BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It is estimated that one in seven middle and high school aged children in the U.S. are sexually assaulted by a teacher or coach. In these cases, the perceived role model is in reality a sexual predator and the abuse they inflict is typically cultivated over a period of time.
Three-time Olympian and Hall of Fame gymnastics coach Johnny Moyal, who founded Elite Gymnastics Academy in Baton Rouge in 1987, said "without absolute trust, the coach and athlete cannot succeed."
Such a betrayal, with innocence taken away and trust shattered, can be met with shock and disbelief. Parents may wonder how they didn't see something so terribly life altering and so preventable. But, with your own child would you recognize the signs if that trust so necessary between coach and athlete began to somehow shift.
Gym owners and parents in Greater New Orleans say they did not see it coming when 43-year-old Brian Townsend, a revered gymnastics coach, was arrested by the FBI and Kenner Police on child pornography charges. His alleged subject? A 9-year-old girl he coached.
Investigators said he recorded video of the child nude as she dressed after workouts.
Baton Rouge clinical psychologist Dr. Alan Taylor urged parents to know their children. "Know your kid thoroughly," Taylor emphasized.
He recommended that parents "coach" their children in advance about behaviors that are appropriate and inappropriate. Taylor said it is paramount to act quickly and confront if a question or issue arises.
It was at the home of 36-year-old cheerleading coach Jason Galjour, where an alleged rape occurred with a cheer student. In September, police arrested Galjour on six counts of rape.
Galjour managed and coached at Precision Athletes in Baton Rouge and Walker. Two women Galjour coached detailed events they said happened in 2011 and 2012, according to documents obtained by the Investigators.
The second victim said she never told anyone and continued as his student because she was scared of him and feared he would hurt her dreams of becoming a college cheerleader.
Galjour is currently out on bond. His law firm said their client is innocent and they are fighting the charges.
The Elite Gym operates under the bylaws of USA Gymnastics, the sole governing body for the sport in the U.S. In partnership with Positive Coaching Alliance, USA has taken the lead to protect children against sexual abuse.
Their standard operating procedure states any affiliated gyms must state their zero tolerance stance against any form of sexual abuse with coaches, parents and students.
Moyal said background checks are essential, but are only part of the process. USA Gymnastics data showed only 17 percent of those convicted of child abuse in a youth sports setting will have shown up in a background check.
Organization policy states members of the gymnastics community must be willing (and in some cases are required) to report suspicious behaviors and do so before an incident occurs.
Jim Lord, Executive Director of the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA), said his group, like USA Gymnastics, has a zero tolerance policy against sexual abuse.
"There are ways sexual predators will groom children and make sure they get in good with gifts and special praise," Lord warned. He reminds parents "coaches should never be texting privately with students."
At Elite, Moyal said steps are carefully taken and rules followed, no exceptions. He said staff members are never allowed to be alone with a female or male athlete. A third person must always be present in any activity.
These rules preserve the integrity of the sport and everyone involved, with no exceptions.