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Six female athletes have filed suit against USA Swimming for sexual abuse suffered within the organization, and for the failure to take any steps to protect children from pedophiles within their organization. The organization is alleged to have looked the other way while children were sexually assaulted by adult coaches. Recounting the decades of child sexual abuse suffered within the USA Swimming program at the hands of specific USA Swimming officials who abused them as children while others worked to make sure the abuse stayed hidden.

A recent article from HuffPost perfectly sums up the abuse claims in Olympic sports: 

“USA Swimming is just the most recent U.S. Olympic sport tarred by allegations of rampant sexual abuse. In 2018, Larry Nassar, the former team doctor for USA Gymnastics and for Michigan State University, was convicted on several charges of sexual abuse stemming from hundreds of allegations, many of which came from athletes Nassar frequently treated. Many prominent gymnasts, including Simone Biles, have denounced USA Gymnastics for failing to protect athletes from years of sexual predation.”

People on staff with USA Swimming knew these coaches were predators and did nothing to protect children. Reports were ignored. Policies were not enforced. Children suffered due to the failures of the adults charged with their protection. Debra Grodensky, one of the several plaintiffs,  recounts her abuse and suffering at the hands of former USA Swimming coach Andy King, who began molesting Grodensky as a teenager in the 1980s. King is currently serving a 40-year sentence for child molestation. USA Swimming clearly ignored the abuse perpetrated on children by one of their coaches.

According to HuffPost, Grodensky recounts that King “got close to her by convincing her parents she should ‘abandon all extracurricular activities’ and take up swimming.” “It’s important to understand that the grooming process is not limited to sexual abuse victims only. He gained control of anyone involved in my endeavors.”

Time and again, large institutions cover-up or ignore child sexual abuse to protect the institution over children they are charged with protecting. Although there are mandated reporting laws requiring adults to report abuse to authorities – not every state requires mandated reporters to be trained on how to identify and report abuse. Mandatory reporting – combined with the proper abuse prevention training – is critical in protecting youth athletes and children.

The priority in every youth-serving organization must first-and-foremost be the safety of the children. Protection from the threat of abuse, neglect, and bullying from adults and other children. Make it clear to all who serve children, from educators and mentors to coaches and, It is the responsibility of adults to protect the children. There can be no greater duty.

The Beau Biden Foundation is working to ensure that all adults – educators, coaches, mentors, referees, and volunteers – are properly trained on how to keep children safe from abuse. We also work to help youth-serving organizations create and maintain robust policies to safeguard the children in their care.

In our Shield of Protection®, we partner with schools, youth sports organizations, camps, and after-school clubs to improve their child protection policies. We’ve done this work for Special Olympics International, Girls on the Run, and Boys & Girls Clubs across the country. 

The Foundation also provides facilitator-led workshops (both virtual and in-person to help adults on the frontlines of serving children to recognize and report all forms of child abuse and neglect; understand how predators groom children, families, and organizations; and address with the issues of bullying and Internet safety.

Child victims of abuse cannot advocate for themselves – it is the responsibility of adults to protect children.  It’s critical for adults to speak-up to protect children. The legal and moral obligation belongs to adults  – not children. No child should live in fear.

Chrissy Weathersby Ball, a survivor of Nassar’s victimization, had this to say in Sports Illustrated about the Beau Biden Foundation’s training, “If a partnership like this had existed then, perhaps it wouldn’t have [happened]. If USA Gymnastics had put this much focus on educating their coaches and caregivers on the signs of abuse and how to report it, this would have never happened.”