The USA Gymnastics sexual abuse scandal is likely the largest sexual abuse scandal in U.S. sports history. It's infuriating and devastating and far-reaching. Now, a new report is outlining the ways in which the organization needs to change in order to prevent this from happening again.
The Daniels Report, commissioned last year, spans 146 pages and includes 70 recommendations, concluding that "USA Gymnastics needs to undergo a complete cultural change, permeating the entire organization."
The report comes following an investigation published last year by the Indianapolis Star, which found that 368 gymnasts alleged sexual exploitation by coaches and other authority figures over the span of about 20 years, and most of these allegations had never been investigated by USA Gymnastics. Former team doctor Larry Nassar is currently on trial for sexual abuse, and has been accused by more than 80 people.
The report was lead by former federal child sexual abuse prosecutor Deborah J. Daniels and breaks down their recommendations into 10 sections, which include administrative management; education, training and athlete support; reporting of suspected violations; and screening and selection of coaches, volunteers and other adults with access to athletes.
One major finding of the report was that, while USA Gymnastics required all of its more than 3,500 affiliated clubs have a Participant Welfare Policy, there were no mandated prohibited behaviors. Not only that, there were huge discrepancies between policies and different clubs, and many did not have one at all. A new policy is being developed, which will be in line with recommendations from the U.S. Center for SafeSport.
Oh, and also this: "USA Gymnastics has not historically required member clubs, or any other members of USA Gymnastics, to report any type of abuse, including sexual misconduct, to USA Gymnastics or law enforcement authorities." That's right, there were no reporting requirements.
The report also noted that the clubs needed to develop clear and specific examples of "appropriate" and "inappropriate" behavior and interactions. No longer will adults be able to be alone with minor athletes, or share hotel rooms with them. They will also not be permitted to have out-of-gym contact with minors via phone calls, emails, or texts.
Furthermore, the report indicated that the Board of Directors did not take these allegations seriously. Shockingly, despite the sheer magnitude of allegations made against coaches and employees associated with USA Gymnastics, the report found "no existence" of discussion about sexual abuse in the Board's meeting minutes.
A letter to the gymnastics community released alongside the report and signed by the Board of Directors reads, “USA Gymnastics is very sorry that anyone has been harmed during his or her gymnastics career, and we offer our deepest regrets to any athlete who suffered abuse or mistreatment while participating in the sport. By working together, we can move the sport forward to better prevent the opportunity for abuse to occur."
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