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Op-ed: Federal law exists to protect children from sexual abuse in youth sports

 Toby Stark, Published 6:00 a.m. ET March 10, 2019

Youth sports organizations that fall under the new law’s mandates know nothing about it.

Feb. 14 was more than Valentine’s Day. It was also the one-year anniversary of the “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017” (Safe Sport Authorization Act). What is that, you ask? It is, perhaps, one of the most important federal laws for youth protection and well-being, that no one knows about.

The law is intended to minimize the risk of child sexual abuse in youth sports, specifically national governing bodies (USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming, etc.) and amateur sports organizations that participate in interstate and international competitions” (elite travel teams, for example).

The national governing bodies within the Olympic movement are scrambling into compliance with the Safe Sport Authorization Act, but youth sports organizations that fall under the new law’s mandates know nothing about it. You can ask almost any prosecutor, owner/manager of a youth sports organization, or parent of a minor elite athlete and they will have, most likely, never heard of the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017.

Sponsored by U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein with 29 bi-partisan co-sponsors, it was introduced to the U.S. Senate in March 2017 to much fanfare and media coverage. It completed passage by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on Jan. 29, 2018, in the midst of the Larry Nassar trials that included victim impact statements from over 150 young women, including Olympic champion, Aly Raisman. It was signed by the [resident and became federal law on Feb. 14, 2018. And then…crickets.

The intent of this op-ed is to raise awareness.

Owners and managers of youth sports organizations that participate in interstate and international competitions need to know that what was once considered ‘best practices’ in child sexual abuse prevention and response is now federal law.

Parents need to know what is now expected of the adults running or volunteering with the sports teams on which their children play, regarding athlete protection.

And, prosecutors need to know the fullest extent of the law they can prosecute alleged child sexual abuse cases in youth sports.

These covered organizations and any adult they authorize to interact with a minor amateur athlete must now report to local law enforcement known or a reasonable suspicion of child abuse within 24 hours (the federal law requires reporting to local law enforcement, not the coach or sports organization leadership). Additionally, these covered organizations are now required to have policies, procedures and training for child sexual abuse prevention and response. This is required, not recommended.

This is federal law. If protecting our young athletes from possible child sexual abuse wasn’t enough incentive to do the right thing, we now have federal law holding us accountable. Now, let’s start holding ourselves and each other accountable.

The time is now.

Toby Stark is a national child sexual abuse advocate who focuses on athlete protection.

 

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