive exercise. It is possible for victims to develop full-blown cases of anorexia, binge-eating disorder, or bulimia.
How Can a Sexual Assault Lawyer Help Me?
Those who have been sexually assaulted have been through a highly traumatic event. A compassionate, competent, and skilled sexual assault attorney can help them make sense of what has happened and determine their next steps.
Personal injury lawyers may assist in the formation of cases related to sexual abuse, but sexual assault attorneys are trained to stand up for victims and to gather all the necessary evidence. In addition, they can provide the victim with supportive resources for overcoming any emotional trauma or physical effects caused by the assault.
An individual who has experienced sexual assault may decide to pursue their case in a criminal or civil context.
Criminal sexual assault cases carry a high burden of proof and are prosecuted by the local district attorney’s office. It is the district attorney’s responsibility to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the perpetrator committed the alleged crime. If the district attorney succeeds, the perpetrator is then sentenced to serve time in prison.
A sexual assault lawyer may also pursue sexual assault cases in civil court. Victims who file a civil claim can obtain compensation for damages, including:
Assault-related medical treatment
Loss of employment or income
Additional damages resulting from the abuse
Victims of sports-related sexual abuse may be able to sue a third party with the help of an attorney who specializes in sexual assault.
For instance, if a high school or college school sports coach sexually abused a student, the victim may be able to sue the institution where the coach works. Similarly, if a physician commits abuse, the victim may sue the medical practice if they were partly responsible or enabled the abuse.
How Long Do I Have To Pursue a Sexual Assault Case?
It’s always best to report sexual assaults immediately. However, victims hesitate for many reasons.
Some may dismiss it as something that will never happen again while others fear reprisals from their attackers. But you risk forgetting details by waiting to report the incident. Also, the longer you wait, the fewer legal options you might have.
Every state has a statute of limitations. You will be left with limited options for recovering incurred expenses if you do not pursue your case within the prescribed period of time.
An assault survivor cannot place a value on what they have lost. However, the civil justice system can assist victims in recovering some financial costs and compensation for their emotional suffering.
Tell Us Your Story
The healing journey of a person who has been victimized by sexual assault begins with them reclaiming their voice. This can be accomplished by pursuing your claim in a court of law. Taking these steps will allow you to recover financial damages and get compensated for the emotional suffering you endured.
You are in good hands with Melissa Hague, an experienced sexual assault attorney. Through the legal process, she will listen to your story and support your healing. Contact Melissa today to schedule a private and confidential consultation.
Gymnastics Sexual Abuse
In the past few years, gymnastics sexual abuse has begun to gain more visibility. As a result of the horrific actions of USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who pled guilty in 2018 to seven counts of criminal sexual abuse involving minors, the world became aware of gymnastics sexual abuse.
There was a high level of publicity surrounding this case because of the high profile status of the victims, many of whom were Olympic athletes. However, gymnastics sexual abuse is by no means an isolated incident. The issue of sexual abuse in gymnastics and other youth sports is a pervasive one that is just starting to be recognized.
The effects of gymnastics sexual abuse last a lifetime. A sexual assault attorney can assist survivors of sexual abuse in fighting for justice. Melissa Hague is a woman warrior passionate about restoring justice for victims of sexual assault. Melanie fights tirelessly to ensure those who enabled the sexual abuse are held accountable through the civil process.
Tell Melissa about your experience. You can schedule a free, confidential consultation with Melissa Hague to discuss taking action if you have been the victim of sexual abuse by a gymnastics coach, assistant, or doctor.
Causes and Effects of Gymnastics Sexual Abuse
Gymnastics sexual abuse is caused by a number of factors.
Abuse can be especially complex when a perpetrator holds power over a victim. Coaches, assistants, or sports doctors may groom, threaten, or coerce a victim. The grooming process often involves buying gifts for the athlete or giving them special treatment over other students. It is not uncommon for the person in power to convince the student they are in love with him or her. Gymnasts who report abuse might face removal from the team or other consequences.
Almost all victims of gymnastics sexual abuse are underage. This contributes to the heinous nature of this type of sexual assault. This is also one reason why gymnastics sexual abuse often goes undetected and unreported.
Often, young victims of sexual abuse do not realize that they are being abused. Children might fear telling their parents about the abuse when they realize what is happening. In order to keep gymnasts quiet, coaches, assistants, and sports doctors use threats or promises to encourage their silence.
