Displaying items by tag: USOC http://www.safe4athletes.org Wed, 26 Oct 2016 12:10:09 -0700 en-gb United States Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs (USA IGC) Adopts Safe4Athletes Policies http://www.safe4athletes.org/blog/item/56-united-states-association-of-independent-gymnastics-clubs-usa-igc-adopts-safe4athletes-policies http://www.safe4athletes.org/blog/item/56-united-states-association-of-independent-gymnastics-clubs-usa-igc-adopts-safe4athletes-policies

New York, NY—June 25, 2013—The United States Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs (USAIGC) has announced it will formally adopt mandatory Safe4Atheles guidelines and policies Association-wide.  The announcement came at the USAIGC/IAIGC World Championships in Palm Springs, California earlier this week. 

Effective immediately, the USAIGC has made it mandatory for all member clubs to complete a 100% background check on all employees & club owners by the end of 2013.

“On behalf of our club owners and their students, I am very proud that we have taken this essential move to make Safe4Athletes’ policies a reality for every one of our member clubs,” said USAIGC President Paul Spadero.  “USAIGC Clubs are now setting the standard in athlete and children’s safety and welfare. Through this process, our member clubs will collectively provide a safe gymnastics club environment.”

“The USAIGC is the first gymnastics organization to proactively take an ‘athlete first’ approach,” said Safe4Athletes Founder and former Olympic swimmer, Katherine Starr.  “It’s an organization that is already taking a balanced sports/education lifestyle approach with its college gymnastics compulsory program track.  Now they are taking the important step of protecting every one of their athletes from misconduct as well.” 

 “The USAIGC has drawn the line in the stand,” added Spadero.  “We must do the most we possibly can to protect our student population by creating the safest environment possible for our children.”

“I applaud the USAIGC’s move to adopt the essential policies of Safe4Athletes,” said Dominique Moceanu, herself an Olympic gold medal winning gymnast and author of recent New York Times best selling memoir Off Balance.  “I firmly believe that it is the shared duty of parents, coaches, gym club owners, and governing bodies of sport to give our young athletes a positive learning atmosphere free from any type of abuse, without exception.  Safe4Athletes has created the first comprehensive system of its kind to protect these young athletes -- and the USAIGC has made a tremendously positive move by adopting that system.”

For more information about USAIGC, visit www.USAIGC.com. For more information about Safe4Athletes, visit www.safe4athletes.org.

Media Contact:  Paul Williams, paul@medialinecommunications.com, 949/916-6880.

katherine.starr2@gmail.com (Katherine Starr) Safe4Athletes Blog Mon, 24 Jun 2013 14:01:10 -0700
When did the System Fail Kelley Davies Currin and the Rest of Us? http://www.safe4athletes.org/blog/item/55-when-did-the-system-fail-kelley-davies-currin-and-the-rest-of-us? http://www.safe4athletes.org/blog/item/55-when-did-the-system-fail-kelley-davies-currin-and-the-rest-of-us?

Today Rick Curl was sentenced for 7 years for the sexual abuse of Kelley Currin that happen almost 30 years ago.  Rick has been a free man and participating in life like the rest of us for the past 30 years without any consequence for his actions of sexually abusing this minor swimmer at the time in question.

Why didn’t something happen sooner?  Something did happen.  The family settled a confidential case with an undisclosed amount and a gag order was imposed to prevent anyone from discussing the case. Life was meant to go on as normal and all is good. After all Rick Curl was a good coach.   He produced Olympians and successful swimmers throughout the collegiate system.

Another reason why this didn’t happen earlier is that the type of sexual abuse Rick Curl specialized in orchestrating is considered to be a consensual relationship.   There is nothing consensual about  a minor athlete falling in love with their coach, a significant power figure whose coaching attention can make the difference between an Olympic medal or national record and failure.    The notion of an acceptable consensual romantic relationship between a teacher and student or coach and athlete   violates every legal, moral and ethical principle in our society. Yet these relationships and their acceptance are commonplace in our competitive sports environment especially with our female athletes.  While this is something that everyone would openly say is appalling and should be stopped at all costs especially when it the relationship begins with an under age athlete (under the age of 18).  Yet there are such famous athletes as Lindsay Vonn who started dating her coach at the age of 16, whom she went on to marry and now, recently divorced, is currently in a relationship with Tiger Woods.

