The Tricky Path of Prevention When You Are a Survivor

Child s*xual abuse prevention is difficult under the best of circumstances. But if you are a survivor of childhood abuse, that path may – at times – seem too painful to navigate.

In her Beyond Surviving podcast, Rachel Grant – a child sexual abuse recovery coach – and I dig in to practical ways to minimize the risk of abuse, how to recognize the warning signs of abuse, and how to respond to a disclosure, discovery, or suspicion of abuse. And, how this plays out with someone who has experienced childhood trauma themselves.

Listen to the full episode here:

“How do I communicate with this high school girl?”

I recently got a text from a friend of mine. (We’ll call him Sebastian.)

I practically did a jig when I read Sebastian’s text. He and his wife are long-time friends…almost like family…so they know what I do for a living and we have had many conversations over the years. When I called him to talk about his question, he said, “See…I have learned some things from you through the years!”


Conversations matter! You hear me repeatedly ask (beg?) people to talk about child sexual abuse prevention. Now you can see why.

  1. It creates community and reduces a sense of isolation that can come with youth protection (all the cool kids are doing it!);
  2. It shows anyone who has ill-intent with your children that this is not something your family sweeps under the carpet; and
  3. We can actually learn from each other!

Back to the story…

“How do I communicate with this high school girl?” I honestly felt the angst in his question.

Let’s keep it simple…include her mother. “Of course!” exclaimed Sebastian. “Of course!”

Text the girl and ask for her mom’s cell number so you can create a group text. Then take a screenshot of said text so you can show (if ever needed) the content of your only 1:1 conversation with her.

Then start the group text explaining that because ‘girl’ is a minor, you’d like to include her mother in all conversations.  That way the girl, her mom and you are all on the same page moving forward.

Simple, right?

Not so much. You have no idea how much pushback I get on this policy/practice from organizations and coaches. Nobody ever has a good reason not to do this, other than…it’s not how they have always done it.

There shouldn’t be any out-of-program communication between coaches and minor athletes, and if there is program-related communication, make sure it isn’t 1:1. Include the whole team or your assistant coach or a parent.


If you are uncomfortable asking this question out-of-the blue, I have a few suggestions for you; feel free to pick whichever one most resonates with you.

  1. Please don’t be. Your most important job is protecting your child; not making a sports organization administrator comfortable.
  2. So? For some people, these conversations never become ‘comfortable’ so we have to figure out how to step through our discomfort to do what we need to do for our child.
  3. The best organizations have such a policy and are happy to answer this question.

If they don’t have a policy on coach and minor athlete communication? Then they probably don’t have any athlete protection policies & procedures, which is an entirely separate blog. This is the opportunity to let them know this is important to you and it’s something you will look for next season or next enrollment.

And, parents…whether the organization has this policy or not, please make it a family rule that if an adult ever reaches out to your child, they are expected to loop in mom or dad. They don’t have to make a big deal about it; they just add you to the communication. This should be the rule if your child is 6 or 16 years old.

When you’re ready, let me know when I can help your family, organization or community protect our youth with Child Sexual Abuse Prevention & Response Training or Youth Protection Policies & Procedures.

Do We Have The Courage To Learn From Larry Nassar? Lesson #2.

I’m not sure how a week turned into a month!

I promised that, each week, I was going to break down ONE LESSON LEARNED from the Larry Nassar tragedy.  That was on February 8th. I’m certain each of you have been checking your in-boxes in great anticipation since February 15th, so thank you for your patience and grace. 😉


At the end of January 2022, Child USA’s Game Over Commission to Protect Youth Athletes released a 128-page “Case-Study of Systemic Abuse in Sports Perpetrated by Larry Nassar.” The Commission’s stated purpose was to answer the singular question:

How could every institution and person who should have protected girls from Larry Nassar fail so miserably?

They believed that the failings that allowed Larry Nassar to sexually abuse upwards of 500 girls over two decades under the guise of medical treatment for athletic injuries, were universal enough that their reveal could help protect our next generations of youth athletes.

As one of the largest sexual abuse cases in sports history, it’s easy to slip into, “that wouldn’t happen here.”  But you see… it can. Because when you break it all the way down, this is what we have:

A child athlete was sexually abused by a staff person who this child, their family, and their gym owners and staff trusted.


