Sexual Abuse in Youth Baseball
A statement of USA Baseball's Medical & Safety Advisory Committee
In 1999, this Committee reminded those in youth baseball that "child abuse" can appear in various forms, including verbally demeaning the player beyond customary "chewing" and physically striking with force to get the player's attention. These remain important considerations among those who choose to serve our youth and their love of this sport. The League needs to have in place both the policies against such abuse and the procedures within those policies to give due process to handling complaints that may arise. NOTE: Whether "League" means the national program, a regional area, or the local program must be determined by the given youth baseball organization.
This is especially important but much more complex for the concern of child sexual abuse within youth baseball. The perpetrator of sexual abuse works with much more subtlety than the coach who openly demeans and/or strikes to get attention to his/her thoughts. The League's policies and due process procedures must match that potential threat and made known to the parents as well as the coaches, staff, and officials who guide the program.
There is need both to minimize the opportunity for such abuse and to minimize opportunity for slandering the innocent. Emotions run understandably high when child sexual abuse is the topic, and only the existing presence and understanding of League policies and procedures can channel these emotions constructively. If sexual abuse is in fact experienced, the League and its officials will be tested by conscience as well by the courts-"Did we make every reasonable attempt to have prevented this from happening?
Policies & Procedures
The basic necessity is to have official League policy that defines child sexual abuse as a concern and requires every person with access to the youth in the program to have undergone a recent background check, and that (1) any known perpetrator is to be denied involvement in the program, and (2) any alleged perpetrator under formal investigation is also to be so denied while under investigation. Other considerations are important, but such policies must be on the books so that actions can extend with authority. In doing so, it must be understood that recidivism among pedophiles even after "therapy" is very high, and for that reason the League must adopt the principle that once a perpetrator always a potential perpetrator.
Procedures for implementing policy must follow, and they must be reasonably equal to the task. Again, the perpetrating pedophile will function in secrecy, but "every reasonable effort" remains the necessity for satisfying one's conscience as well as the courts.
The "Point Person"
By whatever title is utilized, perhaps the most efficient way for the League to establish procedures for sexual abuse prevention is to formally (by policy) identify one person as its "point person" to represent the League in this regard on any such matters until there is reason to bring facts to the League's officials for action. The best way to understand the options in that community and State for implementing League policy (both in prevention and any necessity for investigative action) is for the Point Person to establish a contact within the local sheriff's office by identifying his/her capacity for the League, and thereby gain the practical "best way" to do such things in that area. For example:
Background Checks. The means, costs, and time for running background checks required for enabling the volunteer or paid staff to coach or umpire in the League varies widely from area to area. Free Internet Sexual Offender Registry checks that are available in most states may be significantly incomplete and don't reveal other violent felonies that are not related to sex crimes. Vendors of background checks offer for a fee more comprehensive and up to date criminal background checks, and the prices vary depending on the level of service offered. Some such as Intellicorp provide training on how to use their website and allow the "point person" to input the volunteer data and receive the results. Others such as Southeast Security Specialists handle all aspects of data input and interpretation of results. The Sheriff's office in your community may have additional experience and suggestions.
Timing. From the practical aspects of starting a season on time with those adult applicants for leadership roles, "every reasonable effort" must be made to set the deadline for applications of those new to the League so that the results of the background check are back before the season begins if that timeframe is reasonable. It follows that League policy must be clear as to the frequency of a background check for those who continue with the program next season.
At The Field. It must be always practiced that relatively few perpetrating pedophiles have convictions that allow society to know who they are (or where they now reside). "Every reasonable effort" therefore must be made to minimize their opportunity to access a player after the game/practice is over. Always having at least two known adults present with a player(s) when traveling is one basic principle. Keeping players' names off their shirts is another. And, remaining actively observant of the presence of an adult on the sidelines after the session is over is another. For these and other reasons, providing a formal education program on child molestation/abuse for parents and volunteers would be advantageous.
Allegations. Whether the allegation of sexual abuse or behavior suspicious of such within the program comes from a player, a parent, or League official, it should be given immediately and confidentially to the Point Person and ONLY the Point Person for action. The Point Person can then go to his/her contact at the Sheriff's Office and put the allegation into investigation by those qualified to do so. The Point Person can then inform the League's principals in an "appropriate manner" (determined by the Sheriff's contact person) that investigation is underway. Once a formal investigation has begun, and whether the investigation is made public or not, the League's policies should provide for tactful automatic suspension while legal action is underway. Public accusations by League-associated persons without legal facts and process, however, can be Slander or Libel, potentially serious abuse to that person that can be attributed to the League.