Therapist: 'Gut instinct' best indicator of sexual assault situations

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- For the second time in a week, a local coach is accused of sexually assaulting a minor. Local experts say the warning signs for coach-athlete sexual assault can easily go unnoticed.

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"Social media and texting makes it a lot easier for people to do this sort of thing, unfortunately," said Jaimie Simon, a therapist at The Counseling Clinic of Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin.

Matthew Kitzis, 30, a speed skating coach in Kaukauna, is the latest local youth coach accused of sexually assaulting minor athletes. (Read the related story.)

Simon tells Action 2 News this type of assault is one of many therapists see patients dealing with on a regular basis.

"You see a power differential between the coaches and the athletes. Coaches can control things like playing time or even access to scholarships, college contacts, things like that," she said. "So, a lot of times students are not wanting to speak up for that reason."

A criminal complaint says Kitzis started a relationship with one of his minor skaters by spending time alone with her outside of practice, often going to get food.

"A lot of those behaviors--the extra interest, extra attention, positive affirmations--sometimes is just a positive, genuinely good coach that's interested, and sometimes it's a sign that a student is being groomed to be sexually assaulted," Simon said.

Prosecutors also say people saw Kitzis treating some girls on the team in a way that "creeped some of the parents out."

"I would encourage parents to know what school policies are regarding player-coach contact," she said. "Get to know the coaches. Kind of get a gauge, because your gut instinct is going to be one of the best indicators here."

Simon says it is important to speak out if something does not seem right. She says the first step is talking to your teen before contacting the athletic director and law enforcement and seeking counseling services.

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