During the course of a gymnastics season, gymnasts spend a lot of time with their coaches and teammates. The use of locker rooms, limited supervision before and after training, and travel for competitions create environments conducive to sexual abuse.
Gymnastics Sexual Abuse Victims and Perpetrators
Any gymnast can become a victim of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse does not only occur at the Olympic level. It often starts at lower-level competitive gymnastics. Teams should have certain protocols in place to help prevent sexual abuse. Some of these protocols may require at least two adults present at all private lessons or a medical assistant present during medical treatment and sports massages. When these protocols are not enforced it perpetuates an environment that protects abusers. Sexual abuse can create long-lasting issues that can impact nearly every aspect of a survivor’s life.
Perpetrators of gymnastics sexual abuse can be anyone with access to a gymnast. Possible perpetrators include:
- Doctors or medical staff
- Physical therapists
- Parents of teammates
- Other gymnasts
Gymnastics sexual abuse can take a lifelong toll on a survivor’s mental, emotional, and physical health. A large part of getting justice involves gaining compensation so that a victim has ample resources and time to focus on healing the trauma. Adequate counseling and medical care have a significant impact on the long-term well-being of a sexual abuse victim.
Fighting for justice requires the aid of a dedicated sexual assault attorney. Melissa Hague is a passionate advocate for sexual abuse survivors. She believes that the civil process is an essential and empowering part of holding a perpetrator accountable after sexual abuse.
Regain your voice. Contact sexual assault lawyer Melissa Hague to schedule a free, confidential consultation today.
Gymnastics Sexual Abuse Prevention
Both parents and gymnastics organizations can take steps to reduce the incidence of gymnastics sexual abuse. Gymnasts should be supervised adequately by organizations with strict hiring practices and firm policies.
In addition, protocols could prohibit private electronic communication between athletes and adults via social media, text messaging, or email; all communication should take place through channels that include athletes’ parents or guardians.
Travel programs should always be supervised by parents or guardians at all times, and adults should never be left alone with athletes, whether they are traveling or arriving at their destination. Hotels or other accommodations should provide a common area for guests to socialize so that no interactions occur in private rooms.
Taking Action After Gymnastics Sexual Abuse
As soon as gymnastics sexual abuse is discovered, it should be reported to the police.
For children of all ages, it is appropriate to seek immediate advice from a professional therapist so they can determine what is in their best interests.
Gymnastics abuse can cause profound trauma. Victims are left with lifelong emotional and psychological scars and may need years of counseling to recover from the abuse.
When police are notified of abuse, a criminal case will be filed against the perpetrator. Nevertheless, it does not provide compensation for the abuse victims suffered. This requires a civil case. A sexual assault lawyer Melissa Hague believes that justice is not fully served until both civil and criminal courts are involved in the case.
Melissa Hague Will Fight for You
Melissa Hague is a sexual assault lawyer renowned for her fearlessness and tireless advocacy. She knows that survivors of gymnastics sexual abuse face an especially challenging emotional journey.
Taking legal action can be very stressful due to the close relationship between a gymnast and the perpetrator. Parents who have trusted an authority figure with their child’s safety may find it difficult to deal with the betrayal committed by that authority figure.
Melissa Hague and her team are well aware of the complex dynamics that arise from gymnastics sexual abuse cases. Melissa provides empathy, understanding, and support to those who have been impacted by sexual assault.
Sexual abuse can be a deeply traumatic experience for gymnasts. One of the first steps in helping a survivor begin the healing process is gaining justice through the legal system.
You can count on us to fight for you. Schedule a free, confidential consultation with Melissa to discuss what to do after a gymnastics sexual assault.
Frequently Asked Questions
If when you are contacted by the other party’s insurance company they will likely attempt to have your conversation recorded. You are not required to give a recorded statement, and we strongly urge our clients not to give this statement. In fact, we encourage you not to speak to the other party’s insurance company about the facts of the crash or about any injuries that may have resulted. Your conversation should be limited to information about damage to your car and its location. Tell the insurance company to contact your insurance company or your lawyer.
A car crash is never a pleasant experience. Afterward, everyone’s emotions are usually running high. It is best to remain calm and not argue with the other driver. Someone may be injured, and you should make sure everyone involved is ok, and that there aren’t any injuries. Even if the accident doesn’t seem bad, and no one appears to be hurt, you should call 911. You need the police to be present to keep everyone safe and to get the vehicles moved. Also, it is good to have the police present for insurance purposes to prove that the accident happened. Be sure exchange information with the other driver including the other driver’s name, address, insurance company name and policy number. Make notes of the make and model of the vehicle. Be sure not to make any statements as to the accident being your fault.
