Today, more than ever before, we are hearing about cases of sexual harassment and sexual abuse committed in just about every profession, by notable members of society. Watch the news or search the internet and you will see sexual assault cases discussed. These crimes are being perpetrated against women and men, girls and boys. In this article we will discuss the abuse of children in a martial arts environment and what parents can do to protect their children.
In many cases of abuse the offender is in a position of trust, such as an teacher or an instructor of some kind, and these individual have access to potential victims. The field of martial arts is no different. There are wonderful teachers and students in martial arts schools. They are ethical, caring and they truly make a difference in the lives of their students. There are cases and places, however, where abuse has occurred with disastrous results for both the innocent victims and their families.
One such example occurred in Clearfield, Utah, where a 20- year -old male was arrested for sexual abuse involving a minor. The suspected abuser was the victims martial arts instructor and it was believed that he had engaged in sexual abusing his victim for at least six months.
Like other businesses, martial arts schools are made up of members of society and the communities they serve. Those schools represent a full spectrum of people – good, bad, as well as all those in between.
In this article we are discussing individuals who are offenders and how to protect your children from these offenders. Offenders come in all shapes, sizes, colors, ages and genders. What they all have in common is the ability to identifying individuals who are vulnerable. Another trait many of these offenders have is patience. They are welling to spend time “grooming” their perspective victims, waiting weeks, months and even years before they commit their crime.
Its not unheard of in the martial arts industry to have cases where a student has been coerced into having sex, or propositioned to have sex, in order to receive a martial arts promotion. These are despicable acts and the offenders should be held accountable for their behavior, regardless of who the offender is – the main instructor, assistant instructor, or another student. Offenders will intimidate the victims in one form or another to force their silence about the abuse. They may threaten to harm the victim themselves or the victim’s family or a friend.
Impressionable students and parents of students under the age of 18 need to be aware of the variety of methodologies offenders may use to exploit them. Understand that no child, or adult for that matter, is completely immune from becoming the prey of an abuser.
With that being said, how can parents protect their children in a martial arts environment?
First of all, parents need to be present during all training sessions. That also includes any “private lessons” your child may attend. Be cautious of any school that prevents a parent from watching training. Parents need to be seated where they can see the child and the instructor at all times during a normal session or a “private lesson.”
Here are a few tips to help you reduce the chances that your child will become the victim of sexual abuse or exploitation:
- Have your child use rest room facilities and dress into their martial arts uniforms at home.
- Watch as many martial arts sessions as it takes before your child actually takes their first lesson to get a feel for how the “normal” lessons occur.
- Don’t be shy to ask how the class instruction will be delivered.
- Stay engaged and watch the movements your child is being asked to perform.
- Resist using your child’s training time to read a book, catch up on emails, or other electronic distractions.
- Give your undivided attention to watch your child train, watch the class and your child.
- Establish and maintain communications with your child where he/she child can confide in you when confused or unsure of any issue.
- After each class, ask the child how they felt the class went and any situation where they feel both good or bad about what transpired. This conversation is not intended to plant any seeds of doubt, but foster communication between the parent and child.
- If there is an out of school activity, or travel to another location for any reason, your rule should be that if you cannot attend neither should your child, regardless of their age.
- Teach your child about good secrets and bad secrets, and that if they are asked to keep a bad secret they need to tell you, their parent, immediately.
Remember, any sexual act with a victim under the age of consent is a criminal act and should be reported to a law enforcement agency.
Victims of sexual abuse and their families should contact law enforcement, report the crime(s), allow evidence to be collected and build a criminal case to facilitate the arrest and prosecution of the offender to the fullest extent of the law.
Sometimes a period of time has elapsed before the crime is discovered and the statute of limitations has expired. This will prevent the crime from being prosecuted in a “criminal” court of law. Victims may then use the “civil” court system to hold their abusers liable, where a judgment could be rendered against all those involved.
In civil cases, those found liable and/or responsible may be forced to pay monetary damages to their victim.
Martial arts instructors should serve as examples, modeling appropriate behavior for students, helping them to make proper decisions, with confidence, as they navigate the martial arts environment and all other aspects of their lives.
If you have a student enrolled in a school where the martial arts instructor(s) or students fail to fulfill their key role, or fail to protect all the students from any abuse, it is time to find a new school that embodies your principles. There are many wonderful schools and instructors to choose from and martial arts training, with the right instructor at the right school, will improve the lives, not only of the student, but the entire family.