When the emotionally immature athlete does not cry “foul”, is being a successful performer and the coach is winning, the rule appears to be “ all good, no harm, no foul”.   A sexually abused athlete may not be able to deal with the reality of such a relationship until twenty years after the fact.   During that period, only that athlete suffers a pain that is so great, they cannot discuss it with anyone.   When the dust settles and the truth of the destruction of the athlete’s life is revealed, the artful acquaintance pedophile still receives sympathy from those who respect his success as a coach.  Worse yet, there are those who believe there is such a circumstance as “consensual” and see no “victim’.   

What is more troubling is that the amateur sport system has failed to clearly state the absolute impermissibility of any romantic relationship between a coach and his athlete.   This coach-athlete relationship issue and other sexual abuse issues are   rampant in sports and considered to be the worst kept secret.

When the next big story hits, and there will be one, and when everyone says, “How could this have happened? Why didn’t someone say something?”  Someone did say something.   We just haven’t been listening.  Many athletes have said something.  US Swimming and other open amateur sports governing bodies just haven’t been listening. Worse yet, turning a blind eye. As the management of USA Swimming has been doing for years. The 30 year time lapse is clearly proof of that.

Since starting Safe4Athletes, I have continued to witness this failure in the system, where speaking up is fought against with public and administrative disbelief, blaming of the victim and victims seeking justice encountering extreme difficulty at every turn.  Parents of these young athletes that have been victims of sexual abuse, come to me and share their stories and all of the extreme efforts that they have gone to protect their child and attempt to “right” the system that has harmed them in unspeakable ways. The efforts of these parents and children are   the most heroic displays of courage that I have ever witnessed   while the  response of those with the power to fix the system simply adds to   their heartache, allows ridicule and fails to deliver justice.    

The system is broken.  Cases of sexual abuse and coach misconduct break our athlete heroes and  reward coach perpetrators.  Sport governing bodies care more about producing winning athletes than their obligation to enforce legal, moral and ethical guidelines established by our society.  . 

We talk about “not doing enough” to protect our young athletes, yet everyone around the situation makes it very difficult to do “anything” let alone enough. 

No coach at any age should be sexual engaged with an athlete. No Olympic dream is worth the lifetime of pain, destruction that sexual abuse brings.  An athlete’s hope and  dreams is all it takes to be vulnerable to the coach pedophile and the failures in this system.

When enough is really enough, when sexual abuse is clearly defined and unacceptable under any circumstance between a coach and an athlete, only then will our sports training environments be safe for children and adult athletes.  Nothing can be more important than our humanity.  We cannot allow  the system to continue to failure us. 


katherine.starr2@gmail.com (Katherine Starr) Safe4Athletes Blog Thu, 23 May 2013 15:21:44 -0700
Is it Safer to Compete in Sports http://www.safe4athletes.org/blog/item/54-is-it-safer-to-compete-in-sports http://www.safe4athletes.org/blog/item/54-is-it-safer-to-compete-in-sports

 This week the Cal Ripken Sr Foundation came together with NCMEC (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) to discuss Safe to Compete and address sexual abuse in Sports.

 What did we learn that would make sports a better place and a safe and positive environment for all athletes? 

 The highlight of the conference was that there seems to be a general consensus in the room; to unify background checks. There is a need to the fill the gaps to expose the abuser that continually beats the system and fall through the cracks because of  inconsistencies across agencies that maintain felony files.  Another issue  that was raised is the ability to flag coaches/volunteers that had a sexual abuse charge dismissed that  pertained to a minor. If a system can be put in place to install a more meaningful database that all people can draw from so we have a better chance of identifying abusers who have left organizations before suspension, termination or completion of investigations.

