Abuse Awareness Resources



How to Recognize, Reduce, and Respond to Hazing

The following information has been provided by SafeSport, a program of The United States Olympic Committee. SafeSport aims to create a healthy, supportive environment for all participants of sports through education, resources and training. The overall goal is to help members of the sports community recognize, reduce and respond to misconduct in sports. For more information, please visit safesport.org.

Being a team member shouldn’t come with additional requirements that get in the way of enjoying sports. Hazing often begins as seemingly benign behavior but can become an issue if allowed to continue. Since hazing often occurs among peers, coaches and staff can send a strong anti-hazing message by creating an environment that encourages individuals to raise concerns or share information. In addition, most states have enacted legislation to discourage hazing and hold those who participate accountable; and these laws can provide additional support for anti-hazing efforts.


Hazing involves coercing, requiring, forcing or willfully tolerating any humiliating, unwelcome or dangerous activity that serves as a condition for joining a group or being socially accepted by a group’s members. It includes any act or conduct described as hazing under federal or state law. Activities that fit the definition of hazing are considered to be hazing regardless of an athlete’s willingness to cooperate or participate.


Hazing does not include group or team activities that are meant to establish normative team behavior or promote team cohesion. Examples include:
• Allowing junior athletes to carry senior athletes’ equipment into the locker room after practice.
• Encouraging junior athletes to arrive early and set up training equipment.
• Giving senior athletes first preference in team assignments, responsibilities, accommodations, facilities or equipment.

• Requiring, forcing or otherwise requiring the consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs.
• Tying, taping or otherwise physically restraining an athlete.
• Sexual simulations or sexual acts of any nature.
• Sleep deprivation, unnecessary schedule disruption or the withholding of water and/or food.
• Social actions (e.g. grossly inappropriate or provocative clothing) or public displays (e.g. public nudity) that are illegal or meant to draw ridicule.
• Beating, paddling or other forms of physical assault.
• Excessive training requirements that single out individuals on a team.

Courtesy of The United States Olympic Committee.

 Sexual Misconduct

Sexual Misconduct

How to Recognize, Reduce, and Respond to Sexual Misconduct

The following information has been provided by SafeSport, a program of The United States Olympic Committee. SafeSport aims to create a healthy, supportive environment for all participants of sport through education, resources, and training. The overall goal is to help members of the sport community recognize, reduce, and respond to misconduct in sport. For more information, please visit safesport.org.

Sport can teach lessons that reach beyond the field of play, but its ability to do so depends on maintaining the bonds of trust, mentorship and mutual respect among teammates. These elements are undermined when sexual misconduct occurs in sport settings. Sexual misconduct includes sexual abuse, sexual harassment and rape. Every member of the sport community, especially adult staff in positions of authority, can contribute to a sport environment free from sexual misconduct by working together and being informed.


Sexual misconduct involves any touching or non-touching sexual interaction that is non-consensual or forced, coerced or manipulated, or perpetrated in an aggressive, harassing, exploitative or threatening manner. It also includes any sexual interaction between an athlete and an individual with evaluative, direct or indirect authority. Last, any act or conduct described as sexual abuse or misconduct under federal or state law (e.g., sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, rape) qualifies as sexual misconduct.


• An imbalance of power is always assumed between a coach and an athlete.
• Minors cannot consent to sexual activity with an adult; and all sexual interaction between an adult and a minor is strictly prohibited.


Touching offenses
• Fondling an athlete’s breasts or buttocks
• Exchange of reward in sport (e.g., team placement, scores, feedback) for sexual favors
• Genital contact
• Sexual relations or intimacies between participants in a position of trust, authority and/or evaluative and supervisory control over athletes or other sport participants

Non-Touching Offenses
• Sexually oriented comments, jokes or innuendo made to or about an athlete, or other sexually harassing behavior
• A coach discussing his or her sex life with an athlete
• A coach asking an athlete about his or her sex life
• A coach requesting or sending a nude or partial-dress photo to athlete
• Exposing athletes to pornographic material
• Sending athletes sexually explicit or suggestive electronic or written messages or photos (e.g., “sexting”)
• Deliberately exposing an athlete to sexual acts
• Deliberately exposing an athlete to nudity (except in situations where locker rooms and changing areas are shared)
• Sexual harassment; specifically, the sexual solicitation, physical advances, or verbal or nonverbal conduct that is sexual in nature


These guidelines do not apply to a preexisting relationship between two spouses or life partners.


It’s critical for clubs, coaches, staff members, volunteers and parents to report suspicions or allegations of sexual misconduct to the proper officials and appropriate law enforcement authorities.

By working together, we can create safe conditions for sport and protect athletes.

Courtesy of the United States Olympic Committee.

