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Senate Passes Bill Requiring U.S. Amateur Athletic Organizations to Report Sexual Abuse

Washington—The Senate today passed legislation led by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to require amateur athletics governing bodies to report sex-abuse allegations immediately to local or federal law enforcement, or a child-welfare agency designated by the Justice Department.

The bill further authorizes the U.S. Center for Safe Sport to ensure that aspiring Olympic athletes can report allegations of abuse to an independent and non-conflicted entity for investigation and resolution, and to make sure that all national governing bodies follow the strictest standards for child abuse prevention and detection.

The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act stems from recent allegations of sexual abuse made against personnel involved with USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming and USA Taekwondo and follows hearings earlier this year before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee on athlete safety issues.

“Sexual abuse is one of the most heinous crimes and our legislation will finally ensure that adults who are responsible for the safety of millions of young athletes will be held accountable for preventing abuse and reporting any allegation of abuse,” said Senator Feinstein. “Passage of our legislation wouldn’t have been possible without the courage of women who came forward to say ‘enough is enough.’ They shared deeply personal, horrific experiences to help prevent other young girls from having to ensure the same abuse and pain. Since I met with several brave women in February, I told them that I would work to pass this bill. Today is their day.”

“Combining the best of two proposals, this legislation makes institutional changes within the U.S. Olympic movement and sets stringent new criminal reporting requirements to protect young athletes from sexual abuse,” said Senator Thune. “The horrendous crimes of adults entrusted with the care of young athletes prompted this legislation.”

“It’s a stain on our country that many of our own young Olympic athletes were sexually abused for years by the very adults they entrusted to train them and keep them safe,” said Senator Nelson. “No aspiring athlete deserves to have their dream or moment of Olympic gold stolen from them by the actions of a sexual predator. These heinous crimes and the culture that allowed them to go undetected for so long must come to an immediate end.”

“Sexual abuse has absolutely no place in our society and must be eradicated,” said Senator Collins. “I have long worked to prevent sexual assault and ensure that survivors have access to every resource and support they need. By requiring amateur athletic governing organizations to promptly report every allegation of sexual abuse to the proper authorities, our legislation will help survivors obtain justice and protect more people from these repugnant crimes.”

“Amateur athletics governing bodies like USA Gymnastics have an obligation to athletes, parents, and the sport to ensure that athletes are safe,” said Senator Donnelly. “This bipartisan bill aims to help prevent the sexual abuse of athletes and would require prompt reporting of abuse to authorities. I have been pushing Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics for answers and accountability from the beginning and Senate passage of our legislation is an important step forward.”

“Sexual misconduct is grossly reprehensible. This legislation will help protect young athletes in USA Gymnastics and other U.S. Olympic organizations by requiring stringent standards for reporting abuse and holding abusers accountable,” said Senator Young.

“Children everywhere deserve to be protected from sexual predators. By establishing new safeguards, this legislation will help curb abuses of power and send a clear message that sexual abuse of young athletes will not be tolerated,” said Senator Warren.

The bill would amend the Ted Stevens Amateur and Olympic Sports Act, which governs amateur athletics governing bodies, to make it safe and easy for victims to report abuse and mandate oversight to ensure strong sexual-abuse prevention policies are implemented.

Lastly, the bill reforms the law that allows victims to sue sex-crime perpetrators by extending the statute of limitations because it’s often difficult for children to recognize that they have had crimes committed against them until much later on into adulthood.

Statements from athletes and supporters:

“Testifying before the Senate Judiciary committee on behalf of S. 534 was emotionally difficult but very empowering,” said Jessica Howard, U.S. National Champion. “It will help bring abusers to justice and give future generations of child athletes the protections we needed but did not have. I am so pleased that the full Senate got behind this important legislation and I encourage the House of Representatives to join with them.”

“This bill will go a long way towards protecting young athletes from sexual abuse and allow them to pursue their Olympic dreams in a safe environment. I thank the Senate for hearing our voices and I especially appreciate the leadership of my home state Senator Dianne Feinstein,” said Jamie Dantzscher, U.S. Olympic Bronze Medalist.

“I view the passing of this bill as a significant positive for all sports. For too long, the system governing gymnastics has turned a blind eye to the egregious lack of safety and systematic abuse of our young athletes,” said Dominique Moceanu, U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist. “This bipartisan bill, authored by forward-thinking legislators, is a huge step in the right direction and provides a new level of safety our young athletes had not received previously. It has been an honor to stand alongside the courageous women who have come forward to testify about their abuse and to be able to lend my own voice in support of such positive change.”

“We must be vigilant in our efforts to address and prevent abuse and continue to look for ways to protect our young athletes. S. 534 is a critical bill in achieving this mission by establishing clear obligations for organizations and adults in the amateur sports world, and by authorizing an independent entity to provide ongoing education and enforcement in this space,” said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun.

“This legislation takes important steps forward in protecting young athletes by mandating policies for all amateur sports organizations and authorizing the United States Center for Safe Sport,” said National Governing Body Council of the USOC Chair Max Cobb.

The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act is supported by National Child Abuse Coalition, Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, American Psychological Association, Association of University Centers on Disability, Casey Family Programs, Children and Family Futures, Children's Advocacy Institute, Committee For Children, Every Child Matters Education Fund, Family Focused Treatment Association, First Focus, Futures Without Violence, Kempe Center, National Alliance of Children's Trust and Prevention Funds, National Association of Counsel for Children, National Association of Social Workers, National Center for State Courts, National CASA, National Respite Coalition, Parents Anonymous, Prevent Child Abuse America, Ray E. Helfer Society, Voice for Adoption, Zero To Three, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, National Crime Victims Center, Child Welfare League of America, National Center for Victims of Crime, DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community, National Children’s Alliance, National Domestic Violence Hotline, Childhelp, ToPrevail, Rights4Girls, Child USA, ChampionWomen, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), National Survivor Advocates Coalition, National Children’s Advocacy Center, Lauren’s Kids, Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, University of Utah Law Professor Paul Cassell, DePaul University Professor Emeritus Howard Rubin, Child Sex Crime Victims’ Lawyer James Marsh, Crime Victims Expert Steve Twist, Former USA Gymnast Dominique Moceanu, Former USA Olympic Bronze Medalist Jamie Dantzscher, Former USA Gymnastics, National Team Member Jessica Howard, Former USA Gymnastics National Team Member Mattie Larson, Former USA Gymnastics National Team Member Jeanette Antolin, National Governing Body Council of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Center for SafeSport.