Student-athletes rely on the experience and knowledge of trainers to help themselves be in peak physical condition. However, this trust can sometimes lead to exploitation. One in four college athletes have been sexually abused by an authority figure, often a coach, according to a survey covering colleges and universities.
Although not all trainers have malicious intent, they are in a position of influence that can serve as a gateway to abuse. To safeguard yourself and fellow athletes, it’s crucial to identify inappropriate behavior and when to seek help.
Recognizing signs of inappropriate physical contact
Trainers often play a supportive and motivational role for student-athletes, helping them navigate the highs and lows of competitive sports. A reliable trainer can help student-athletes persevere even when they feel like giving up. Over time, athletes learn to trust and lean on their trainers.
Student-athletes depend on trainers to evaluate their fitness level, obtain personalized health regimens and programs and receive coaching on proper exercise forms. Thus, some physical contact is normal and even necessary to prevent injuries.
However, any physical contact that is not essential for recovery or feels uncomfortable may be inappropriate. Numerous reports continue to pop up detailing coaches or trainers who engage in improper touching under the guise of providing a massage. Be wary of touch that lingers, brushes against private areas or violates your personal boundaries. If something feels off, don’t ignore your instincts.
Acknowledging abuse at a young age is not easy
Sexual abuse can invoke feelings of guilt or shame. Survivors often blame themselves or fear that no one will understand their situation.
When someone with an important position is involved, it can be difficult to admit that abuse is happening, let alone do anything about it. As a young athlete, you might struggle to admit that what you’ve experienced is abuse. You might also choose not to report what happened out of fear.
Sexual abuse is not just physical. It can also affect people mentally and emotionally as it involves manipulation and exploitation. Know that whatever feelings you have, they are valid. Acknowledging what happened and talking to a professional may help you process those emotions and heal.
How speaking up can help you
If you are experiencing abuse or suspect abuse, know that you are not alone. Consider confiding in someone you trust. Reporting the abuse can potentially stop it from happening, preventing others from experiencing the same.
Life as a student-athlete should teach you self-discipline, confidence, and perseverance, not instill fear and trauma. Acknowledging sexual abuse and knowing to seek help are critical measures that can allow you to protect yourself and your peers. Strive to advocate for your well-being and safeguard your personal boundaries from being crossed.