January 30, 2018

Senate Passes Feinstein Bill to Protect Young Athletes from Abuse

Washington—The Senate today passed legislation drafted by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to require amateur athletics governing bodies like USA Gymnastics and other amateur sports organizations to report sex-abuse allegations to local or federal law enforcement, or a child-welfare agency designated by the Justice Department within 24 hours. 

Video of Feinstein’s remarks from today’s press conference is available here.

Among the 29 cosponsors of the bill are Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), Commerce Committee Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), dean of the Republican women senators.

“Today is the culmination of months of hard work in the Senate and House, and by the many gymnasts and other athletes who championed this bill and advocated passionately for its passage. Every adult involved in amateur and collegiate athletics must now know that they have a responsibility to protect the young athletes in their care,” said Senator Feinstein. “The days of turning a blind eye to abuse are over. This vital reform was only possible because of the incredibly courageous women who decided to come forward, share their pain and do all they could to make sure this dark chapter is never repeated. They all deserve our thanks.”

The bill 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, detection, and investigation.

The bill amends 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.

The bill also 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.

The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act is supportedby the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, National Crime Victims Center, National Child Abuse Coalition, Child Welfare League of America, National Center for Victims of Crime, National Children’s Alliance, Childhelp, National Survivor Advocates Coalition, National Children’s Advocacy Center, Lauren’s Kids, Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, , American Academy of Pediatrics, National Association to Protect Children, ChampionWomen, CHILD USA, University of Utah Law Professor Paul Cassell, Child Sex Crime Victims’ Lawyer James Marsh, Crime Victims Expert Steve Twist and Former USA Gymnast Dominique Moceanu.

The bill is also supported by the National Governing Body Council of the U.S. Olympic Committee, the U.S. Center for SafeSport and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

History of the legislation

  • August 5, 2016: Following Indianapolis Star reports, Senator Feinstein led a letter to USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny inquiring about the organization’s procedures for handling sex-abuse allegations.
  • January 31, 2017: Following an inadequate response from USA Gymnastics, Senator Feinstein led a letter requesting USA Gymnastics change its policies.
  • February 1, 2017: Senator Feinstein met with eight athletes who had been abused.
  • March 6, 2017: Senators Feinstein, Grassley and Collins introduced legislation to require mandatory reporting of allegations of abuse.
  • March 28, 2017: The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill.
  • May 4, 2017: The Judiciary Committee passed the bill unanimously.
  • November 14, 2017: The Senate passed the bill unanimously.
  • January 29, 2018: The House passes the Senate bill with an amendment 406-3.
  • January 30, 2018: The Senate passes the final bill unanimously.
###