 Another highlight was data around gender equity in sports leadership. In sports where the board of directors is 50/50 there is significantly less sexual abuse.  

 The low lights of the conference were the lack of knowledge about and sensitivity to sexual abuse in competitive sports. There seems to have been a misconception about the number of unprotected athletes that we are talking about-- there are 60 million young athletes in open amateur sport community-based multisport   organizations.  

 What wasn't touched on or insufficiently addressed is the multiple levels of abuse that an athlete experiences, many of which are often justified in the guise of "sport" – abuse like physical punishment and verbal and emotional abuse.  The problem became bigger as we realized that we don't understand why these commonly acceptable sport behaviors constitute abuse.  With the growing number of women now in sports,   this demographic is even more susceptible to all aspects of abuse especially sexual abuse and harassment.  A study that came out of Japanese Olympic Committee found that 12% of Judo athlete complained about some sort of abuse or sexual harassment according to the BBC Sports. This number doesn't account for those don't feel safe to speak up or ones that don't know want abuse is. 

 In closing, on another low light is the imbalance of women in leadership roles as sports coaches as well as on the boards of leagues and associations. 

 We can make a difference today by adopting effective and thorough policies already available atSafe4Athletes.org/4-clubs . We need to know that the culture of abuse in sports will not be addressed through the court system which will handle only the most egregious cases.  Each of us at the local program level must be protectors.  This means we must educate our coaches, athletes and parents and we must adopt and enforce policies.  We cannot wait for someone else to act.  



katherine.starr2@gmail.com (Katherine Starr) Safe4Athletes Blog Thu, 21 Mar 2013 06:10:45 -0700
Breaking Down Sexual Abuse in Sports http://www.safe4athletes.org/blog/item/52-breaking-down-sexual-abuse-in-sports http://www.safe4athletes.org/blog/item/52-breaking-down-sexual-abuse-in-sports

Since the Sandusky case we have all been made aware that sexual abuse of a young child by a coach is possible.  Yet, more attention to the subject and types of sexual abuse in sports needs to be committed to addressing this topic and to developing an infrastructure that supports the needs of the athletes for a safe and positive environment in sports.

The world of sports is complex in regards to the coach-athlete relationship. Although a large proportion of US children participate in youth sport (40 Million), we do not give appropriate attention to analysis of the four differing types of sexual abuse in sports; pedophilia, sexual harassment, sexual abuse and athlete domestic violence.

Pedophilia may be defined as pre-puberty abuse and is not gender specific.  This type of abuse is committed by an adult  who has a desire of sexual exploitation of a child.  This type of abuse can happen in any setting. There is no data to support that the sports environment is more prone to this type of abuse compared to other types of settings, like school or after school programs.  This is a wide spread problem in the culture.

The second type is sexual harassment.  The workplace addressed this issue in the 70’s by implementing Title VII (7).  Many professions are required to take on-going sexual harassment training as part of the profession or part of the employment.  The school system has also addressed this issue under Title IX.   In both of these cases the standard of evidence is a preponderance, which is commonly referred to 50% and a feather, meaning that it is more likely to have happened than not. While sexual harassment has been addressed in the workplace it is wide spread in sports and is  not covered under the other laws because the athlete is NOT considered an employee.  Therefore regardless of age, the athlete does not have equal legal protection afforded to other environments. Athletes are required to endure harassment purely because the dynamic is not considered employer/employee.

The third type is coach/athlete sexual abuse; often  a pubescent athlete engaged in a sexual act with a coach.  This can be on-going or a one time act.  In some cases, the business model of the sports environment perpetuates this issue making it difficult to change this culture. When the coach-athlete sexual abuse is on going it becomes more complex and can further develop into Athlete Domestic Violence (ADV).

