Thanks to our Donors and Volunteers

 Advocating for the safety and welfare of athletes requires persistent and passionate efforts over time – being there every day to help athletes and their parents who are confronting the distress and pain of abuse, sexual harassment, and other coach, peer or adult leader misconduct. Too often there is no place to go, especially when a club is without an Athlete Welfare Advocate to advise or stand up against other adults on behalf of an abused athlete. In addition to helping victims of abuse, Safe4Athletes is pushing national sport governing bodies to have stronger membership requirements, for sports clubs and individual members. Even more important is the need to create public lists of banned coaches so parents and athletes are aware of sexual predators or others who have been guilty of misconduct with athletes.

Safe4Athletes requires administrative and program staff and interns in order to perform these functions, funds to host and maintain our web site, funding for computers and other office equipment, monies to fund speakers at national conventions of sports organizations, funds for expenses ranging from operating our 800 number to printing and mailing brochures and other materials to urge sports clubs to adopt model policies.

Special thanks to our Board of Directors who give both their time and money and work diligently to gather the resources we need. 

We hope that you will help us continue our important work.  Whether it’s a gift to support our non-profit programs, a willingness to share our materials and newsletters with your friends, hosting a fundraiser and educational program in your sports community or home, serving on a committee, or volunteering to work on a project.

We would be grateful for your involvement.

We promise to be responsible stewards of every gift made to Safe4Athletes. We promise to use your gift to make a difference. Your donation in any amount is greatly appreciated.


Please take a moment to see where your donations go and the work that Safe4Athletes has done over the past year. 



Join Us in Making a Difference

Safe4Athletes, Inc is a tax exempt organization according to the Internal Revenue code 501 (c) 3.


Advocate for athlete welfare where every athlete is provided a safe and positive environment free of abuse, bullying and harassment.

Our Vision

Our vision is a society in which….

  • coach-athlete sexual abuse and other forms of misconduct does not  occur and, when it does, is immediately and effectively addressed
  • victims of coach-athlete misconduct have a place they can go to for support and good information
  • coaches engaging in sexual misconduct are banned from coaching athletes at any level
  • the public is inspired by and knowledgeable about athletes who fight to remedy coach-athlete misconduct
  • all sport organizations have effective policies and procedures governing coach-athlete sexual and other misconduct
  • every state has effective laws dealing with coach-athlete sexual misconduct

We Value

  • Coaches, parents, athletes, organization leaders and legislators working to eliminate inappropriate coach behaviors
  • Strength of abused athletes in every sport and of every age, color, national origin, physical disability, race, religion and sexual orientation who seek help in dealing with this issue
  • Strategic alliances with counselors, experts other organizations dealing with this issue
  • Volunteers, contributors and staff who provide productive, expert and passionate support

Our Strategies

  1. Encourage efforts by national sports organizations to develop online and other educational materials for parents, coaches and athletes on the issue of athlete welfare and safety
  2. Develop models and advocate for the adoption of coach codes of conduct and sports organization policies prohibiting professional misconduct
  3. Monitor and publish the results of surveys indicating the progress of sports organization regarding the adoption of coach-athlete misconduct policies and procedures
  4. Ensure that open amateur sports athletes have an effective appeal process in the event their local sports organizations are not capable of fair adjudication
  5. Monitor misconduct cases to ensure that guilty offending coaches are banned from continued work with athletes in other clubs and athletic organizations act sensitively and responsibly in handling athlete complaints
  6. Direct abused athletes to places where they can obtain professional help in dealing with psychological and other mental health issues
  7. Act as a clearinghouse to help parents and athletes find the resources they need to deal with their particular situations
  8. Sustain a social media initiative to connect concerned and/or abused athletes with Safe4Athletes advisers for the purpose of promoting policy advocacy and availability of referral services.

Goals and Objectives


To advocate for the adoption of athlete welfare and safety policies and laws that effectively address sports  leader-athlete sexual abuse and other misconduct.


To develop educated coaches, sports organization staff, athletes, parents  and volunteers committed to preventing and addressing coach-athlete sexual abuse and other forms of misconduct.


To assist athletes affected by coach-athlete sexual abuse and other misconduct to access counseling and receive fair adjudication.


Acquire the resources necessary to achieve organizational objectives.


