As the world’s elite athletes prepare for the Winter Olympics to commence this Friday in Beijing, a new, independent report prepared by the Game Over Commission to Protect Child Athletes and CHILD USA makes a clear call for changes in the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, from the top down.
The report – “I believe competitive gymnastics and other elite sports break children.” A Case-Study of Systemic Abuse in Sports Perpetrated by Larry Nassar – includes important findings that identify a systemic failure across youth-serving organizations, including sports institutions, and recommendations for changing the power dynamic baked into such institutions that facilitated Nassar’s crimes. And notably, it includes action items for lawmakers, athletic organizations and medical licensing boards to address these systemic gaps and breakdowns that have continuously allowed abusers to harm children.
All of this is a step in the right direction. With this report, lawmakers, leaders and organizations now have action plans in hand to help them protect children and young adults who are chasing their dreams.
No child should ever experience the horrific atrocities shared by the 500 young athletes Larry Nassar victimized and abused over his far too many years in power. From Larry Nassar to Jerry Sandusky at Penn State University, and from Richard Strauss at Ohio State University to Robert Anderson at the University of Michigan – which just announced a $490 million settlement to his more than 1,000 victims – unfortunately, these devastating situations are not unique. We must do better.
We work hard every day to advocate for and support “upstream” policies and programs that prevent child abuse before it happens, including within youth-serving organizations.
Prevention of child sexual abuse is possible when communities, and the adults in those communities, take bold action to create safe environments for children. The recommendations in this report, if followed, will make great progress in proactively stopping sexual, physical, mental, and emotional abuses before they can begin.