Bill requiring Olympic sports organizations to report sex abuse allegations advances
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday to approved a bill that would require Olympic sports organizations to immediately report child and sexual abuse allegations to local or federal law enforcement, or a child welfare agency designated by the U.S. Justice Department.
The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act, sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), was prompted by the sexual abuse scandal within USA Gymnastics.
“Sexual abuse stays with victims their entire lives. U.S. Olympic governing bodies, coaches, and personnel have an obligation to do all they can to protect young athletes,” Feinstein said. “All allegations of sex abuse must be promptly reported to local or federal law enforcement. Otherwise, they may not be treated with the seriousness that’s required. I’d like to thank Chairman Grassley for quickly moving our bill through committee and the survivors who shared their deeply painful stories at our hearing. We’ll be working hard to get our bill approved by the full Senate.”
The Feinstein bill would also amend the Ted Stevens Amateur and Olympic Sports Act, which governs American Olympic sport governing bodies, to make it less daunting for victims to report abuse. The bill would also require governing body of member gyms or clubs to ensure effective sexual abuse prevention policies are adopted.
The judiciary committee’s approval comes against the backdrop of the worst sexual abuse scandal in American sports history in which more than 100 women allege that former USA Gymnastics women’s national team physician Larry Nassar sexually abused them as young athletes. USA Gymnastics is the subject of a series of civil lawsuits nationwide for allegedly enabling the culture in which Nassar and others were able to prey on young athletes. The scandal also led to the resignation of USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny in March.
“The stories of abuse that we have heard today are appalling, disheartening and unacceptable,” Rick Adams, USOC chairman for Paralympic sport and national governing bodies organizational development, told the judiciary committee during a hearing earlier this year. “The Olympic community failed the people it was supposed to protect.
“We share your deep concerns about USA Gymnastics’ handling of allegations of abuse and we supported Steve Penny’s decision to resign,” Adams said. “We hope that his resignation will offer an opportunity for the organization to implement significant change. The abuse should have detected, it should have been prevented and it should have been promptly reported. The Olympic community failed and must do better.”
Representatives Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) and Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.