The Safe Sport Act Aims to Protect Young Athletes From Sexual Abuse

Written by Carmen Rios

In February 2017, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) talked with eight survivors of sports-related sexual abuse during what she later described as “one of the most disturbing, emotional meetings I’ve held in 25 years in the Senate.” One month later, she introduced the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act with Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Susan Collins (R-Maine)—and less than one year later, it passed with broad bipartisan support through both the Senate and the House. On Feb. 14, President Donald Trump signed the bill into law.

The Safe Sport Act amends the Victims of Child Abuse Act as well as the Ted Stevens Amateur and Olympic Sports Act to make everyone within the Olympic movement and other sports organizations mandatory reporters for child sexual abuse, provide monetary damages to victims, extend the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases and mandate abuse prevention education by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which opened last year. Though the law’s success comes on the heels of the trials of Larry Nassar, the now-convicted Olympic doctor accused of sexually assaulting more than 265 girls over a span of 20 years, advocates, athletes and sporting organizations know that such legislation is long overdue.

A Washington Post report in November 2017 found that more than 290 officials and coaches connected to Olympic sports organizations in the U.S. had been publicly accused of sexual misconduct in the preceding 36 years; more than 175 had been convicted. Since 1991, nearly 150 coaches have been officially banned for life by USA Swimming, mostly for charges of sexual misconduct. And just last year, the executive director of USA Taekwondo, Keith Ferguson, ended his tenure after three stories in USA Today revealed a pattern of ignoring and covering up sexual misconduct allegations.

“I want to thank each and every survivor who continues to shine the light on these horrific crimes,” Feinstein said in a recent statement. “It’s time we hold to account not just the abusers but also the institutions who continue to protect them. Their time is up.”

Nearly two decades ago, USA Gymnastics knew they had a problem. Then-president Bob Colarossi wrote a letter to the U.S. Olympic Committee, warning members to take the threat of child sexual abuse more seriously. “This is not an issue that can be wished away,” he wrote. “The USOC can either position itself as a leader in the protection of young athletes or it can wait until it is forced to deal with the problem under much more difficult circumstances.”

Almost 20 years later, this new legislation will finally force the USOC to do something about it.

“Opening SafeSport and championing a new federal law that provides legal protections for athletes is step one; it is not the end of the #MeToo movement in Olympic sports,” Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a former Olympic swimmer, Title IX lawyer and CEO of Champion Women, wrote in January. “The push to change an unhealthy culture that has given coaches unlimited power will require that same type of dedication over many years, but it is a worthy endeavor.”

This post originally appeared on Ms. Magazine

Photo Credit: Wikimedia/Creative Commons

62 comments

Susanne R
Susanne R19 days ago

Karen S. -- This comment is meant for you because I refuse to address Luna: You are a CRUSADER, woman! I truly admire your persistence. You have a lot more patience than I do! I think Luna and her multiple personality, Debbie, WANT to have their breasts and bottoms grabbed by the scum of the earth because they refuse to accept the FACT that such behavior is not only wrong, but against the law. It's as though they're saying, "Come and get it, boys. Have yourselves a free-for-all! And don't worry about charges being pressed because it isn't sexual harassment. Sweaty, heavy- breathing, old men will not be turned away. You don't even have to have full control of your bowels! If you have a pulse and groping hands, you'll be greeted by open arms." Thank you for defending yourself and those of us who have been subjected to such behavior --and worse. It's insulting and painful to have our nightmares treated in such a cavalier manner.

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Chad A
Chad A21 days ago

I hope it works.

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Ramesh B
Ramesh B23 days ago

Thank you

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KimJ M
KimJ M24 days ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M24 days ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M24 days ago

Luna S SEEMS TO DISAGREE WITH EVERYTHING ON CARE2, SO WHY DON'T YOU JUST LEAVE? YOU TALK A LOAD OF BS AND YOU'RE BEST IGNORED!!

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Toni W
Toni W29 days ago

TYFS

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Toni W
Toni W29 days ago

TYFS

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Leanne K
Leanne Kabout a month ago

Stop bypassing women to give the jobs to the boys, especially when it entails working with children or young adults. There are many jobs that men should be prevented from working in, because the risk is too great. And men, don’t even think about whining, because you could have whined about the abuse, could have exposed it and prevented it. But no, as always it’s left to the victims.

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Mike A.
Mike A.about a month ago

No Law will ever stop a criminal from doing what they want to do. Children are just pawns to be used and abused.

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