USA Gymnastics and Others Failed the Nation’s Children by Covering up Sexual Abuse Cases
Today, American children are suffering from a widespread epidemic of sexual abuse that doesn’t bear thinking about.

The sooner this problem is faced head on, the better. The fact is, abuse can happen at any time or any place. Though a lot of media attention has been drawn to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, another such setting that recent news has highlighted is sports.

Sexual Abuse at Baylor and Head Coach’s Thoughtless Response

Last month, the head coach of the women’s basketball team at Baylor University – currently at the center of a headline-grabbing rape scandal – found herself under the spotlight for comments that outraged both students and parents.

Saying that she was tired of hearing about the scandal in the media, Kim Mulkey declared that people not involved in the case “don’t know what they’re talking about.” Worse, she suggested anyone who hears of parents hesitating to send their daughters to the school should “knock them right in the face.”

There is no scope for getting tired of stories such as this one at Baylor. Sexual abuse in sporting environments has simply become too big of a problem to ignore. In the Baylor scandal alone, the school’s football players were reported to have committed 52 rapes over four years, including four gang rapes. Moreover, instead of reporting these horrifying cases of violent sexual abuse to authorities, Baylor University attempted to conceal the whole thing – even paying for one victim’s silence with free tuition.

This, of course, is utterly disrespectful and unacceptable behavior in the United States.

There is nothing that could ever excuse an establishment with a duty of care to allow these actions to continue undetected. Yet, as unthinkable as this sounds, there are similar cases happening across the country.

The IndyStar’s ‘Witch Hunt’ on USA Gymnastics

In an investigation led by the Indianapolis Star, hundreds of allegations surfaced against USA Gymnastics, the national governing body for selecting competing athletes. The organization’s administrative files, released just last week after the Star fought relentlessly for access, detail 5,600 pages and 368 cases of child abuse spanning 20 years.

The general approach the USA Gymnastics organization took for handling sexual abuse allegations was to investigate coaches themselves before handing them over to the police. Sometimes officials took so long to ban offenders that they were able to commit even more offenses.

It gets worse. Parts of the court files – names, gyms and 175 consecutive pages – are heavily blacked out. Further documents show that victims and their parents were wrongly silenced. Some were forced to sign waivers that prevented victims from disclosing the details of their sexual abuse claims. In one case, the regional chairman wrote to the then-president, Bob Colarossi, pleading for a convicted sex offender to keep his professional membership.

“Keeping athletes safe requires sustained vigilance by everyone – coaches, athletes, parents, administrators and officials – and there is more work to be done,” the organization responded in a statement. “USA Gymnastics believes one instance of child abuse is one too many.”

This is true, of course. However, by allowing its personnel to believe otherwise, the organization’s actions fail to follow through on its statement.

Finding Justice in Truth

As recent months show us, there is a clear trend happening. In each case, wrongdoing didn’t stop at the abuse itself; it continued with efforts to cover up allegations – even those proven true. This is representative of a corrupt system that has flourished for decades, if not centuries. And so much more likely remains hidden.

Although sports associations and schools might argue this atrocious issue is better kept away from the public, any allegations or even suspicions of abuse must be reported.

The first step toward empowerment is speaking up. Simmons Hanly Conroy can help you figure out your options with a free, confidential consultation.