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Congress passes bill to protect athletes from sexual abuse

January 30, 2018 / Athletic AdministrationCoaching
Congress on Tuesday passed a bill that’s intended to crack down on the sexual abuse of young athletes by enforcing mandatory reporting regulations and extending the statute of limitations for child victims.

Former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar. | Screenshot via FoxNews, YouTube

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), comes one week after former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing more than 150 young women. The Senate version of the bill passed with a vote of 406-3 and awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.

From ThinkProgress.org:

The most important part of the act is that it broadens mandatory child abuse reporting laws to include those affiliated with U.S. Olympic sports and other amateur sports organizations, including college athletics. Under the new law, anyone affiliated with those organizations must report sexual abuse to local and federal law enforcement or social service agencies within 24 hours, or else they can be charged with a federal crime.

But the bill does a few other things as well: It makes clear that victims of child sex crimes are entitled to statutory damages of $150,000 as well as punitive damages; it extends the statute of limitations so it doesn’t begin to run until victims realize they’ve been abused — something incredibly important for victims of child sex abuse, because many don’t recognize the sexual and/or criminal nature of the abuse until they’re adults; and it requires the newly-created Center for Safe Sport to establish strict policies for preventing abuse and procedures for handling allegations, as well as oversight procedures to make sure that every single national governing body follows these procedures.

“Today would not have been possible without the women standing here,” Feinstein said during a press conference. “And women, today is your day.”

“We can now confidently say that future generations of children participating in sports will be safer,” said Dominique Moceanu, a gold medalist at the 1996 Summer Olympics. “But there’s still much work to be done. While new standards and legislation are set, it is more imperative than ever to work together to protect athletes and provide safe environments for them. Weeding out the abusers and bad actors, and their enablers, is a major part of that.”

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