Soccer is the most popular sport in the world and the fastest growing youth sport in America. Kids as young as three are being signed up for youth leagues because parents know you need to have been playing for years to make it on to a competitive traveling club, or even your high school’s team.
This fanatic culture has empowered child predators who are always looking for ways to get themselves closer to children, preferably in a position of trust. Private soccer clubs, the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), rec leagues, and our schools are not taking this threat seriously. We know abuse is happening because Attorney Paul Mones has represented and is currently representing clients who were sexually abused while playing on a youth soccer team. In 2015, Paul filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles on behalf of 4 boys who were abused by their coach Renoir Valenti who was convicted and sent to state prison.
Youth Soccer and Sexual Abuse
When a team is winning, nobody cares about a coach’s techniques. He or she may yell and scream at the kids, or make them run laps until they puke, and nobody will say a word. This lack of oversight is dangerous.
Child predators will often seek to join a successful coaching staff or present themselves as an expert coach knowing full well that nobody will pay too much attention to their behavior so long as the team is winning.
Players, who are told by their parents to listen to their coaches, or who know they will get more playing time if they are in the coach’s good graces are then in the perfect position to be groomed for sexual abuse.
Support Staff & Doctors Are Abusers Too
As the USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal taught us, young athletes are at risk of being abused by any person who can legitimize their behavior by claiming they are part of the team’s success.
Youth players are desperate to get in the game, and willing to do whatever it takes to get more playing time. This leads to risky behavior and allows support staff to easily influence them. Abusers know they can take advantage of this situation to get themselves alone with young players who will believe and do whatever they are told.
Trainers, doctors, and other members of the soccer team’s support staff must be carefully vetted and closely supervised. Their interaction with young soccer players must be monitored no matter how trustworthy they seem.
Failure To Report Sexual Abuse in Youth Soccer
Oftentimes coaches, support staff, or parents can tell something bad has happened, but the kids are too freaked out or scared to tell them exactly what occurred. This is a huge red flag. Coaches, staffers, and parents must push for the truth in these situations. Not doing so makes them just as guilty as the abusers.
If sexual abuse is discovered, it should be immediately reported to the authorities. Unfortunately, youth soccer organizations often try to address abuse in-house. Covering up problems instead of properly reporting them makes these organizations just as guilty as the abusers they harbored.
You Are Not Alone
One of the most heart-breaking things we hear from our clients is that they thought they were alone. They thought they were the only ones who went through what they did.
They tried to push memories of abuse to the back of their mind. They spent years thinking they did something wrong instead of blaming the predator that hurt them, or the organization that failed them.
Until they saw a story on the news about others who were abused or talking to a loved one or therapist made them realize what they experienced was not right, they had tried to normalize or rationalize the abuse they endured.
It is time to break the silence that surrounds sexual abuse in youth soccer. Sexual abuse is not an isolated problem that only occurs rarely; it is widespread, and it has been going on for years.
We are here to say that nobody is alone. We are here to stand with you. We are here to spread the word that victims are not to blame. Abusers and the organizations that shelter them are the villains in this story.
New Statute of Limitations Law Opens a Window of Opportunity
Scientific research has revealed that victims of childhood sexual abuse often need years or decades to come to terms with what happened to them, and our laws are finally recognizing this. On October 13, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 218 into law. This new law gives past victims of sexual abuse more time to pursue justice, even if their claims were previously time-barred.
California victim-survivors now whose cases were previously time-barred are being given a three-year period in which they may file suit. From January 1, 2020 until December 31, 2022, any youth soccer player who was abused has the opportunity to file a lawsuit and see justice served. No matter when the abuse occurred, even if it was decades ago, those responsible deserve to be held accountable.
Victims may be eligible for compensation, but they will also get the satisfaction of knowing they are part of a movement that will hold enabling institutions accountable and ensure that kids today will not suffer a similar fate.
Experience You Can Trust
Attorney Paul Mones urges anyone who was sexually abused while participating in a youth soccer league or team to contact his office to find out their legal options to obtain the justice they deserve.