Youth hockey sexual abuse
Parents place their trust in coaches and the institutions that hire and supervise them. Due to the short interactions with coaches and the fact that coaches are mostly dealing with young athletes, it is difficult for parents to get to know the coach. Thus, it is not surprising that parents are shocked when they find out that a coach has a questionable past that involves sexual misconduct allegations against minors.
Many times, sexual predators change jobs to evade getting caught or when they suspect complaints are forthcoming. One such case involved a youth hockey coach in Massachusetts.
Allen Pereira was charged with sexually assaulting a player for several years while working at the private hockey organization, even though he had been fired from the hockey facility’s hockey pro shop. One hockey player said, “It just really is awful, and I don’t know what you can do to prevent that from happening when you hire someone. You don’t know unless, I guess, they have a record. It’s a sad situation.”
Another longtime friend was in shock to learn about Pereira’s sexual misconduct. “He’s been in my house a thousand times…You think I’d have a pedophile in my house?” The disbelief in a coach, or even a friend, being a sexual predator is not surprising because sexual abusers work hard to gain the trust of the victim and gain the trust of parents and the community. But, when sexual misconduct rumors emerge, the perpetrator often changes jobs or moves away to avoid prosecution.
Taking the easy way out
In one unusual case, the suspect committed suicide before he was arrested. In 2018, two youth hockey players for Atlanta Phoenix, a Duluth-based youth hockey team, reported to police that they were victims of sexual abuse committed by their coach, Jason Greeson. Within two hours of authorities and USA Hockey learning about the abuse, Greeson committed suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot.
Unfortunately for parents demanding answers, Greeson never spoke to the police. As the detectives were working on his arrest warrant and USA Hockey was removing him from coaching, Greeson took matters into his own hands. He told a family member that he would kill himself and was later found in a church parking lot. While Greeson’s case is over, the search for justice continues for the victims who must live with the trauma of being sexually abused.
Background checks and training is not enough
USA Hockey reported that Greeson passed his background and took the required SafeSport training. It is not enough. Because of the severe lifetime harm caused by sexual abuse or sexual assault, it is imperative that youth organizations go above and beyond to ensure the safety of athletes. Research proves that predators engage in a process called “grooming” to gain the trust of the athlete and even the community. There are “red-flags” that a coach is engaging in sexual predator grooming. Parents, athletes and the athletic community must be trained to identify those signs. In almost all cases, coaches violate boundaries, which is a huge red-flag and should be grounds for a warning and/or dismissal.
If you are youth hockey sexual abuse survivor, contact our athlete abuse legal team. Learn about your legal rights. In California, the law now allows ANY sexual abuse victim to hold their perpatrator accountable along with the institution that enabled their crimes. Contact us now as the law is only in effect until the end of 2022.