WASHINGTON – Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) today introduced legislation to require amateur athletics governing bodies to immediately report sex-abuse allegations to local or federal law enforcement, or a child-welfare agency designated by the Justice Department.
The bill stems from recent allegations of sexual abuse made against personnel involved with USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming and USA Taekwondo.
The bill would also 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 of member gymnasiums to ensure strong sexual-abuse prevention policies are implemented. For example, USA Gymnastics would implement and enforce policies to ensure coaches and personnel are trained in sexual abuse prevention.
“Sexual abuse should never be tolerated. This bill helps to protect young athletes from such heinous crimes, and establishes a structure to help victims safely report abuses, which must then be relayed to the authorities,” said Senator Grassley. “It also requires oversight of the training facilities to ensure that policies preventing sexual abuse are being taken seriously.”
“Sexual abuse stays with victims their entire lives. Amateur athletic governing bodies, coaches, and personnel have a special obligation to do all they can to protect young athletes in their care,” said Senator Feinstein. “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.”
“Sexual abuse is a heinous crime that must be eradicated in every corner of our society,” said Senator Collins. “I have long worked to prevent sexual assault and ensure that survivors have access to the resources and support they need. By requiring amateur athletic governing organizations to promptly report every allegation of sexual abuse to the proper authorities, this legislation will help survivors receive justice and protect more people from becoming victims.”
“As a former prosecutor, I’ve seen firsthand how child sexual abuse can destroy lives. Amateur athletes deserve better protection from this terrible crime,” said Senator Klobuchar. “Our bipartisan legislation would help ensure that the governing organizations, coaches, and trainers who are closest to these young athletes are actively reporting sexual abuse crimes to law enforcement in order to punish abusers and prevent these acts from happening in the first place.”
“When parents entrust their children to these programs and coaches, there should be no doubt that they will be safe and protected from predators,” said Senator McCaskill. “What happened to these kids under the watch of USA Gymnastics coaches is sickening, and these predators need to be held fully accountable.”
“There is absolutely no room for sexual assault. This legislation safeguards our athletes by strengthening mandatory reporting of sexual assault allegations and requiring amateur sports organizations to develop and enforce policies to prevent these horrendous crimes from happening in the first place,” said Senator Ernst. “Combatting and preventing sexual assault is a bipartisan issue, and we must work to ensure there is zero tolerance for sexual assault in all facets of our society.”
“All children have the right to be protected from abuse and protected when reporting abuse. The revelations about USA Gymnastics turning a blind eye to our most vulnerable young athletes were heartbreaking,” said Senator Harris. “The systemic disregard by officials to report instances of abuse must be addressed. We must compel amateur athletic organizations to immediately report abusers to law-enforcement, and create protected environments for children to thrive. This legislation is a critical step forward.”
“This will force the U.S. Olympic Committee and their national athletic governing bodies to do something they should have been doing all along: developing and enforcing strict policies that protect athletes from sexual abuse,” said Senator Nelson. “It’s inexcusable that responsible adults looked the other way while terrible crimes were committed.”
“There should be no excuse for anyone—particularly those in positions of authority and who are entrusted with the safety and well-being of young athletes—to fail to report the sexual abuse of children and young adults,” said Senator Rubio. “Recent revelations about the USA Gymnastics program are deeply troubling, and it’s clear we must do more to strengthen protections for young athletes, ensure victims receive justice, and hold predators accountable.”
The bill is supported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), National Children’s Alliance, Rights4Girls, University of Utah Law Professor Paul Cassell, Child Sex Crime Victims’ Lawyer James Marsh, Crime Victims Expert Steve Twist, National Crime Victims Center, National Association of VOCA Administrators, Child USA, National Organization for Victim Assistance, ToPrevail, ChampionWomen, National Children Advocacy Center, the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, and Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).
Statements from victims and supporters:
Jeannette Antolin, member of the USA Gymnastics National Team and abuse victim: “I appreciate Senator Feinstein and her colleagues taking a horrendous tragedy and creating crucial change to protect future athletes. By implementing such change, I feel like my pain can finally have a voice!”
Mattie Larson, member of the USA Gymnastics National Team and abuse victim: “I am so grateful that individuals in a position of power have listened to my story and is making sure that what happened to me won’t happen to future athletes.”
Jessica Howard, member of the USA Gymnastics National Team and abuse victim: “The culture of abuse in gymnastics, the tacit permission for emotional, psychological and physical abuse cloaked in obfuscation and denial creates an environment where sexual abuse can occur with impunity. This, sadly, was my experience. Sadder still is that this culture has been generationally perpetuated at an institutional level. The abuse must stop now. With proper legislation, we can make the changes necessary to ensure that children will be free to follow their dreams in an environment free of abuse.”
John F. Clark, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children: “As President and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, we know that protecting children and providing safe spaces for them to learn, play and grow is central to the mission of every youth-serving organization, including sports organizations. We believe that the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act will go a long way in protecting youth who participate in elite sports, so we are proud to lend our support to Senators Dianne Feinstein, Charles Grassley and all the other sponsors of this important legislation.”
Rebecca O’Connor, vice president of public policy, RAINN: “This legislation is an important step to ensuring that allegations of sexual abuse of elite amateur athletes are taken seriously and acted upon swiftly. In supporting this legislation, we will work with Senator Feinstein and other members of the Senate to protect children from this abuse.”
Mai Fernandez, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime: “This legislation will provide important protections and remedies for young athletes. We applaud Senator Feinstein for her efforts to ensure that athletes can train and compete in an atmosphere free of sexual abuse.”
Nancy Hogshead-Makar, J.D., three-time Olympic gold medalist, CEO of Champion Women: “Senator Feinstein’s bold step is a simple one: requiring that the U.S. Olympic Committee and the national governing bodies of each sport shield athletes from sexually abusive coaches. For years these organizations have argued that the Sports Act prevented them from protecting athletes. This new legislation eliminates the legal gap that resulted in severe harm to thousands of young athletes over decades.”
Marci Hamilton, J.D., CEO and academic director, CHILD USA: “No longer is reporting abuse in sports left solely to the states. By requiring all coaches and adults associated with a national governing body to report sexual abuse, this bill goes a long way toward changing the culture of sport. Many thanks to Senator Feinstein for her leadership in the fight to protect children.”
Teresa Huizar, executive director, National Children’s Alliance: “Coaches and sporting federations wield immense power in the lives of child athletes, whether they train to excel at their chosen sports as a pastime or to represent America among nations on the Olympic stage. Some predators seeking close contact with children enter the ranks of amateur sports, where children and parents trust coaches and doctors to help them achieve their Olympic dreams. Senator Feinstein’s bill, the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act, would help protect child athletes from abuse and hold sporting federations accountable for providing child protection and appropriate oversight of the conduct of coaches and other professionals.”