Sports can often be a positive environment for youth, where they are able to develop physically, emotionally, and socially. Unfortunately, sports can also be an environment for sexual misconduct, including abuse. 

Studies indicate that as many as 1 in 8 athletes will be sexually abused within their sport. Further, 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused, and 20% of those are abused before the age of eight.

In response to the increasing reports of sexual abuse within youth sports organizations, the SafeSport Authorization Act of 2017 was passed into federal law in February 2018. The SafeSport Authorization Act seeks to help protect youth athletes from sexual misconduct and abuse in some of the following ways:

• Expands existing mandated youth abuse reporting laws (including that reports must be filed within 24 hours);
• Requires completion of abuse awareness and prevention training;
• Limits one-on-one interaction by policy

The US Lacrosse SafeSport Program is developing resources to support local organizations in preventing child sexual abuse and maintaining compliance with the SafeSport Authorization Act. Some of the steps being taken include:

1. Free national background screening for all US Lacrosse coach members.
We can choose to protect our athletes by surrounding them with adults who are concerned about their welfare. 60% of children who are sexually abused are abused by someone their family trusts. Local lacrosse organizations and parents should encourage coaching staff members to complete a national background screening. These screenings are an excellent prevention tool, serving as a strong deterrent to many individuals who have bad intentions.

Coaches can access and complete their free national background screening through their US Lacrosse Membership Portal.

2. Mandatory reporting.
US Lacrosse maintains a zero-tolerance policy for any form of sexual misconduct and abuse. In compliance with federal law, US Lacrosse requires that any suspected or witnessed child abuse be reported to the appropriate authorities within 24 hours. Failure to report can result in civil or criminal charges. To learn more about mandatory reporting or for assistance with reporting in your state, visit the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children website or call 1-800-843-5678. 

3. Sexual abuse awareness and prevention education and training.
US Lacrosse is currently working with the U.S. Center for SafeSport to provide coaches with online training courses for sexual abuse awareness and prevention, including education on mandated reporting. This training will comply with the federal requirements noted above. Trainings will help coaches to better understand the scope and effect of abuse in sports, mandatory reporting, sexual misconduct, and abuse prevention.

4. Updating model policies and guidelines for appropriate behavior.
The USL SafeSport Program is updating its model policies that support the federal guidelines for limiting one-to-one interaction and address appropriate behavior, including electronic communication and physical contact. 

Additional information about these initiatives can be accessed at uslacrosse.org/SafeSport.  

Abby Morris serves as manager of the US Lacrosse SafeSport Program.
 

SafeSport Program

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