There are varying time deadlines, and in some instances other special “notice” or filing deadlines, that apply to injury claims. There is no law, however, that requires an injury victim to report an accident-related injury to an attorney. With the understanding that the deadlines apply whether or not an attorney is involved, the better question might be whether it makes sense to call for legal help with your injury claim now, as opposed to later? We believe the answer to this question is always or almost always “yes”. The person or company that “accidentally” hurts you usually reports what happened to a liability insurance company right away. That company then immediately begins to investigate what happened, to investigate the claims being made, and to investigate the people making the claims. The insurer does this to protect its interests and that of its insured, not the interests of the victim. Often there is an issue over who is legally responsible for what happened. When this occurs, the insurance company may deny your claim entirely or attempt to negotiate a settlement for less than full value. In addition, there is almost always disagreement over the severity of the injuries and damages being claimed, with a resulting argument over their monetary value. Insurance claim adjusters do this for a living. As personal injury attorneys, we do this for a living as well, with the critical difference that we do it for you, not the insurance company. The sooner we get to work, the sooner we are able to protect you, and the more likely it is that we’ll be able to help you obtain the full and fair compensation you deserve. We charge no extra for getting to work now as opposed to later; in fact, we charge no fee until your case is successfully resolved. If the other guy’s insurance company is already working to protect him, shouldn’t someone be working to protect you right now as well? (Call us, right now, toll-free, at 888-777-5635.)
Initially, we need you to provide us with as much information about the incident that led to your injuries as possible. How did the incident happen? Where did it happen? Who was involved? Were there any witnesses? Who did you speak with at the scene of the incident? What was said during the conversation? If you have an Exchange of Information Form, an Incident Report, or any other documents relating to the incident, we would like to have copies. Similarly, we ask that you provide us with any photographs that you may have, including photographs of your car (if you were involved in a car crash) and photographs of your injuries, such as cuts, bruises, and scars. Finally, we need information regarding the kinds of injuries that you sustained, where you have sought treatment, information related to any lost wages, and information as to how the incident has impacted you physically and emotionally.
Personal injury attorneys do not get paid like other attorneys do. While some attorneys charge by the hour or make you pay in advance, personal injury attorneys get paid a percentage of your settlement or jury verdict. This is called a “contingency fee.” Importantly, you do not have to pay us in advance to represent you and we do not get paid for our work until your case is resolved. Working on a contingency basis provides a real benefit to clients because the client’s interests and the law firm’s interests align. We are both focused on maximizing your recovery.
You should always feel free to contact your attorney with any questions you have about your case. It is important that you keep the Firm up to date with your contact information so that your attorney can get in touch with you regarding case developments. In addition to your attorney, you will also have a paralegal working on your case. Your paralegal will be working to collect all of your treatment information. You should keep your paralegal updated on where you are seeking medical care and if you are referred to any new providers. Once you are released from treatment, your attorney will keep you up to speed on negotiations with the insurance company and will provide you with guidance about your cases value. If your case is one that goes to litigation, your attorney will guide you through the litigation process.
There is not a simple yes or no answer to this question. At The Joel Bieber Firm, we take a great deal of time, effort and care in obtaining the best settlement offer we can from the insurance company. If we are able to reach an agreement with the insurance company, you will not have to go to court. However, if the insurance company doesn’t pay a fair value for your case, The Joel Bieber Firm is ready and willing to file a lawsuit and fight for your case in court.
Do not sign any document for the insurance company without consulting a lawyer. The insurance company may ask you to sign a Medical Release or a Final Release of your claims in return for some payment. Medical Release: Your medical records are protected under a federal law known as HIPAA. While the insurance company may have a right to see some records in order to evaluate your claim, the release of that information should be limited and controlled. The medical release created by the insurance company may allow the insurance company to speak directly to your doctors, to receive all of your records for an unlimited time and to use those records for any purpose even purposes not related to your claim. Final Release: Once you sign a release, you cannot seek reimbursement for any additional treatment or other losses regardless of whether you made a mistake in signing too soon. Even a release given in exchange for a property damage settlement could release your claims for bodily injuries and lost wages.
