The “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act” recently was signed into law, amending and strengthening the protections afforded young athletes from abuse by adults.
If you sell products to teams or leagues that compete under the auspices of a National Governing Body (NGB), or to an amateur sports organization that participates in interstate or international amateur athletic competition, it is important to share this information with your contacts at those teams or leagues.
The bill extends reporting requirements to coaches and adults associated with these amateur sports organizations. The measure creates an oversight body to receive information and investigate claims. National sports groups must establish reporting and abuse prevention policies.
The duty to report suspected abuse would apply to anyone working with children on behalf of national governing bodies recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) to regulate individual sports. Included are amateur sports organizations that participate in interstate or international amateur athletic competition such as elite travel teams. Covered individuals must report a suspected case of abuse to law enforcement within 24 hours.
This expands prior law which only included doctors, teachers and social workers. Covered individuals who fail to report a suspected case of child abuse to law enforcement can be fined or sentenced to as long as one year in prison.
Amateur sports groups that participate in interstate or international amateur athletic competitions outside the scope of national governing bodies must also report suspected child abuse. The bill explicitly doesn’t require a victim to self-report abuse.
Safe Sport Center
The measure makes the U.S. Center for Safe Sport an independent national safe sport organization. It has jurisdiction over the USOC and national governing bodies, Paralympic sports organizations, related amateur sports groups, and relevant employees or associated individuals regarding the abuse of amateur athletes.
Under the law, the center:
- Promotes young athletes’ emotional and physical well-being through education and outreach as well as incident response and resolution. The USOC currently uses the center in a similar capacity. Now, its role is codified in law.
- Must maintain an education and outreach office to develop training and oversight procedures to prevent abuse. The policies and procedures apply to national governing bodies as though they had been enacted in law.
- Must establish response and resolution mechanisms, including reporting and investigation functions. The mechanisms must provide fair notice and opportunity to be heard, as well as privacy and safety protections for victims.
- Can use binding third-party arbitration to resolve sexual abuse allegations and to determine whether an athlete or adult will be allowed to participate in future competition. The bill contains language stipulating that it wouldn’t affect or limit any individual’s rights to seek redress for abuse in civil court.
- Must report annually to Congress on its activities, including a financial audit.
And sports groups can’t be held liable for defamation related to abuse investigations and enforcement unless actual malice was involved. The liability protections also apply to any employees or members.
Reporting & Prevention Policies
The Safe Sport Center’s policies and procedures for national governing bodies and Paralympic sports organizations must include:
- A requirement that any adults associated with governed organizations or facilities immediately report suspected child abuse to the center and to law enforcement.
- A reporting mechanism approved by a child abuse expert.
- Procedures to limit one-on-one interactions between amateur athletes and adults outside the view of other adults. They don’t apply to interactions between children and their parents or legal guardians.
- Anti-retaliation measures.
- Oversight, including regular and random third-party audits of national governing bodies and other covered entities.
The center must also develop an information-sharing system to allow covered organizations to confidentially share reports of alleged sexual misconduct. That information could be shared by the center with relevant groups to deny access to a suspected abuser until accusations have been resolved.
The measure doesn’t limit any covered organization’s ability to temporarily prevent an alleged perpetrator from interacting with athletes before the center exercises jurisdiction over the matter.
Other Amateur Sports Organizations
Amateur sports groups that aren’t governed through USOC-sanctioned bodies must comply with federal child abuse reporting requirements. They must adopt policies like those required for the Safe Sport Center.
The bill allows victims to recover reasonable attorney’s fees and other litigation costs in civil suits against their abusers, in addition to damages. Courts can award punitive damages.
The legislation effectively extends the statute of limitations for federal child abuse cases. Under the law, a case must be brought within 10 years of the violation or discovery of the injury that forms the basis for the claim, whichever is later. In the case of minors, the suit can be filed any time within 10 years after the victim turns 18.
The measure adds a requirement that organizations requesting recognition from a national governing body would have to certify that they will implement and abide by the governing body’s abuse-prevention policies.