Welcome to Safe to Compete:
Protecting children and providing safe spaces for them to learn, play and grow is central to the mission of every youth-serving organization.
Safe to Compete is a program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children®(NCMEC) which provides access to resources to help youth-sports organizations and the families of child athletes protect those children from sexual abuse.
Child sexual abuse refers to any sexual activity between a child and an adult or a significantly older child. This includes both contact and non-contact actions, including:
Children are most often abused by someone they know, such as family friends, babysitters, coaches, childcare providers and neighbors. However, not all perpetrators are adults. Children may also commit sexual abuse against other children.
Adults should also be aware of verbal cues that children may give to indicate abuse. Some of these cues are subtle, and on their own may not mean that a child is being abused. However, taken in conjunction with the above signs and each child’s unique circumstances, these statements may indicate abuse.
Child sexual abuse victims are usually emotionally linked with their abusers, and these abusers are often authority figures. Coaches often have a good deal of authority over athletes, and this authority may not be questioned by the athletes or their parents. These factors may contribute to making the sports community “a context which is conducive to sexual abuse."
Disclosing sexual abuse can be a traumatic and stressful process for child victims and their families. Children may have been threatened with harm if they disclose, or they may fear that they will not be believed.
Educating parents and child athletes about sexual abuse is one of the most important preventive measures that youth-sports organizations can implement. Surveys indicate that parents not only support having their children taught about sexual abuse, but are also interested in learning how they can discuss the issue with their children. Youth-sports organizations can take the lead by providing their athletes’ parents with information and resources, but there are also actions that parents can take to help protect their children. Parents should know how to recognize the signs of sexual abuse, how to identify attempts at disclosure and the steps required to report suspected abuse.
Remember that it may be very difficult for a child to disclose his/her abuse. He/she may feel embarrassment, shame or even fear if threatened not to tell. The most important thing is to believe and support the child.
If you suspect that your child or a child in your care has been sexually abused, you should immediately contact your local law enforcement agency.
Many communities also have local children’s advocacy centers (CACs) that offer coordinated support and services to victims of child abuse (including sexual abuse). To find a CAC in your area, visit the website of the National Children’s Advocacy Center, www.nationalcac.org.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® is the leading private, nonprofit organization helping to find missing children, reduce child sexual exploitation and prevent future victimization. Created in 1984, the organization provides information and resources to children, including child victims, parents, law enforcement and other professionals with an interest in child safety.