 Emotional Misconduct

Emotional Misconduct

How to Recognize, Reduce, and Respond to Emotional Misconduct

The following information has been provided by SafeSport, a program of The United States Olympic Committee. SafeSport aims to create a healthy, supportive environment for all participants of sports through education, resources and training. The overall goal is to help members of the sports community recognize, reduce and respond to misconduct in sports. For more information, please visit safesport.org.

Sports can help individuals build skills, making them stronger and better able to deal with challenges. The wide range of emotions athletes experience in practice and competition are a normal, healthy component of sports. However, a repeated pattern of behavior by either coaches or teammates that can inflict psychological or emotional harm has no place in sports. By gaining a complete understanding of the actions that qualify as emotional misconduct, participants can be in a stronger position to take action.


Emotional misconduct involves a pattern of deliberate, non-contact behavior that has the potential to cause emotional or psychological harm to an athlete. Non-contact behavior includes verbal and physical acts, as well as actions that deny attention or support. It also includes any act or conduct (e.g., child abuse and child neglect) described as emotional abuse or misconduct under federal or state law.


Emotional misconduct does not include professionally accepted coaching methods of skill enhancement, physical conditioning, team building, discipline or improving athletic performance.


Verbal acts:
• Verbally attacking an athlete personally (e.g., calling them worthless, fat or disgusting). • Repeatedly and excessively yelling at participants in a manner that serves no productive training or motivational purpose.

Physical acts:
• Throwing sports equipment, water bottles or chairs at, or in the presence of, participants.
• Punching walls, windows or other objects.

Acts that deny attention and support:
• Ignoring an athlete for extended periods of time.
• Routinely or arbitrarily excluding participants from practice.

Contributed by The United States Olympic Committee.



How to Recognize, Reduce, and Respond to Harassment

The following information has been provided by SafeSport, a program of The United States Olympic Committee. SafeSport aims to create a healthy, supportive environment for all participants of sports through education, resources and training. The overall goal is to help members of the sports community recognize, reduce and respond to misconduct in sports. For more information, please visit safesport.org.

Sports are an incredibly constructive outlet for individuals, in part because athletes are judged solely on their abilities and performance. In this environment, hard work, persistence and improvement are defining characteristics. Harassment based on race, gender or sexual orientation affects team cohesion, performance and an individual’s ability to focus on building skills and enjoy competition. As with bullying and hazing, coaches and staff can create a supportive environment for sports by setting a zero-tolerance policy.


Harassment is a repeated pattern of physical and/or non-physical behavior intended to cause fear, humiliation or annoyance, offend or degrade, create a hostile environment; or reflect discriminatory bias in an attempt to establish dominance, superiority or power over an individual athlete or group based on gender, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, sexual orientation, gender expression or mental or physical disability. It includes any act or conduct described as harassment under federal or state law.


Physical offenses:
• Hitting, pushing, punching, beating, biting, striking, kicking, choking or slapping an athlete or participant.
• Throwing at or hitting an athlete with objects, including sporting equipment.

Non-physical offenses:
• Making negative or disparaging comments about an athlete’s sexual orientation, gender expression, disability, religion, skin color or ethnic traits.
• Displaying offensive materials, gestures or symbols.
• Withholding or reducing an athlete’s playing time based on his or her sexual orientation.

Courtesy of The United States Olympic Committee.

 Types of Background Checks on Volunteers

Types of Background Checks on Volunteers

Understanding background checks

Every reasonable effort should be made to protect youth sports participants from adults in the program who have a history of unacceptable criminal activity. In a 2014 study, an estimated 12.93 percent of all volunteers screened had a criminal background record, and 3.2 percent of would-be coaches had convictions involving sex offenses, violence or other felonies. Eighteen percent of these individuals committed their crime outside of their current state of residency. (Source: Southeastern Security Consultants, Inc.)

For starters, background checks on volunteers, especially those with repeated access to youth players, are an important part of the volunteer screening program in youth sports. All volunteer staff should be notified prior to acceptance of their duties that they will be subject to a favorable background check and must provide their consent via a volunteer application. Such notification should also explain the steps that are being taken to safeguard their privacy and rights should any unfavorable information be found. Only one league administrator should be in charge of collecting and reviewing volunteer applications, receiving the results of the background checks and making the disqualification decisions in order to reduce the chances of a release of confidential information. An unfavorable background check should disqualify a volunteer from participation if it falls within a sports organization’s predetermined, written disqualification criteria.