The report tells us that there were reports of abuse and complaints about Larry Nassar’s behavior dating back to even before he graduated from medical school. But they were minimized, overlooked and even actively buried because of his rising star as a trainer for elite gymnasts, many of whom were Olympics-bound.

The lesson? 

Child protection must be consistent and constant. No one gets a pass. No one.

We must move away from the idea of protecting our children against a certain person or a certain type of person and move toward child protection practices becoming a consistent, constant and normal part of our lives. This way, when a child discloses abuse or an adult is uncomfortable with someone’s behavior, we don’t have to make a personal judgement call whether this person could ever do anything like that.


While many people who received complaints on Larry Nassar were 100% intent on protecting his reputation, and by extension, their own reputation, there was a theme in the report of well-intentioned people who did not know what to do with the information they were given.

Which leads us to Lesson #2: 

Organizations have a legal and moral responsibility to make sure their staff and volunteers know and understand their state’s mandatory child abuse reporting law.

AND, parents have a legal and moral responsibility to learn and understand their state’s mandatory child abuse reporting law.

It can be confusing and messy.

First of all, each state’s law is different regarding who is legally required to report abuse, where the abuse should be reported, and how long a person has to make this report. As if that wasn’t confusing enough…

Some amateur youth sports organizations are mandated by the federal  Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017  (known as the Safe Sport Act).

Who falls under the Safe Sport federal mandates? 

Any amateur youth sports organization that participates in interstate or international competition, and anyone the organization authorizes to interact with minors.

If your amateur youth sports organization is mandated by the Safe Sport Act and not in compliance?

That could mean criminal charges to the organization’s leadership, including the board of directors. Possible.  Criminal.  Charges.

Does your sports organization participate in interstate or international competition?  If yes, do you know if it is in compliance with the federal Safe Sport Act? The answer needs to be nothing other than YES if you are a coach, administrator, board member, volunteer or parent.

I’ve written several articles on the Safe Sport Act, so feel free to check here for more specific information.

If your youth sports organization does not participate in interstate or international competition, does every coach, volunteer, administrator, board member and parent know your state’s reporting law?  If not, you can find it here.

Look…I know you think child sexual abuse prevention and response is important or you would be doing anything other than reading my blog post. My pointed (and possibly uncomfortable) question to you is…Are you going to make this a priority?

If it’s a priority, you are going to set something aside to make sure your staff, volunteers and parents know your reporting legal mandates, policies and procedures. Making child sexual abuse prevention a priority means it’s more important than getting a bid to repave the parking lot or booking the hotel rooms for the upcoming tournament or…

These things may be more pressing…deadlines are looming and people are checking on the progress.  But, one day…can we agree that protecting our children from sexual abuse is, in fact, more important than…well, anything else?     

When you’re ready, please let me know how I can help you, your family, your organization or your community take the necessary steps to protect our children with child sexual abuse prevention & response training or Youth Protection Policies & Procedures.

I have been disingenuous with you. And it’s time for me to come clean.

When I read the news headlines about the sexual abuse and harassment that members of our National Women’s Soccer League have been enduring, I felt the all-too-familiar twist in the pit of my stomach. I sighed and thought to myself, “Again.” Then I wondered, “How bad does it have to get before things change? How many more people have to get hurt?”

I felt defeated.

Though this isn’t ‘child sexual abuse’ because these women are over 18 years old, it is representative of a much deeper issue. These experiences didn’t happen in a vacuum and they didn’t happen overnight.

I later read a post on Glennon Doyle’s Instagram page about those who knew about the abuse and did nothing to stop it.  Same song; different verse.

But, I paused to read some of the 1,272 comments. I read disclosure after disclosure…women sharing the child sexual abuse they suffered when they played sports as children and teens. Most of these women were girls competing at an elite and/or collegiate level and too many disclosed their abuse when it happened and were told to keep it to themselves because of the harm it would do to their prestigious coach’s reputation or because the family needed that coach’s connections for the best collegiate program, the scholarship or placement on the National Team. Comment after comment after comment…

This rage started to boil within me, and it filled me with tears. My heart hurt.

I have worked with and spoken with many youth sports organizations and coaches who are doing this right; who are making sacrifices for the absolute betterment of our children.  Bless them. Truly.