That is a very good question. It can also be the topic for an entire seminar because it can get quite complicated, and every situation is different, which is all the more reason to talk to a lawyer. But the short answer for the typical situation is this—ready?—in most cases, you better hope you’ve got good insurance coverage on yourself. Why, you ask? Because in the typical case, you will be making a claim on your own automobile insurance policy’s uninsured motorist coverage. The number of uninsured motorists on the road in Virginia is surprising. There are even more people driving around who are underinsured. When the driver at fault is uninsured, or is underinsured, your most likely recourse in the typical situation is to pursue an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim on your own auto policy. The amount of uninsured coverage on your policy is a cap, or the limit, on what money you can collect. An easier way of saying it is that the amount of coverage you have on your policy will probably be the limit on what you get if the other guy doesn’t have insurance or is underinsured. That is why it is so important to make sure you have good uninsured motorist coverage in your own policy. If there is one thing you take away from reading this, it is to go back, look at your policy, and make sure you have enough uninsured coverage on your own policy so that all damages will be covered. Here’s why. First, understand what uninsured coverage is. It is like insurance you take out on yourself to protect against a costly collision. Uninsured motorist coverage gives you money to pay for damages whether the at-fault driver is uninsured or is less insured than you are. It is insurance to make sure there is enough money to go around in case you are in a wreck with someone who has no insurance, or as we often see, has only the low minimum coverage required in Virginia. In Virginia, the minimum amount of liability coverage that a person can buy is a 25/50/20 policy. The numbers represent different types of coverage in thousands of dollars. The first two numbers (the “25,000/50,000”) are the amounts that the insurance company will pay for bodily injury claims arising from an accident that you are legally liable for. The first number is the per-person amount and the second number is the per-accident amount. This is the lowest amount of insurance you can get. It also is usually the total amount of uninsured motorist coverage (UM) and underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) available. If you have low liability coverage, you also have low uninsured coverage to cover yourself if someone hits you. Let’s take a look at a typical example. If you have a minimum policy and someone hits you is uninsured, or also has the minimum coverage, that amount is all you can get—$25,000 per person, and $50,000 for everyone in the wreck. You would make a claim and your recovery would be capped at $25,000 no matter what the total actual damages are. As we often see, $25,000 doesn’t get you very far these days in a moderate-to-significant crash. Taking into consideration all the medical expenses, lost wages, possible future expenses and lost earnings, never mind the injury itself, pain and suffering, inconvenience, and a possible impairment, damages can easily exceed $25,000, but, still, that’s all that you would get. If you have low coverage, you can easily come up short. And, unfortunately, that happens. On the other hand, if you have higher uninsured coverage—let’s say, $50,000/$100,00 or $100,000/$300,000 or even more—then you would have twice or four or more times the money available to pay for your actual damages, even though the other driver has no insurance or only minimum coverage. With higher uninsured coverage, there is more money available to cover all the damages and a better chance that all your damages will be covered. Like we said earlier, there are a lot of people out there driving around with no insurance and with only the minimum amount of liability coverage who are causing some bad accidents. There may be other ways to get around an uninsured driver hitting you depending on the circumstances, but the usual case will have you use your own uninsured coverage. So, you should take a look at your financial and insurance situation, talk to your insurance agent, and decide whether or not you need more coverage. The time to decide on the right amount of uninsured motorist coverage is obviously before there is a wreck, injuries, and bills. Now that you know that what coverage you have may be, and probably will be, the total amount you get after a wreck, make sure it’s enough– enough to at least buy you peace of mind.
Seeking medical treatment is important for two reasons. The first is your health. Whether you have been in a motor vehicle crash, fell on someone else’s property, been bitten by a dog, or been injured in some other fashion, the goal is to return to the state of health that you were in prior to the incident. That is job one. Secondarily, the cost of your medical treatment is the responsibility of the party that injured you and their insurance company and it is an important factor for determining how much pain and suffering you have experienced from the incident.
Insurance companies will sometimes offer to or even send you a check as an enticement to settle your case quickly. It is always to their advantage to get you to accept a quick payment before you really know what is wrong with you. Be aware that if you accept, endorse, deposit, or cash the check it can be found to be an acceptance of the settlement offer and your case will be over. (Do not cash or deposit the check and then try to return it later, as that may also be found to be an acceptance of the settlement offer.) This can be a very costly mistake if you are still treating for injuries from a crash, still out of work, or if you may need additional medical treatment in the future. Once the check is accepted, you will likely never be able to get the additional compensation for your injuries, medical treatment, and losses that you deserve. If you are offered a check or receive one in the mail, do not accept it unless you are 100% sure that you want to forever end your case for the amount of the check at that moment. If you are not 100% sure, you should refuse or return the check and seek legal advice about your case.