The term “background check” represents a broad category of different types of checks that can be obtained from various sources. The quality of the source varies greatly, and decisions made solely on price tend to result in less than satisfactory results from both the protection offered to youth and the amount of administrative work placed on the sports organization. The following criteria can be used when analyzing various sources:

• Cost: ranges from free to $70 per volunteer depending on the accuracy and thoroughness of the search and the services that are offered by the provider. Lower-cost sources are limited to inferior national database searches, omit important county courthouse searches and have unfiltered results, and offer immediate or 24-hour results.
• Geographic region searched: varies by county, state or national database.
• Accuracy and thoroughness: vary greatly depending on the input procedure of the source, how often the source is updated, if the source is the most likely one to yield results for a particular volunteer based on his/her address history, the number of sources that are checked, if the social security number is verified and if an address trace is performed.
• Waiting period to receive results: varies from immediate to an 84-day waiting period to view results.
• Your administrative time required per volunteer: varies from thirty seconds to several minutes per volunteer record to be checked. This does not include the additional time to interpret raw court data.
• All criminal records checked? Some sources may not reveal all types of criminal records as some are limited to sexual crimes only.
• Your legal liabilities for mistakes made: varies depending on the services that are outsourced to a background check provider. Liabilities can result from mismatch between volunteer and record received, improper interpretation of record, Fair Credit Reporting Act violations for failure to provide required legal notices, illegal use of information protected by First Offender Act and by slander actions resulting from inappropriate release of confidential information. Even though these potential liabilities exist, the absence of any reasonable attempt to screen unsuitable volunteers presents a far more serious vulnerability to legal liability.


SOR checks are currently available for free on the internet at www.nsopw.gov, which accesses all 50 state sex offender registries.

The advantages of SOR’s are that they are free, do not require permission from the volunteer, take very little administrative time to input names, the results are immediate, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act and related administrative notice burdens do not apply.

The disadvantages of SOR’s is that there is no Social Security Number verification to assure the volunteer has not provided an alias, there is no consistency from state to state on registry requirements (i.e. some states require only violent sex offenders to register, missing are the nonviolent sex offenders), the input source is a third party (instead of being input automatically as a part of the judicial process), the website may not be frequently updated and most importantly is that the SOR only reveals sex offenders, while many other serious crimes should be of concern such as murder, robbery, felony drugs, etc.

On the other hand, thorough criminal background checks (as opposed to SOR’s) will provide all misdemeanor and felony information (not just sex offenses) that a sports organization may want to take into account in the disqualification process. Criminal background checks show offenses that go back a minimum of seven years, but much longer in most cases. Also, criminal background checks do not rely on third parties to enter information into the database as this happens automatically as part of the judicial process.


Local law enforcement is often contacted as a potential “free” source of criminal background checks. However, local law enforcement agencies are increasingly declining such requests due to limited manpower. When making requests to local law enforcement, you should specifically inquire as to which source will be used to run the criminal background check.

If law enforcement uses a single county record check as a source, this will not reveal criminal offenses which may have occurred in a different county. If they use a state database as a source (compiled from single county courthouse records), this will not reveal criminal offenses which may have occurred in a different state. Generally, local law enforcement does not confirm information provided by the volunteer (Name/dob/SSN/address) and provides raw court data with no interpretation of information.

The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) electronic database is not available to local law enforcement for the purposes of running background checks as the NCIC database can only be used if a crime has been committed.


Various third-party vendors offer criminal background checks on a fee basis that range from “do it yourself” low-cost national database checks to “full service” higher-cost, multiple-source checks with Social Security Number verification, address trace and other add-ons. Before choosing a third-party vendor, you need to assess the cost and services based on the following basic criteria:

