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By MICHELE M. BETTI | b&a opinions | http://bettiandassociates.com

The ongoing sex scandal that has gripped USA Gymnastics raises questions about its child sexual abuse reporting practices.

Investigations done by IndyStar, the investigative reporting newspaper of The Indianapolis Star, have been instrumental in uncovering how USA Gymnastics did not report hundreds of allegations of child sexual abuse to police.  More than 360 gymnasts have alleged sexual abuse since the 1990s.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, and 15 co-sponsors introduced a bill entitled “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act of 2017.”  The bill would make it a federal crime for any Olympic national governing body to fail to immediately report allegations of child sexual abuse to authorities. Swimming and Taekwondo, other Olympic sports are also facing child sex abuse allegations.

The U.S. Olympic Committee is acknowledging the systemic problems that have allowed young athletes to be sexually abused, Feinstein said.  “Those problems go beyond any one individual.” Feinstein said she is hopeful the U.S. Olympic Committee will support her bill to require mandatory reporting of abuse claims and ensure strong safeguards are in place to prevent abuse from happening in the first place.

On March 3, 2017, a Georgia judge unsealed 54 sexual abuse complaint files that USA Gymnastics kept on coaches from 1996 to 2006.  USA Gymnastics officials who handle sexual abuse complaints acknowledged they had no legal or sex abuse training, yet would judge some complaints as hearsay based on the fact that they were not signed by a witness, victim or victim’s parent.

More than 100,000 athletes are USA Gymnastics members, about 85 percent are female, according to the deposition of a former high-ranking executive of the organization.  USA Gymnastics failed to report cases and failed to alert authorities to many allegations of sexual abuse by coaches.  Both the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics must do a better job in protecting child athletes.

Copyright 2017, b&a opinions.

–Michele M. Betti of the Law Offices of Betti & Associates is an advocate for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

–If you have any information on any pedophile priests in the United States or other child sexual abusers please immediately come forward and report their abuse to law enforcement agencies.