Athlete Domestic Violence can be described as an athlete in a (perceived) “relationship” with a coach and can involve consenting  age or not. The dynamics develops regardless of age. Professional standards maintain that a ‘romantic relationship’ is never appropriate as the coach always has a structural power advantage over a competing athlete.

The competing  athlete  has something at risk, for example, dreams of being an Olympian, a college scholarship, playing time or financial gain. There is a complex ‘hook’ keeping the athlete engaged in a relationship  even when abusive and unhealthy.  The athlete has to make decisions for the family, the team and the coach.  When speaking up about the abuse, the athlete could be subject to retaliation from the team, if there is a perceived threat of their dreams being compromised as a result of the coach removal. The parents that sacrificed everything to make sure that the child-athletes dreams are fulfilled or the coach that convinces the athlete that the only reason for her/his success is because of the “coach”. 

The other reason that this may also be described as Athlete Domestic Violence is because of the presence of external pressure and the lack of sympathy that is also commonly found in a domestic violence relationship. When an Athlete stays involved in the sport, with the coach or the team, there is an assumption that the athletes could always have easily removed themselves and speak up. They are often blamed and it’s seen as ‘their fault’ if they knowingly continue to put themselves in harms way. These dynamics are complex and need to be treated as such. Resources need to be put in place so as not to further victimize the athlete via the coach, the team or the family.

The breakdown of sexual abuse by gender is 90% involving older male and younger female. The remaining 10% is split evenly amongst older male and younger male, older female younger male, older female younger female across all types of sexual abuse in sports. 1

What is being asked of the athlete is to have emotional intelligence that actually requires a team of highly educated and trained adults to deal with the issue safely and effectively.  Too often a young athlete is  required to address this issue on  her/his own without any resources to help..

It is Safe4Athletes mission to 1) find those resources to help the ADV victim, 2)change legislation so athletes have protection in place  against sexual harassment, 3) stop the athlete sexual abuse that is further exploited and encouraged because of institutional business models, and 4) keep pedophiles out of sports environments entirely.

1.Kirby, S.L., Greaves, L. and Hankivsky, O (2000) The Dome of Silence: Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Sport, Fernwood, Halifax.

Also available on the Huffington Post click here

katherine.starr2@gmail.com (Katherine Starr) Safe4Athletes Blog Fri, 10 May 2013 00:00:00 -0700
$60 Million Later and We're Still Vulnerable http://www.safe4athletes.org/blog/item/48-$60-million-later-and-were-still-vulnerable http://www.safe4athletes.org/blog/item/48-$60-million-later-and-were-still-vulnerable

By Katherine Starr


The NCAA levied a $60 million sanction against Penn State University after reviewing the outcome of the Freeh report which identified the failures of the institution to protect the victims and putting the institution’s needs above the law.   Penn State was obligated to comply with child welfare laws and Title IX; it failed.  Laws were in place.  In the case of Title IX, the institution had required policies and procedures in place.  The institution did all of the things it was supposed to do on paper and ultimately, but ultimately this was no more than “lip service” to its legal and ethical obligations.  The lesson to be learned from Penn State is a pretty simple one.  The organization reflects the values and ethics of its leadership.  When a law like Title IX gets passed, whether it is the sexual harassment provisions of the law or its athletics participation requirements, if the institution does not embraces its purpose, educate its staff and make certain that all employees clearly understand their obligations – then Sandusky happens.  No one in the formal leadership – presidents and senior administrators – or in the informal power club – Paterno, made it clear that compliance with the law was an expected zero tolerance obligation.  


Just because there is a law, doesn’t mean there is justice.  Just because there is a law, there is no guarantee of ethical conduct.  So what is the answer?  When there are ethical people, you don’t need the law, or policies or education programs.  However, because we cannot assume that everyone is ethical, if we want a just society, we need to do the best we can.  The best we can has at least four parts:  (1) promulgating laws which expressly prohibit behaviors or dictate required “right” actions on the part of all citizens, (2) adopt ethical conduct policies applicable to all employees that require conformance to legal and professional standards, (3) educate employees, parents and students how to recognize unethical conduct and be sure they know how to report it, (4) the reporting process designates a trusted individual whose responsibility is to advocate for the victim rather than protect the institution and (5) the leaders of the organization must make it clear that it is essential to report such conduct and that they will act promptly to restore a safe environment.  Parts 3 through 5 is where Penn State really failed. 

