Congress Enacts New Requirements for Child Abuse Prevention
Congress Enacts New Requirements for Child Abuse Prevention
Eight provisions to protect children from sexual molestation that are relevant to churches.
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During the past year, the public was stunned by revelations of sexual molestation of young athletes by coaches, trainers, and others associated with USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming, and USA Taekwondo. As public scrutiny focused on this scandal, it was soon learned that over the past 20 years, at least 368 victims, many of whom were young athletes, were subjected to sexual abuse by coaches, doctors, or other adults affiliated with youth sports programs. Victims claimed that youth sports organizations did nothing in response to their cries for help.

Among the accused was Dr. Larry Nassar. On January 24, 2018, Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting numerous amateur gymnasts for over 15 years. In May 2018, Michigan State University—where Nassar was employed while working with USA Gymnastics—agreed to pay $500 million to settle lawsuits brought by 332 of his victims.

These and other revelations of the sexual molestation of minors engaged in athletic training and performance led to the near-unanimous enactment by Congress, in February 2018, of the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017.

The Act contains eight provisions designed to reduce the risk of sexual molestation of minors in amateur sports.

1. Mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse at facilities under the jurisdiction of amateur sports organizations recognized by the United States Olympic Committee

For many years, it has been a federal offense not to report child sexual abuse occurring on federal property to law enforcement authorities. The Act extends this reporting requirement to additional "covered individuals" or adults authorized by a national governing body (or any entity subject to the jurisdiction of a national governing body such as a private gymnasium) to interact with minors or amateur athletes at events sanctioned by national governing body members and national governing bodies such as during travel, practices, competitions, and health or medical treatment. Victims are not required to self-report under this provision.

The mandatory reporting requirement also applies to a long list of "covered professionals" who "while engaged in a professional capacity or activity … on federal land or in a federally operated (or contracted) facility, learns of facts that give reason to suspect that a child has suffered an incident of child abuse." Covered professionals are persons engaged in mental health, education, law enforcement, childcare, and health-related occupations. Clergy are not specifically mentioned.

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