A new story came to light this month about abuse in youth sports. A young figure skater accused an older skater of abuse. The abuser’s coaches and others discouraged the victim and her parents from coming forward and pursuing charges against the abuser. The coaches threatened and shamed the girl in order to keep her quiet, allegedly telling her that if she said anything she would never skate again. Eventually, the victim and her family reported the incident to the US Center for Safe Sport, the organization that investigates sexual abuse in Olympic sports, and an inquiry has been opened.
Keeping young athletes safe has become a big issue for Olympic sports in the wake of the abuse scandal in USA Gymnastics. Many more unfortunate stories have come to light since and organizations have been forced to change and adapt by adopting new policies and screening procedures. Congress passed the Safe Sport Act which had far-reaching implications for organizations that provide youth sports programs.
The Safe Sport Act requires all staff and volunteers who work with young athletes to undergo training that teaches them to recognize signs of abuse and grooming behavior in other adults. They are also mandated reporters so if they suspect abuse or are told of abuse, they must report it. The coaches in the figure skating story did not follow these guidelines at all which only indicates that there is still a long way to go. Organizations that are providing youth sports programs are doing a valuable service for their community. However, they also must be doing all that they can to protect the children they serve by following the standards set by the Safe Sport Act.