The Sexual Exploitation of Young Athletes in Competitive Cheerleading
If you or a loved one experienced abuse at the hands of the competitive cheerleading industry, there is a path forward, and you may be entitled to compensation. Talk to an AVA legal expert today and start healing today.
The Sexual Exploitation of Young Athletes in Competitive Cheerleading
AVA Law group is investigating allegations of rampant sexual assault and misconduct across the competitive cheerleading industry.
Cheerleading has been an American pastime for decades, going hand and hand with high school and college sports. However, the 1990s saw a shift in the sport with the rise of competitive cheerleading.
Today, cheerleaders don't only stand on the sidelines of male-dominated sports. Over four million Americans, from young children to college-age adults, cheerlead competitively.
Cheerleading is now a business thanks to the boom in popularity in the 90s. Companies such as the U.S. All Star Federation and Varsity would come onto the scene, eventually growing into powerful institutions working to establish cheerleading as a wholesome American staple. A sport where children and young adults can live out their childhood dreams, learn teamwork, and compete on a national stage. However, behind the scenes, the reality of life for these young athletes is more disturbing. Recent lawsuits have revealed competitive cheerleading's corruption, sexual exploitation, drug use, and inappropriate relationships between coaches and young athletes, all at the expense of America's children.
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If you or a loved one experienced abuse at the hands of the competitive cheerleading industry, there is a path forward, and you may be entitled to compensation. Talk to an AVA legal expert today and take your first step toward healing.
In September 2022, attorneys representing victims filed the first of many lawsuits alleging abuse from individual coaches, gyms, and top cheer organizations such as Varsity.
The lawsuits accuse coaches of sending and soliciting nude photos to minors, supplying underaged victims with drugs and alcohol, and forcing victims to engage in sexual acts. At least fifteen victims have filed lawsuits so far, according to reporting by NPR, with hundreds more expected to come forward. 1
While the lawsuits originated in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee, abuse in cheerleading goes beyond a few individual coaches and gyms in the south. Abuse in the cheer industry is widespread. For one, the interconnectedness of the industry complicates figuring out who to hold accountable for the continued abuse. NPR's Victoria Hansen points out that Varsity-affiliated gyms pay dues to the company. Yet, the U.S. All Star Federation, which charges dues to families using Varsity gyms, handles abuse claims. However, Varsity's involvement with the Federation is no secret. So it's not surprising that the Federation has neglected to take many abuse allegations seriously because of Varsity's involvement. 1
While figuring out the inner workings of the cheerleading industry is complex, we know that Varsity and the U.S. All Star Federation ignored abuse allegations and corruption for years at the expense of the safety of the young athletes and families who paid for their services.
Young Athletes Experience Decades of Abuse in Sports
The rampant abuse in youth and college athletics is more widespread than most people want to believe.
The 2016 arrest of Larry Nasser, a former USA Gymnastics medical coordinator and Michigan State University employee, upended the world of gymnastics, exposing a dark underworld of corruption and sexual abuse young athletes have dealt with for decades. Nasser later pleaded guilty to charges of child pornography and sexual assault of at least 265 girls and young women.
Cheerleading and gymnastics are not the only sports industries to deal with a sexual abuse scandals and allegations of misconduct. USA Today reported on a study that found that "More than 1 in 4 current or former student athletes surveyed reported being sexually assaulted or harassed by someone in a position of power on campus, compared with 1 in 10 of those in the general population." 2
In 2021, victims accused the late Robert Anderson, a prominent doctor who worked with college football players, of sexual assault and misconduct. According to the victims, the University of Michigan ignored reports of abuse and enabled Anderson for decades.
A Culture of Fear and Isolation
Many victims of sexual abuse describe a culture of fear and isolation in the competitive cheerleading industry.
Coaches reportedly intimated young athletes into silence with threats of demotions or retaliation against family members. For young people who trained their whole life to compete in an industry where leaders protected their image over the safety of their athletes, reporting the abuse could come at the highest cost to them.
A culture of fear and manipulation isn't unique to cheerleading. A 2020 study published by U.S. Center for SafeSport found that 48% of student-athletes knew of inappropriate relationships between coaches and other peers. However, most study participants indicated feeling unsafe reporting the abuse. Furthermore, almost 68% of the study's participants who self-reported abuse revealed that "they did not feel they had a place to talk about their experiences within their governing body of the sport." 3
The U.S. Center for Safesport also found that the trauma from sexual exploitation by coaches, mentors, and sports authorities causes lifelong challenges for the victims and impacts every aspect of their lives, including their relationships, self-perception, and mental health.
What to Do If You've Been Affected by Sexual Abuse
Sports' influence on a child or young adult's life impacts their entire life. Through teamwork, players build character, bonds, and trust between students and their coaches. For better or worse, a coach's mark on a young athlete is critical to their development. When a young athlete's coach or mentor betrays that trust, the people and institution that allowed that betrayal to happen must be held accountable.
Top organizations and leaders in the cheerleading industry have done everything in their power to protect their reputations and images at the expense of young athletes.
It's time to hold individuals and organizations who failed to address sexual abuse and misconduct and allowed abusers to go undetected for decades.
AVA Law Group has a proven history of advocating for victims of sexual abuse and fighting against institutions that protect abusers. That activism includes a successful lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America on behalf of victims across the United States.
Representing the people against the powerful is what we do.
If you or a loved one experienced abuse at the hands of the competitive cheerleading industry, there is a path forward, and you may be entitled to compensation.
While we understand that a lawsuit will not reverse the damage caused to you and your family, financial restitution will go a long way to give you access to the care you need to start healing.
You deserve justice for the trauma you endured, and we promise to fight aggressively to protect your rights. Talk to an AVA legal expert today and start healing today.
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