House approves bill requiring amateur sporting organizations to report abuse allegations
The House overwhelmingly approved legislation on Thursday led by U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) that would require amateur athletics governing bodies to establish sexual abuse reporting and training procedures in the aftermath of abuse allegations involving USA Gymnastics programs.
Brooks was joined by U.S. Reps. Martha Roby (R-AL), Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Lois Frankel (D-FL) in introducing the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act, H.R. 1973. The legislation comes in response to revelations that 368 athletes, some Olympic hopefuls, were victimized by coaches, doctors or trainers associated with USA Gymnastics.
“I understand how challenging it is to share painful stories of sexual abuse, and I am proud of the brave gymnasts who have shared their stories,” Brooks said on the House floor. “Stories that should never have happened, and stories that went inexcusably unanswered. Their stories demand our attention and action. Not only to provide victims with the justice denied to them for so long, but also to protect future generations of Olympic hopefuls.”
Brooks, a former federal prosecutor, said H.R. 1973 would address the “dangerous silence” that plagued USA Gymnastics, and allowed more athletes to be victimized.
“Our bill makes sure that national governing bodies entrusted with the health and well-being of young athletes and future Olympians promptly report any allegations of sexual abuse to law enforcement authorities and implement stronger policies and procedures to prevent this from happening again,” Brooks said.
Speaking in support of the bill on the House floor, U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) said the measure is a step in the right direction to help ensure that athletes are better protected. He added that the bill would also direct amateur sporting organizations to develop and implement rigorous training and oversight practices to prevent future abuse.
“Our amateur athletes and their families should never ever have to worry about their children being abused by those who are closest to them, often in a very trusted relationship,” said Paulsen, who cosponsored the bill. “We need to pass this critical legislation to give families the peace of mind and prevent abuse.”
U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), also spoke in support of the bill on the House floor. He acknowledged that H.R. 1973 marked the first time Congress had put forward legislation to ensure that organizations have a duty to report abuse allegations.
“This gives us a chance to do something, which is to give a voice to those victims who have suffered in silence and yet had the courage to come forward and allow others to appreciate the depth of the impact that they have suffered, as well as an opportunity for us to assure that this kind of pattern doesn’t repeat itself,” Meehan said.
In the Senate, companion legislation was introduced by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) is an original cosponsor.