Manage internal resources in a cost effective manner to ensure service quality and the public’s trust

Confronting Sexual Abuse and Harassment by Sport Coaches: A Need for a National Effort 

The world of sports has been riddled with sexual abuse and harassment[1] of young athletes by their powerful and publicly respected coaches (respected for producing performance results) for many decades, across all sports, regardless of sex.   While there is no consistently collected data on the prevalence of these transgressions, there is reason to believe that news reports and limited data from national sport governing bodies represent the proverbial “tip of the iceberg”:

  • “Over the past decade, 159 coaches in Washington have been fired or reprimanded for sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to rape. Nearly all were male coaches victimizing girls. At least 98 of these coaches continued to coach or teach.” (Seattle Times,  2003)
  • “Even after getting caught, many men were allowed to continue coaching because school administrators promised to keep their disciplinary records secret if the coaches simply left. Some districts paid tens of thousands of dollars to get coaches to leave. Other districts hired coaches they knew had records of sexual misconduct.” (Seattle Times,  2003)
  • USA Swimming lists 59 coaches that have received a lifetime ban, permanently resigned their membership, or been declared permanently ineligible for membership, all but six with code of conduct violations, 2011)
  • Additionally USA Swimming include two coaches who served jail time, two coaches who were arrested and a coach fired from a Division I university. They weren’t part of the 46-person list, published in May 2010 by the USA Swimming NGB amid accusations of lax background checks and minimal safeguards to protect youth. (Colorado Gazette, 2010)
  • USA Gymnastics lists 82 coaches permanently ineligible for membership due to conduct determined to be inconsistent with the best interest of the sport and the athletes being served  (USAGymorg, 2011) 

Athletes are often drawn into keeping sexual abuse secret against their better judgment for the sake of protecting the team from public embarrassment (WSF Coach/Athlete relationships, 1999).   As a result, such silence reduces greatly the amount data available to truly understand the scope of the problem.

Sports organizations, from privately owned local sports clubs and teams to national sports governing organizations and national coaches associations, have not been very effective in responding to this issue.  While some sports organizations have policies in place that prohibit such conduct, very little success has occurred with regard to (1) taking action against coaches who violate these policies, (2) implementing consistent programs that educate athletes and parents about sexual harassment and abuse and how to deal with such situations and (3) creating a climate in which athletes feel safe in reporting such incidents.     

These crimes and abuses of power of the coach/sport leader often go unreported.  When they are reported, few coaches are banned from the profession for violation of professional rules of conduct and, in the case of criminal acts, brought to justice from a legal standpoint.  This failure to stop such unethical or criminal coach activity is due to a myriad of factors such as:

  • Lack of education of athletes and parents so they understand the nature of sexual abuse and harassment and the fact that such conduct is unethical or criminal
  • Athlete embarrassment
  • Lack of physical evidence
  • Time lapses in reporting 
  • Coaches owning their own sports clubs and having no oversight body to receive such complaints
  • Young athletes who seek attention and approval of their coaches and/or who do not understand the “quid pro quo”[2] nature of sexual abuse by a teacher, coach or someone in authority
  • Parent denial
  • Lack of effective reporting and investigatory mechanisms
  • Conflict of interest – coaches being asked to judge their colleagues or institutions who would rather protect the reputation of their institution than the safety of the athletes they are serving.

The result is athletes across all sports becoming victims of sexual exploitation as consenting or non-consenting minors or adults and coach/perpetrators caught only after numerous transgressions and/or continuing to coach after deals are struck to protect the organization.    

It is probably the biggest problem confronting sport today,' says Professor Celia Brackenridge, who has been researching sex abuse in sport for more than 15 years. 'Everyone talks about the perils of doping, but if there were 100 drugs cases under investigation in football, or 60 in swimming, or 40 in tennis, there would be uproar. Yet that's the scale of the problem with sex abuse today.'(Observer Sports Monthly April 2002)

While sports governance organizations and clubs have either added a “code of conduct” to their policies (see USOC Coaches Ethics Code), implemented policies that require coaches to pledge to not engage in intimate relations with athletes, or established policies that outright state that no such relationships are permitted, these efforts have not stopped the occurrence of coach-athlete sexual abuse or harassment.  (see Sandler, 1996; Women’s Sports Foundation, 1999; U.S. Department of Education, 2011)

Even when strong policies exist, many organizations fall short on policy implementation.  For instance, in the case of USA Swimming, its policy states that the Executive Director has discretion on whether or not to investigate the claim.   Generally, national sports organizations rely on local authorities to carry out investigations.  By the time a situation reaches the attention of a national association, too many athletes have suffered such abuse.  Or, even if USA Swimming or any national sports governing body  (NGB) bans a coach from working in open amateur sport club programs, that coach could become a high school coach and the NGB ban would not become known, even if school performed a background check, unless the coach was previously charged with criminal conduct. 

There are simply too many unsolved questions that need to be addressed before we can truly be effective in protecting young athletes from the unethical and possibly criminal actions of coaches:

  • When do sports organizations step in to enforce professional conduct expectations and when are local authorities engaged because of possible criminal behavior? 
  • Should the sports community wait until there is evidence from the local authorities that an act of sexual abuse with a minor has occurred before a sports organization takes action? 
  • How can we ensure that every athlete is educated about proper athlete – coach relationships, whether a minor or an athlete at consensual age, and understands “quid pro quo” harassment?
  • How do we confront the fact that the nature of the crime of rape is such that there is generally a 2-3 year period of time that passes until the victim has the strength to speak about the trauma?  This leaves a criminal case very difficult to pursue and very little protection to the non-consenting athlete.
  • How do we install systems that effectively confront coach/predator behavior?
  • Can we enhance parents’ efforts to protect their children?   Only the state of Oregon provides some sort of coach registry where parents and athletes can file a complaint about a coach where that information is made available to the public.  Are mandatory background checks effective?  Are there other “due diligence” actions that an organization should pursue?    
  • How can we offer support for athletes that have been victims of sexual abuse or harassment during their athletic years so they can heal from these wounds that can affect them, sometimes for the rest of their lives?  
  • Is there a neutral party that can be put in place for athletes to gain awareness on how to prevent, protect, and report any suspicious behavior?

Next Steps

To date, the sports community has not been successful in confronting this issue.  Coaches associations and national and other sport governance organizations have a built-in conflict of interest in protecting the reputations of their sports or members.  There is need for an independent blue-ribbon group of sport, management, psychological, and legal experts to create a comprehensive blueprint for deterring sexual abuse and harassment by coaches in sport.   The united effort of the entire sports community is needed to stop these predators.   



  1. Colorado Gazette.  (2010) Lawyers want US Swimming Banned List Expanded.   Available at:
  2. ESPN: (2010) 46 Coaches on the Banned USA Swimming List Available at:
  3. Observer Sports Monthly. Downes (2002). Every Parents Nightmare Available at:,,678189,00.html
  4. Sandler, B.R and R.J. Shoop, ed. (1996), Sexual Harassment on Campus: A Guide for Administrators, Faculty and Students. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. 
  5. Seattle Times. (2003), Coaches Who Prey: The Abuse of Girls and the System that Allows It. Available at:
  6. United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.  (2011) “Dear Colleague Letter on the Sexual Harassment of Students as Prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.  (April 4, 2011).  Available at:
  7. United States Olympic Committee. (2000) Coaching Ethics Code.   Available at:
  8. Women’s Sports Foundation.  (1999) Sexual Harassment - Sexual Harassment and Sexual Relationships Between Coaches, Other Athletic Personnel and Athletes: The Foundation Position.  Available at:
  9. WomenSport International.  (2007) The Sexual Harassment Task Force:  Brochure on Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Sport.  Available at:

This paper was developed by Safe4Athletes.

For more information on this not-for-profit organization, see or contact Katherine Starr, Founder and President at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or 855-SAFE4AA (855-723 3422)

[1]          Sexual harassment and sexual abuse are different.   Sexual harassment is unwanted and often persistent sexual attention. It may include written or verbal abuse or threats, sexually oriented comments, jokes, lewd comments or sexual innuendoes, taunts about body, dress, marital status or sexuality, shouting and/or bullying, ridiculing or undermining of performance or self-respect, sexual or homophobic graffiti, practical jokes based on sex, intimidating sexual remarks, invitations or familiarity, domination of meetings, training sessions or equipment, condescending or patronizing behavior, physical contact, fondling, pinching or kissing, sex-related vandalism, offensive phone calls or photos, and/or bullying on the basis of sex.  Sexual abuse often occurs after careful grooming of the athlete until he/she believes that sexual involvement with his/her abuser is acceptable, unavoidable or a normal part of her training or everyday behavior. It may include exchange of rewards or privileges for sexual favors, groping, indecent exposure, rape, anal or vaginal penetration by penis, fingers or objects, forced sexual activity, sexual assault, physical or sexual violence and/or incest. (WomenSport International, 2007).

[2]        Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when submission to such conduct is explicitly or implicitly made a term or condition of the victims’ participation in the sport, or is used as the basis for decisions affecting that individual. In the coach-athlete relationship, some examples of quid pro quo harassment are when a coach grants or withholds benefits (such as a scholarship, starting position or playing time) as a result of an athlete's willingness or refusal to submit to the coach's sexual demands.

