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But the issues run deeper than that, argue authors Deborah L.
Brake, a University of Pittsburgh law professor, and Mariah Burton Nelson, executive director for the American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation.
"Honestly, this was a response to the general issue more than any one notorious or particular case," she said.
"In general, it's just good to have policies so that people know what to do when things arise." Erin Buzuvis, a law professor at Western New England University, applauded the NCAA on taking a position on the issue.
But regardless of whether they are consensual, these relationships are a form of sexual abuse (though not necessarily criminal assault) because the employee holds a position of power over the athlete – rendering an athlete’s consent, stated or unstated, illegitimate.“The public understands that children can be manipulated into ‘agreeing’ to behaviors that are inappropriate and even criminal because they are, relative to adults, powerless,” the document reads.“Whether the student-athlete is 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, or older, she or he is significantly less powerful than a head coach, assistant coach, athletics trainer, sport psychologist, athletics director, or other athletics department staff with supervisory control or authority over student-athletes.” The report states that inappropriate sexual relationships between coaches and players happen with some regularity, sometimes with tragic results.Another, based in Canada, found 22 percent of athletes said they’d had sex with an athletics authority figure, and 9 percent reported experiencing a forcible sexual encounter. S.,” set at an unnamed major university, 20 percent of respondents said they’d “experienced behaviors from a coach that took the relationship in a non-instructional and potentially intimate direction,” and 92 percent of those respondents felt positively about it.Despite the lack of research, staffing data and information on cases that have become public indicate that coach-athlete relationships are “largely, but certainly not exclusively,” between male coaches and female athletes.Further, many lump together sexual harassment and abuse without delineating behaviors and attitudes. But the document does note a few studies with interesting findings.One comprehensive study estimated the rate of sexual abuse in sport as between 2 and 22 percent.A model policy included in the publication – to be adopted both by the institution and the athletic department it houses – “strictly prohibits” amorous relationships between any coach and athlete.Policies should also prohibit coach-athlete relationships for two years after the final academic year the student plays on his or her team.But even when both involve profess it’s consensual, a college could be at risk of liability because the relationship is likely to negatively affect other members of the team.Buzuvis wrote that “some initial resistance" to the model policy is likely, given that many consider these relationships to be harmless.