Since New York’s Child Victims Act went into effect in August, over 1,000 new lawsuits have been filed by victims of sexual abuse. Some of these lawsuits were previously barred by the statue of limitations. That limitation period has been extended, and previously-barred victims have one year to refile their claims.
Of those suits filed under the act, at least 60 involve sports coaches accused of sexually predatory behavior. And, according to the New York Times, dozens more are currently being drafted. The sport with the greatest number of complaints, says the Times, is basketball.
Although some of the suits may go nowhere and others may settle without admission of wrongdoing, the sheer number of filings paints a devastating picture of youth sports.
“You’re isolated from family and friends,” one plaintiff said of playing competitive youth sports. A former volleyball player, she is suing a coach she says abused her in 1981 at a Syracuse University tournament. “You’re even more boxed in to the designs of the coach, and you’re blindly following whatever the coach says you have to do.”
Breach of trust by an authority figure is a common feature of abuse
A common issue in sexual abuse cases is that the person who perpetrates the abuse is someone in a position of authority and trust. This might be a priest, a Scout leader, a coach or anyone who works closely with children and youth.
The Times detailed the allegations of several lawsuits that have been brought during the Child Victims Act’s lookback period. In many cases, the coach allegedly offered special access of privileges to a particular student, often one with a single parent. Seeming to offer a chance at a better life through sports, the coaches instead robbed the victims of their innocence.
Unfortunately, many people who are sexually abused find they can’t deal with the legal aspects of the issue for many years. The more serious the abuse, the more likely it is that the victim will delay taking legal steps necessary to get justice.
The Child Victims Act attempts to address that problem by lengthening the statute of limitations generally and giving previous victims a grace period in which to file claims.