1. Cost: ranges from $2.50 to $23.00 per volunteer.
2. Your administrative time required per volunteer: varies per vendor. Some vendors require you to input data (name, addresses, SSN) into their online screens and to retrieve results. Some are set up whereby the volunteer can submit their own information to trigger the background check. The “do it yourself” model can take several minutes of administrative time per volunteer. On the other hand, other vendors may simply require that you fax the signed volunteer applications, which collect the appropriate information, and they handle all input and retrieval of results.
3. Waiting period to receive results: Most vendors take up to five days to receive results unless a national database is the only source that is to be checked. Results from a national database search can be instant.
4. Social Security Number verification: This check is used to verify the identity of the applicant. A match between the name that is provided on the application and the name that is on file for the Social Security Number that was provided on the application protects against the applicant’s providing a wrong Social Security Number in order to evade a background check.
5. Address trace: verifies addresses listed on the volunteer application over the past seven years with database records as a basis for determining the best sources of records to search for a particular location or court jurisdiction.
6. Social Security Number address trace: pulls prior addresses from public records with utility companies and credit card bureaus that have the applicant’s Social Security Number on file. This service provides an independent source to verify past addresses that may not be listed on an application.
7. Intelligent choice of sources to be searched: based on the prior addresses indicated in No. 3 or No. 4. Above, the third-party vendor can make an intelligent choice of which county courthouse records should be searched based on the most recent and/or longest county of residence.
8. Single county courthouse check: Many vendors will send a researcher to check for criminal records in the county courthouse or courthouses where the applicant has lived most recently and/or for the longest period of time.
9. National database check: A number of national sources have negotiated agreements with a large percentage of county and state databases throughout the U.S. to collect criminal background records by electronic means. National databases collect a huge number of records on a national level to help detect predators and other criminals that move from one state to the next. However, many experts believe that they should not be the only source of a background check since many counties and some states refuse to share their information, and those that do share information may update records with a 60-day lag time. In the past, many organizations relied on low-cost national database registry checks. Studies indicated that relying solely on the national database missed approximately 50 percent of criminal records that would disqualify an applicant. This trend has changed in recent years as new standards for background checks have been established by parks and recreation agencies and USOC SafeSport, which require the use of state and country checks in addition to national database checks.
10. Sexual Offender Registry checks (SOR): An additional search may be provided based on a national database that combines records from all 50 state sexual offender registries.
11. Terrorist database check.
12. Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) compliance: Compliance with the FCRA requires the following steps to be taken:
13. First Offender Act compliance: Third-party vendors can offer an additional service to filter out any criminal record that is protected under the First Offender Act. Failure to comply can result in civil liabilities for the individuals within the sports organization administering the criminal background checks.
14. Disqualification decision – Green Light/Red Light: Some third-party vendors will provide the additional service of determining whether the volunteer is disqualified based upon your predetermined disqualification criteria. (The vendors can assist with the development of these criteria on your behalf.) Transferring the disqualification decision to the third-party vendor shields the sports organization and its administrators from liabilities arising out of a mismatch between the volunteer and the record received, improper interpretation of the nature of a criminal record and resulting wrongful disqualification decision, FCRA compliance, First Offender Act compliance and potential slander actions resulting from intentional or accidental release of confidential information.

• Obtain a signature from the volunteer authorizing the criminal background check to be performed. This authorization should be a part of the volunteer application.
• Those volunteers who are to be disqualified based on their background check must receive a copy of the background check report, the “Summary of Your Rights under the FCRA” document and a written communication that they have been disqualified based on their background check.
• Failure to comply with the FCRA can result in civil penalties and liabilities for the individuals within the sports organization administering the criminal background checks. This liability can be shifted to the third-party vendor if they offer the FCRA compliance service. Please note that the potential liabilities for these mistakes are outweighed by the potential liability for not making a reasonable attempt to screen out unsuitable volunteers.

Are FBI fingerprint checks the ultimate solution to catch predators with stolen identities?

Much attention has been given to the fact that it is possible for a predator to assume the identity and Social Security Number of another person in order to avoid detection.

It is assumed that the non-fingerprint based criminal background vendors will let these predators slip between the cracks and that only FBI 10-fingerprint checks will detect their true criminal backgrounds. These assumptions are not necessarily true.

First, some of the quality vendors of non-fingerprint based criminal background checks have checks in place to protect against fabricated or stolen Social Security Numbers. Such vendors can run a Social Security verification to confirm that the applicant/volunteer is indeed attached to the SSN.

Such a verification will return the names of others who have used that SSN, DOB, age, historical addresses, time span for those addresses and counties of residence. This verification information can then be compared to the same information that was indicated on the volunteer application. Any discrepancies would be a red flag for a stolen identity.

Second, while the FBI 10-fingerprint check can be an almost-foolproof verification of the volunteer’s identity, it has several drawbacks. The major drawback is that the turnaround time on receiving the results can range from six to 12 weeks or more. It is not uncommon for the fingerprint card to be returned for re-fingerprinting due to a smudge. Generally, in addition to the charge for the FBI check, an additional charge is levied by the agency collecting the fingerprint. Also, it could be cumbersome to coordinate the fingerprinting with the schedules of the volunteers. In addition, the FBI database shows arrests only and does not indicate the disposition of the case. Another limitation is that the FBI database only has approximately 60 million records on file.


There is no one best type of background check that will offer the best results across the board on all criteria. The background check standard for youth sports volunteers that is being developed through most common practices includes: A search for all misdemeanors and felonies in the applicant’s longest most recent county of residence along with a national criminal record and sex offender search.

Naturally, the most accurate and thorough types of background checks tend to be the most expensive. Individual sports organizations will need to weigh their budgetary constraints against what the courts are requiring in terms of “due diligence” when screening volunteers.


Southeastern Security Consultants Inc. (SSCI) and DMP Consulting, Inc. co-owners of Operation TLC² Making Communities Safe www.operationtlc2.org. National Association Of Professional Background Screeners: There’s No Such Thing as a National Database for Background Checks; Background Checks Performed By Professional Background Screeners Best Serve The Interests Of Employers, Consumers, And The Public; No Secret That FBI Database Is Incomplete.

Courtesy of John M. Sadler, JD, CIC; Member of the USA Baseball Medical & Safety Advisory Committee; President Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance