In the wake of a lawsuit against a former USA Gymnastics team doctor who allegedly sexually assaulted dozens of gymnasts, the Senate has introduced a bill to prevent sexual abuse of athletes. The legislation, proposed by Democratic California Senator Dianne Feinstein along with others including Elizabeth Warren and Marco Rubio, would require that athletic organizations immediately bring reports of abuse to the police or child welfare agencies.
The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act of 2017 also puts measures in place that make it easier for survivors to report such crimes and imposes requirements, like the training of coaches in sexual violence prevention, to hold gymnasiums accountable.
"Sexual abuse stays with [survivors] their entire lives. Amateur athletic governing bodies, coaches, and personnel have a special obligation to do all they can to protect young athletes in their care," Feinstein said in a press release on her website. "All allegations of sex abuse must be promptly reported to local or federal law enforcement. Otherwise, they may not be treated with the seriousness that’s required."
Rubio said that the USA Gymnastics allegations fueled his support of the bill: "Recent revelations about the USA Gymnastics program are deeply troubling, and it’s clear we must do more to strengthen protections for young athletes...and hold predators accountable."
Multiple members of the gymnastics team were behind the bill, and several expressed gratitude that something good will come of their trauma.
"The culture of abuse in gymnastics, the tacit permission for emotional, psychological and physical abuse cloaked in obfuscation and denial creates an environment where sexual abuse can occur with impunity," said former member Jessica Howard. "This, sadly, was my experience. Sadder still is that this culture has been generationally perpetuated at an institutional level. The abuse must stop now. With proper legislation, we can make the changes necessary to ensure that children will be free to follow their dreams in an environment free of abuse."