South Carolina Sex Abuse Attorneys Handling Claims Against Coaches
Representing child, student, and adult athletes who were sexually assaulted by their sports coaches
Sexual assault, abuse, and harassment is common in sports at all levels. At McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC, we are fighting to eradicate it for good. Our South Carolina sexual assault attorneys help athletes and their families seek closure and justice when coaching staff, schools, NCAA, youth sports organizations, and other athletic institutions turn a blind eye to abuse and the suffering it causes. Contact us today to learn how we can help you fight for the better future you deserve.
Sexual abuse of athletes happens at every level of sports
Over the last decade, there have been hundreds of sexual abuse and assault charges levied against coaches at every level of sports. Jerry Sandusky was a college coach. Larry Nassar worked with Olympians. Ernest Lorch ran NYC’s Riverside Church youth basketball program. Normandie Burgos was convicted of 60 counts of molestation against teen tennis players. In short, the risk of sexual abuse by coaches and coaching staff extends to:
- Professional athletes
- College athletes
- High school athletes
- Middle school athletes
- Youth sports leagues
Why athletes are susceptible to sexual abuse, assault, and harassment
Coaches, like teachers and parents, wield tremendous influence on their athletes. Not only do they spend hours with them, but once an athlete reaches high school, those coaches may tell them what to wear, what to eat, and how to conduct themselves off the field. Even at junior and pee-wee levels, coaches are authority figures, and parents instruct their children to trust in, and listen to, whatever they say.
This makes athletes susceptible to grooming, “a preparatory process in which a perpetrator gradually gains a person’s or organization’s trust with the intent to be sexually abusive. The victim is usually a child, teen, or vulnerable adult.” Sexual predators at every level purposely form a deep bond with these athletes, and then take advantage of that bond by shaming them into silence, so they do not report to their parents, school, or organization. Add this to the belief that reporting the abuse could lead to the detriment – or disbanding – of the team, and athletes may be more likely to say nothing.
South Carolina athletes may not know the laws which protect them
There are many state and federal laws in place to prosecute sexual abusers, and to protect victims and survivors of that abuse. These laws may apply to all people (such as 42 U.S. Code § 1983, for civil rights violations) or just to students (such as mandated reporter laws). There are two specific federal laws that apply to athletes:
- Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act: AKA, the “Safe Sport Act,” was signed into law in 2018. It requires that youth organizations report any allegations of sexual assault or abuse to law enforcement within 24 hours. If a civil suit sides with the plaintiff, the offender must pay a minimum of $150,000 in fines to the abuse victim.
- Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972: Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex. This includes sexual abuse, sexual harassment or sexual assault. If a school takes federal funding, it is subject to the regulations of Title IX.
These laws are a good start, but they are not nearly enough. For example, private schools that do not take federal funding are not subject to Title IX claims, and new regulations have made it even more difficult for victims to report and seek justice. The Safe Sport Act grants immunity to the United States Olympic Committee for defamation claims. In September, the NCAA argued that it had no legal duty to protect student athletes from sexual assault and abuse.
What about the South Carolina Tort Claims Act?
The South Carolina Tort Claims Act (SCTCA) is a legal remedy available to students under state laws, but there are limitations of the Act. For example, damages for victims are capped, and the burden of proof is higher for the victims. If the victim sues the perpetrator directly, the school may be immune from liability. As such, sexual assault claims against coaches may be more effective in federal court than in South Carolina’s courts, using only the SCTCA. The proper course, is likely, using any federal or state law available to bring justice to a child or student athlete. This usually means that the case will be litigated in federal court.
Who is liable when youth athletes are sexually abused by coaches in South Carolina?
Depending on the circumstances, one or more parties may be held liable for sexual abuse by a coach or member of the coaching staff. Along with the perpetrator him or herself, survivors may also be able to name the school, the school district, team physicians, or other staff members who failed to report allegations of abuse. This is also true when the coach is not a staff member at the school, but if the abuse occurs on school grounds. If the school is religious, then the institution may be held liable. In some cases, hotels/motels may be liable if the abuse occurred off-campus.
How long does an athlete have to file a sexual abuse claim against a coach or liable party?
Generally speaking, people have three years to file a civil claim for sexual assault or abuse. However, there are exceptions to the rule. Victims who are minors when the abuse occurs have up to six years from the date they turn 21 to file a claim against the perpetrator. There are limitations, however, on different causes of action and it is better to find a lawyer as soon as possible after discovering the abuse.
What types of damages can SC athletes claim for sexual assault or abuse?
If you or your child was sexually abused or assaulted by a sports coach in South Carolina, you can make a claim for:
- Medical expenses, including expenses related to trauma care, counseling and therapy
- Lost wages, including lost wages of parents who had to care for their injured children, and for loss of endorsements and other related income
- Loss of the enjoyment of life (hedonic damages)
- Life care expenses (projected costs of future care related to your physical, mental or emotional injury)
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
If you were sexually assaulted by your coach in South Carolina, call today
McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC, will always fight for survivors of sexual assault and abuse. If you or your child has been abused by a sport coach, our South Carolina sexual assault lawyers will fight to hold the wrongdoers accountable. We provide a safe and secure environment for you to discuss your needs and treat you with the respect and dignity you deserve. If you would feel more comfortable speaking with a female attorney, we will arrange it for you. Please call 803-327-7800 or complete our contact form. Your initial consultation is free.