If the Penn State football culture was “an accident waiting to happen”, here’s another “wake up call”.  Where Title IX requires colleges to prevent sexual harassment by training staff and develop and publicize polices to help sexual assault victims to investigate all reports of rape promptly, this law does not apply to organizations conducting open amateur sports.  A pedophile like Sandusky can start his own youth sports program, as a storefront business, an LLC, or a non-profit organization.  Essentially there is a huge hole in our legal system,   open amateur athletes participating in non-school settings are not protected against sexual harassment and assault except for tort law.   Unlike schools, they are not required to have policies or procedures in place to prevent and address sexual harassment.

While research data on sexual abuse in open amateur sports in the USA does not exist, we can assume its prevalence probably isn’t much different than in other countries.  In a recent study in the UK reported by the BBC[1], it was noted that there 652 reports of abuse by coaches, 124 of those for sexual abuse, 98 of the sexual abuse cases where sent back to the sport governing body to handle, of those cases it resulted in Zero coaches being banned from their sport or any sport.  A highly respected Australian study[2] of 370 elite and club level athletes reported that of 31% of females and 21% of males who had been sexually abused at some time in their lives, 41% of the females and 29% of the males reported that this abuse occurred in the sport environment.  The researchers concluded that among elite athletes there was a 50% chance of abuse and among club athletes a 25% chance for abuse.  And, unlike the Sandusky/Penn State case, the Fine/Syracuse University case or the Dodd/AAU case, it is more likely that athlete sexual abuse will involve a male perpetrator and a female victim.

Without a systematic and uniformed way to handle sexual abuse and assault in open amateur sports, male and female athletes remain vulnerable.  Every parent and every athlete who is concerned about their own safety should insist that any sports club or program in which they participate have the following protections in place:

·      Required criminal background checks of coaches, volunteers and all employees working with participants

·      Designation of an “athlete welfare advocate” to whom any athlete concerned about the conduct of an adult can speak to in a protected environment

·      Comprehensive policies and procedures that define coach, volunteer and employee misconduct including sexual harassment, bully, hazing and other and specify zero tolerance for such behavior

·      Educational programs for parents, athletes and employees that teach everyone how to recognize and report misconduct

As a result of the lack of protection in open amateur sports Safe4Athletes was created to address the vulnerabilities of our athletes and sports clubs. Safe4Athletes.com contains free policies and programs that can be adopted by any organization.  Our policies are designed to respond with deliberate action and empower the local sports clubs to address this issue in a timely fashion, restore the environment and remediate the harm.

However, neither Safe4Athletes nor any advocacy organization can require that all coach-owned businesses, local non-profit sports clubs and leagues or other open amateur sport programs adopt such athlete protections.  The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) can -- but it hasn’t.   All the USOC needs to do is to mandate that  every national sport governing body (NGB) and each of its individual and organizational members comply with the USOC Coaching Code of Ethics as a condition of funding and being recognized as an NGB.    While this ethics policy exists, it is only recommended.  Now is the time for the USOC to define the American open amateur sport culture.

Original Article on Huffington Post can be found here

           Buckler, C.  (2012)  Action Needed to Protect Kids in Sport from Sex Abuse.  BBC News (July 10, 2012).  Retrieved on July 24, 2012 at:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-18746389

[2]            Leahy, T. Pretty, G. and Tenenbaum, G. (2002) ‘Prevalence of sexual abuse in organised competitive sport in Australia’, Journal of Sexual Aggression, 8(2): 16-36

katherine.starr2@gmail.com (Katherine Starr) Safe4Athletes Blog Mon, 13 Aug 2012 10:15:00 -0700