Washington—Following an investigative report by the Indianapolis Star, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) today urged USA Gymnastics to ensure allegations of sexual abuse are reported to appropriate authorities and detail its policies to handle reports of abuse by coaches and other personnel.
The senators wrote: “We urge you immediately to take specific actions to ensure that allegations of sexual abuse are promptly reported to appropriate authorities and law enforcement, so that children are protected. Research indicates that most people who experience sexual abuse in childhood do not disclose their abuse until adulthood, if at all, and when disclosure does occur in childhood, significant delays are common.”
Full text of the letter follows:
August 5, 2016Steve Penny
President and CEO
132 E. Washington St., Suite 700
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Dear Mr. Penny:
We are writing to express our deep concern following an investigative report by the Indianapolis Star regarding USA Gymnastics’ handling of sex abuse allegations against coaches. Child sex abuse is a heinous crime and allegations must be taken seriously and handled appropriately.
USA Gymnastics is integral to the sport and young athletes throughout the country. Its members include more than 90,000 athletes and 3,000 gymnasiums, and the United States has a proud history of producing champion gymnasts.
The recent Indianapolis Star report describes conduct that, if true, is deeply troubling to anybody concerned about the welfare of children. This report was issued after interviewing witnesses across the country and reviewing thousands of pages of documents, including records from legal cases.
The report details failures by USA Gymnastics to alert authorities of sex abuse allegations against several coaches, despite being notified of serious allegations on numerous occasions. Some allegations were allowed to linger for years before any action was taken, leaving young victims in the supervision of sexual predators.
We urge you immediately to take specific actions to ensure that allegations of sexual abuse are promptly reported to appropriate authorities and law enforcement, so that children are protected. Research indicates that most people who experience sexual abuse in childhood do not disclose their abuse until adulthood, if at all, and when disclosure does occur in childhood, significant delays are common.
We also urge you to provide USA Gymnastics’ current policies on how it handles allegations of sexual abuse, and how those policies have changed over the last two decades. Please also explain how coaches or others who supervise children are vetted and evaluated over time to ensure athletes in their care are protected.
The upcoming Olympic Games will inspire many young athletes to work to achieve their dreams, and many will be inspired to become gymnasts. USA Gymnastics has a responsibility to ensure that these young athletes are safe.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. We look forward to hearing your response.