After the wake of USA Gymnastics child sex abuse scandal, Child USA, a non-profit think tank for child protection, created the Game Over Commission in 2018. In January, the Commission revealed a troubling report that not a single investigated institution has strong enough policies to prevent emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of child athletes. It challenges the greater athletic community to do more to protect the vulnerable.
The USA Gymnastics scandal sent shockwaves into the athletic and child protection community. It demonstrated how one well-placed individual in authority could abuse thousands of children. The most heinous example exposed was Larry Nassar, who as the team doctor of the United States women’s national gymnastics team, allegedly sexually assaulted at least 265 girls under the guise of medical treatment. He eventually plead guilty to charges of child pornography and sexual assault.
The outrage resulted in the Game Over Commission. The recently released report was authored by 14 leading national experts in child sex abuse prevention, law enforcement, academia, trauma, sports, and investigative journalism. It’s findings indicated massive institutional failings among the Olympic system, law enforcement, the legal system, and the professional and medical boards.
Among its numerous recommendations is a section directed at National Governing Bodies (NGBs), gyms, and other athletic institutions. It encourages them to:
- NGBs should provide non-conditional financial support for athletes and those exiting their sport.
- NGBs, gyms and other athletic institutions should adopt educational programs for athletes and parents.
- NGBs, gyms and other athletic institutions should develop a standard for athlete health and well-being.
- CHILD USA’s Evidence-based Gold Standard Child Protection Policies (Appendix H) should be mandatory for gyms and other athletic institutions.
As members of the greater athletic community, it is our duty to ensure that these recommendations are followed by sport institutions. Athletes, coaches, sports developers, and fans should combine our voices in pushing for necessary changes to protect our athletes.
As a sport and coach education consultant, Adrenaline Solutions has a greater responsibility. We plan to raise awareness of the issue and propose solutions for institutions that is committed to preventing any form of child abuse.
According to Joseph Gurgis, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Cape Breton University and Adrenaline Solutions’ Consultant on Safe Sport, “ Safeguarding policies are essential to cultivating a Safe Sport environment.” Unfortunately good intentions may not lead to good results, “Research has taught us that sport organisations often lack the capacity, time, personnel, and expertise to design and implement policy requirements that appropriately address athlete maltreatment.” He continues that these policies “focus on preventing sexual abuse, despite other forms of maltreatment, such as emotional abuse, being more common in sport.” To be effective, he recommended that,”they must be evidence-based, easily accessible, encompassing all types of maltreatment, and ideally, governed by agencies independent of the sport organisation.”
Download the full report here.