Safety & Security

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SafeSport: Will it Actually Protect Young Athletes or is it just Lip Service?

28 Nov, 2018

By: Michael Popke

When Congress passed the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act — also known as the Safe Sport Act — the hope was that it would spur the prompt reporting of incidents to law-enforcement officials.

Yet a recent opinion piece posted on TheHill.com, a political website that covers policy, claimed the act is fraught with problems: Few know it exists, it’s not federally funded and it may even be unenforceable.

“I called several friends whose children are actively involved in various sports (lacrosse, soccer, sailing) and live in states all around the country, and not one had heard of the Safe Sport Act,” writes Lyndon Haviland, an advocate for public health and the former CEO of Darkness to Light, a nonprofit that aims to prevent child sexual abuse. “In fact, they learned about the law’s existence and its requirements from my email, having received little or no information by their respective sports’ leagues. News coverage about it has been scarce and the public is right to wonder how many youth sports leagues around the country have instructed their representatives who interact with children on a regular basis about the law’s new provisions.”

Of course, those who are aware of the Safe Sport Act (such as Haviland) are invoking it in the wake of the ever-growing USA Gymnastics scandal.

“Most troubling is the fact that the Safe Sport Act establishes zero consequences for adults in youth sports who do not uphold the law and fail to report suspected child predators to the authorities,” Haviland writes.

“The Safe Sport Act is a well-intentioned effort that sadly won’t do anything to stop the failures that occurred at USAG,” he continues. “Funding must be available to give youth sports organizations the proper coaching and education they need, so that they may serve as a first line of defense on this issue for the children in their care. Those who serve as mentors for children in youth sports must be compelled to report anything they may see or hear, as the Safe Sport Act commands, or face penalties for staying quiet. And it must be part of a national standard for mandatory reporting, where those in any profession who fail to step forward and do the right thing to protect defenseless children from child sexual abuse face serious consequences for their inaction.”

The solution? Haviland contends that Congress must provide the necessary funding and training to give the Safe Sport Act the teeth it intends.

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