Our Mission

Advocate for athlete welfare where every athlete is provided a safe and positive environment free of abuse, bullying and harassment.

Safe4Athletes is a not-for-profit organization that:

1.           Advocates for and helps sports organizations adopt effective policies, procedures and educational programs that are designed to prevent coach, volunteer and peer misconduct whether it be abuse (sexual, verbal, emotional or physical) bullying, harassment or other forms of inappropriate behaviors.

2.          Assists sports organizations faced with situations involving sexual misconduct, bullying, harassment and other forms of inappropriate conduct on how to handle these situations appropriately and act quickly to restore safe environments for athletes.

3.          Provides a safe and confidential place where abused athletes, their parents or others concerned about the impact of coach/volunteer/peer misconduct can call to:

  • talk to other athletes who have been through similar situations;
  • be referred to professional counselors who can provide psychological or other assistance;
  • get advice on how to communicate with their local sports organization and national sports governing body so appropriate  proceedings can be initiated to investigate, adjudicate and,  if necessary, remove the offending coach or sport leader from his or her  position before others can be hurt; and/or
  • help their sports organization find model policies, procedures, educational programs and advice on how to prevent and to deal with such situations.

4.          Encourages and helps educate all parents and athletes to be more aware of what they can do to recognize inappropriate coach/volunteer/peer behavior and understand how traumatic the effects of such experiences can be for athletes.

5.         Partners with state, regional, and national sports governing associations and other national sports organizations to encourage the adoption of legislation mandating that their members adopt strong policies, procedures and educational programs regarding this issue.

As is true about the origins of many not-for-profit organizations, Safe4Athletes was born out of the personal experience of its founder, Katherine Starr.   Having being an elite athlete who endured sexual abuse during the course of her career with no resources available to help her, she simply wanted to do something to ensure that athletes following in her footsteps did not have to repeat her experience.  In her own words…

As Annabelle Cripps, I started swimming at a very young age and showed promise from my first stroke in the pool.  I won just about every race growing up setting many state records that still stand today.  My desire to be a champion swimmer was not just from me but my parents supported my dream too.

 My swimming career continued to show a lot of promise and at the young age of 14 I was world ranked for the first time. I wish that was all that happened to me that year.  However, a month or two after experiencing that achievement I was also raped by my swim coach.  As I continued to excel in sport, making two Olympic teams (Great Britain), so did the sexual harassment and abuse.  I was often portrayed on the pool deck as the “troubled kid” when I fought back from the abuse.  All the while, my coach, the head Olympic coach for my country, gained power and prestige.

 There was no protection from the adults around me and nowhere for me to turn to for help. When I spoke up, I was told that I needed to do “what the coach said.” I felt so hopeless and alone.

 After many years of addressing this issue head on, I realized that the heartache was still with me.  It occurred to me that the only healing that could take place would come from changing the culture in the amateur sports community, to one that put athlete welfare and safety in a positive sport environment as a primary responsibility and free from sexual abuse, bullying and harassment. I am now Katherine Starr, the founder and President of Safe4Athletes.

In the summer of 2011, Starr contacted former teammates, sport administrators and others to ask if they would help form a non-profit organization to help abused athletes and their parents and provide model policies and procedures to sports clubs so they are prepared to protect young athletes.   Safe4Athletes was envisioned as a national advocacy organization dedicated to athlete welfare -- where every athlete is provided a safe and positive environment free of sexual abuse, bullying and harassment. 

In the fall of 2011, Safe4Athletes, received its not-for-profit status under the fiscal sponsorship of Community Partners of Los Angeles.  Community Partners is an innovative agency that supports numerous emerging non-profit initiatives, managing the organization’s finance, human resources and legal compliance needs while the new project focuses on building the capacity needed to accomplish its mission.

The remainder of 2011 was spent beginning to assemble the Safe4Athletes governance and advisory committees, drafting the strategic plan, developing model policies and educational materials, building a web site, and raising funds that would enable the project to become a reality.  Key to bringing the organization to life were the efforts of Starr and three consultants: Joanne A. Fortunato,  Ph.D., the former Commissioner of the California Community College Commission on Athletics who served as a pre-launch operations administrator, and volunteer advisors Nancy Hogshead-Makar, J.D., Senior Director of Advocacy for the Women’s Sports Foundation, Professor of Law at Florida Coastal University and former 3-time Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer and Donna Lopiano, Ph.D., President of Sports Management Resources, former CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation and former Director of Women’s Athletics at the University of Texas at Austin.  

Safe4Athletes was formally announced in January of 2012 with the launch of its web site and availability of all services.

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