But my thoughts couldn’t go there…my thoughts kept returning to the youth sports organizations who didn’t want to do this work of child sexual abuse prevention because……

…if we do this training, won’t parents think we have a problem?

…we’re right in the middle of the season, can we talk in a few months?

…the season just ended and we’re already starting to prepare for next season, can we talk in a few months?

…we already ask so much of our volunteer coaches, I just don’t think we could ask them to do one more thing.

Would you like me to go one?  Because, I can.

Too many youth sports organizations close their door to this hard work. Too many coaches talk about how there is nothing more important than the safety of their athletes, but can’t seem to get a training on their personal calendar.

For crying out loud!


That right there should be enough of a reason. But just in case it’s not, there are plenty of other reasons.

I could talk about how it’s highly likely your organization won’t be able to get insurance if you don’t take some proactive measures to mitigate risk. I could talk about the PR nightmare that results from an allegation of abuse in an organization that could have/should have done so much more. I could talk about how that PR nightmare will likely close down your organization and dry up your funding.

I knew that this was, what’s called, a teachable moment. So I sat down to make a quick video for each day of this week that had one important and practical thing we can each do to prevent child sexual abuse in youth sports. Something easy for people to digest.

Child sexual abuse prevention is a difficult topic; these conversations can be triggering and scary. I truly believe in meeting people where they are and helping them move forward, from wherever their starting point is. This is so important to me that it’s one of my company’s Guiding Principles.

So that’s what I tried to do. I didn’t want to scare people off; I wanted to educate and empower. You know…move the needle. And I posted possibly the worst video I’ve ever done in my life.

Because I was trying to act like this:

When I really felt like this:

What else do people need to know to make a change? To stop talking and start doing? To step through the discomfort because…well…their discomfort in discussing this is a walk in the park compared to the ‘discomfort’ of one of our children being sexually abused.

What else can I possibly say?

In my last blog, I promised we would talk next about why kids don’t disclose sexual abuse.

Approximately 75% of children who are sexually abused don’t ever disclose their abuse or they disclose at least five years after the abuse occurred.

To begin to understand why so many children don’t disclose their abuse, you need to know one very uncomfortable truth: 90% of children who are sexually abused, are abused by someone they know, love or trust.

I’m sorry, but I’m about to make you even more uncomfortable, so please stay with me. That statistic means kids aren’t likely to be sexually abused by some creepy stranger; they are most likely to be sexually abused by a…

Family member. Like a parent. Or stepparent. Grandparent. Older sibling. Or an admired adult. Like a coach. Or youth group leader. Or Priest. Minister. Rabbi. Or a doctor. Or a teacher. Or family friend.

I think you see where we’re going here.

We can break down the reasons why children don’t disclose sexual abuse into two simple words:

Fear and Shame

As a child, some people are your whole world. They are the foundation of your very being. And you will do almost anything to protect them.  

If it’s hard for us, as adults, to get our heads around the fact that the people most likely to sexually abuse a child are those the child knows, loves and trusts, think about how hard it is for a child to grasp that concept in a real way.

“If I tell, they will get in trouble…my parents will get divorced…they will lose their job…”

This inner dialogue is often followed by, “No one will believe me.”  “This is my fault; I must have done something to make them do this to me.” “Everyone will think I wanted this since I kept going back.” “I can’t tell my parents…they will be so upset.”

Now consider that most perpetrators threaten their victims with shaming declarations that no one will believe them or threatening to hurt someone in their family, including a pet, if they tell. Or they outright tell the child how much trouble they could be in and ask the child to ‘keep this our secret.’

Like I said…Fear and Shame.

But sometimes, kids just don’t have the right words. Depending on their level of sexual education, a child may not know that what is happening is ‘abuse.’ To them it may be ‘icky’ or ‘creepy’ or ‘uncomfortable.’

Often times, after I have this conversation with someone they say, “Yea, I get it.” Followed by a thoughtful pause, and then, “But…”  I get it. As an adult, it can be difficult to understand the psychology of a child who is enduring trauma. So, my answer to the lingering, “But…” is: Yes, it is helpful if we understand why a child doesn’t disclose abuse, but at the end of the day, we don’t need to understand.  We just need to believe them.