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Report finds USA Gymnastics policies muddled on sex abuse

Yet the protocols created to show gymnasts, coaches, staff and parents how to report abuse were muddled, confusing and not well enforced.In addition to recommending a series of reforms to enact culture change within the sport, the 146-page report found that “over time, the practices of USA Gymnastics have not kept up with best practices in the field of child abuse protection, allowing for significant gaps and exposures regarding the prevention and reporting of child sexual abuse within the sport”.Seventy recommendations in 10 primary areas are created to provide USA Gymnastics leadership with a road map to change the sport’s entrenched culture. This is in-part a result of athletes being trained to respect and obey their coaches at a young age, utlimately blurring boundary lines, Daniels said.”Then (there needs to be) accountability throughout the organization so that not only the clubs, but also throughout the organization will be held accountable”, Daniels continued.In a meeting Monday, the USA Gymnastics board of directors unanimously accepted the report and its recommendations.At least 368 gymnasts, some as young as 6 years old, have reported sexual abuse by gymnastic…”We’re confident it will make us a better organization to develop a culture that had safe sport as a top priority”, said chief operating officer Ron Galimore.”For example, while we are not aware of specific situations in which a temporarily suspended coach was permitted to continue coaching during his suspension, there appears to be no mechanism for ensuring this does not happen”, according to the report. More than a hundred former gymnasts and other young athletes have alleged in the previous year that they were sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics women’s national and Olympic team physician Larry Nassar.The changes stem from a former prosecutor’s lengthy report highlighting an array of shortcomings by USA Gymnastics in combating abuse. It changed course however, after the Wall Street Journal reported it conducted a 5-week internal review before going to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.A MI judge on Friday separately ordered Nassar to stand trial on charges of sexually assaulting six young gymnasts who said he molested them while they sought treatment for injuries. It’s one of four criminal cases against the former trainer in the state. The longtime Michigan State University doctor is a defendant or co-defendant in numerous civil suits. “Even one instance of child abuse is one too many. It is reassuring to see USA Gymnastics embracing the need for improvements, including the adoption of a new and pervasive culture of accountability cascading through the organization and its members”. Pending federal legislation, spurred in part by the abuse crisis at USA Gymnastics, would require anyone working under the jurisdiction of a national governing body to report suspected abuse or face a fine and possible imprisonment.Instead of a victory lap, the organization has spent much of the last 10 months doing some soul-searching.”When I first got involved in this, I could tell USA Gymnastics had never felt that it really had the ability to exert influence over the clubs”, Daniels said.To address the shortcomings will require the entire organization, from the head of the board to the smallest club owner, to change its mindset, Daniels said.Getting there won’t be easy.”As soon as we have the director of Safe Sport, (the) first task is to present a strategic plan to accomplish all of the things that Deborah has recommended”, Parilla said.Among the report’s recommendations were that adults affiliated with USA Gymnastics be prohibited from being alone with minor gymnasts at all times and they be prohibited from having out-of-program contact via email, text or social media.Daniels suggested that USA Gymnastics bar unrelated adults from sharing or being alone in a sleeping room with gymnasts. “However, the high-pressure atmosphere and relative youth of athletes in elite gymnastics, in particular, can lead not only to enabling abusers, but also to suppressing reporting”, said Daniels. “Parents aren’t real sure (either)”. While it encouraged members and clubs to adopt policies that would help prevent abuse, including immediate reporting requirements, there was no obligation to do so – and no penalties if they didn’t. In the past, some volunteers and club coaches who didn’t work with children at sanctioned USA Gymnastics events were not required to become members.