The President signed legislation passed by Congress in January to protect athletes from sexual abuse. The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act requires national governing bodies to report suspected child abuse to law enforcement within 24 hours. The Act provides for criminal penalties if those required fail to report and authorizes the Center for Safe Sport to be an independent organization responsible for developing training, practices, and policies for national governing bodies. Additionally, the Act provides that victims of child sexual abuse are entitled to statutory damages of $150,000 as well as punitive damages.
Survivor and former USA Gymnastics National Team Member, Jeanette Antolin, said, “Time is not on our side. We must act now. Time’s up.” Antolin added, “We cannot live in a society where young children’s lives are destroyed at the hands of trusted adults.” The Safe Sport Act provides long overdue oversight into these national governing bodies and the safety of youth in amateur sports. These organizations can no longer say that protecting athletes from abuse is not their responsibility.
The Safe Sport Act is the first piece of legislation we’ve seen following the increased awareness of abuse in sports. In Michigan, survivors have worked with lawmakers to introduce a 10-bill package, which would do the following:
- Designate coaches, athletic trainers, and physical therapists as mandatory reporters
- Increase penalties for mandatory reporters who fail to report allegations of abuse
- Extend the statute of limitations for reporting child sexual abuse to either 30 years after the abuse or 30 years after the survivor turns 18
- Increase penalties for possession of child pornography
- In criminal cases involving serial predators, prosecutors would be able to introduce evidence from previous sexual assault cases
- Eliminate sovereign immunity for colleges and universities in civil and criminal cases of sexual assault
Survivor, Morgan McCaul, said, “This is the real land mark step in my healing process…It feels like we are making a difference and we are moving forward.” Rachael Denhollander, the first to publicly come forward about Nassar’s abuse said, “You must answer the question ‘how much is a child worth?’ My greatest hope is that every senator and representative and political leader will answer: ‘worth everything.’”