On Wednesday, President Trump signed a bill into law aimed at protecting athletes from systematic sexual abuse. The issue has been getting more attention after more than 150 women and girls said Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar had abused them over a period of over two decades, and he was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison. Those who accused him include two-time gold medalist Aly Raisman.
The legislation, sponsored by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, requires amateur athletics governing bodies like USA Gymnastics to report sexual abuse allegations to local or federal law enforcement, or a Justice Department-designated child-welfare agency, within 24 hours. It also extends the statute of limitations on suing those who perpetrate sex crimes, since it's often hard for children to recognise there had been crimes committed against them.
“Today is the culmination of months of hard work in the Senate and House, and by the many gymnasts and other athletes who championed this bill and advocated passionately for its passage. Every adult involved in amateur and collegiate athletics must now know that they have a responsibility to protect the young athletes in their care,” Sen. Feinstein said in a statement. “The days of turning a blind eye to abuse are over. This vital reform was only possible because of the incredibly courageous women who decided to come forward, share their pain, and do all they could to make sure this dark chapter is never repeated.”
This signing comes as the White House is embroiled in a domestic abuse scandal with former staff secretary Rob Porter. Instead of firing and condemning Porter after his ex-wives publicly accused him, Trump expressed sympathy for him, saying "he did a very good job" and "he says he's innocent and I think you have to remember that." He has not said anything to express sympathy for Porter's ex-wives.
On Wednesday, in the Oval Office, Trump said, "I'm totally opposed to domestic violence," a statement that struck many as insincere.
At this point, at least 19 women have accused Trump of sexual assault or harassment, but the White House has dismissed the allegations as lies. So it's no surprise that this bill signing doesn't sit well with some.
"Protecting children from sexual abuse must be a top priority for everyone in this country, and this bill is an important first step. We support this bill and are glad it is now law," said Nita Chaudhary, cofounder of UltraViolet, a national women's rights organisation.
"But watching Donald Trump...be the one to sign this legislation into law is deeply disturbing. Trump has abused, insulted, assaulted, and harassed women throughout his entire life. In the last week alone, Trump repeatedly supported and sympathised with abusers over the survivors of abuse, and all amid reports that he feels the #MeToo movement is bad for businesses. The idea that he can sit in the White House and pretend to be a champion for the abused is absurd."
UltraViolet — the same group that projected the words "Donald Trump harassed or assaulted 20 women" onto Trump's Washington, D.C., hotel during the State of the Union address — has been calling on Congress to open an investigation into the allegations against Trump for more than a year. Last week, the group coordinated a letter signed by 1,400 sexual assault survivors demanding that the US Olympic Committee hold enablers of abuse accountable and calling for the resignation of its CEO Scott Blackmun.