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How to talk to your student athlete about sexual abuse

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Posted at 6:12 AM, Jun 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-11 06:12:41-04

KENT COUNTY, Mich — As more victims come forward with allegations of abuse against former University of Michigan Sports Dr. Robert Anderson—including the son of Bo Schembechler this week—Sports Psychologist Dr. Eddie O' Connor said now is a good time to talk to your student athlete about sexual abuse.

"I think really, the best thing that you could do is when stories like this come out, is you make it a family discussion," explained Dr. O'Connor. "Now as the adult, or as the parent, you have to be comfortable... you don't want to use certain words or beat around the bush. Look, if you can just be objective, speak in medical terms, be very straightforward; that's going to help children from younger ages through teens through college."

Dr. O'Connor said victims often feel as if it's their fault, or that they did something wrong to lead to the abuse.

Victims of Dr. Anderson claim it was the "worst-kept secret at the university."

Hundreds have since come forward alleging abuse at the hands of the late doctor.

"People are trying to protect whatever they're most highly valuing and invested in. And in college sports... a big motivator is the perception, the recruiting, the tremendous effect that it's going to have an entire program, millions of dollars," said Dr. O'Connor. "It's got its own unique challenges, which is why in college sports, we want to take reports of this even more seriously."

Dr. O'Connor said there are signs to look for if your student athlete is being abused.

"Anytime you see any difference, so if they're becoming more withdrawn, if they're, you know, more angry, irritable, if they start, you know, losing interest in friends, if they start isolating, if their grades start dropping, you know, there's a change where you're like, 'Gosh, it doesn't seem like my kid anymore,' then something is going on," he said.

He also urged those involved to pay attention to any abuse allegations.

"Every coach and parent that's out there... if you hear that there is any abuse, you must put all of your stuff aside and protect that child, protect that team, protect that person who is being hurt," he said. "And, look at it and explore it. Even if it costs you something, because you're saving a life."

You can learn more about Dr. Eddie O'Connor and his practice by clicking here.