Unless you are living under a rock, you have heard about the reported sexual abuses in our sport, at two major national governing bodies, at universities, in our government and in businesses. The mistake that all these groups made was to put the welfare of the institution above the welfare of the victims.
As a result of the reported abuses, new federal legislation was passed into law on February 14, 2018, S.534. This new legislation amends the Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990 and the Amateur Sports Act of 1978.
Some of the key points of the law as related to Club Directors are:
- Comply with the reporting requirements of the Victims of Child Abuse Act which extends the duty to report suspected child abuse, including sexual abuse to appropriate law enforcement agencies, as determined by state and federal law, within 24 hours to adults authorized to interact with minor or amateur athletes;
- Establish reasonable procedures to limit one-on-one interactions between an amateur athlete who is a minor and an adult;
- Offer and provide consistent training to adult members who are in contact with amateur athletes who are minors;
- Prohibit retaliation
The reporting requirement is especially important to note. If your club is a USAV (NGB sanctioned) club, you need to report suspected abuse both to the United States Center for Safe Sport and appropriate law enforcement agencies. If your club is not a USAV (NGB for volleyball) club, you are required to report suspected child abuse, including sexual abuse to law enforcement, within 24 hours. Note: it is not the responsibility of the club to investigate a report of possible sexual abuse. That is to be left to the professionals. Your duty is to report any suspicions to the proper authorities immediately.
As a Club Director, you must do due diligence to protect your athletes. You may not depend only on your coaches getting a background screening, watching a video and/or attending a clinic that someone else provides. That is NOT enough. Unless you were watching the video with them or attending the clinic with them, you don’t really know that they understand the material. It is your club and you need to take charge. You need to know first-hand that your staff has the information, understands the information and your duty as a Club Director to report a suspicion of abuse. You need to know that your athletes are informed of their rights, that there would never be any retaliation by a report and how to report.
First and foremost, your club needs to have a strong philosophy of no tolerance when it comes to sexual harassment and sexual abuse. You must have policies and procedures in place that provide education and affirmation of understanding the materials for your coaches and athletes.
Your program should include the following components for all adults, athletes and their parents:
Awareness and Prevention
What defines Sexual Harassment?
What defines Sexual Abuse?
What behaviors are inappropriate between adults and youth?
Recognition of abuse indicators (traits or signs that a child has been abused)
Understanding the grooming process
Selecting a child Introducing nudity and sexual touch
Keeping the victim quiet
Prohibiting any one-on-one contact between adults and athletes
If you see something, say something – speak up Make sure your athletes know that there are “safe” adults they can talk to if they suspect or experience unwanted behavior Immediately report anything you know or suspect might be sexual abuse. In most cases, this is the police. You don’t need proof. Let the experts investigate.
Procedures to Prohibit Retaliation
Stated and shared philosophy of No Tolerance
Policies and procedures to protect the privacy of victims
Clear and strong language of freedom to report with no retaliation
Documentation and Oversight
Processes to track: background screenings, clinics, meetings, distribution of printed materials, etc.
Regular and random checks to make sure policies and procedures are followed
JVA will be working our partners in the weeks and months ahead to provide you with information that will help you institute a program in your club to insure the safety of all your members, coaches and athletes. Beginning this fall, every member club of JVA is going to have to sign off, as part of the Member Code of Conduct and Business Practice, that they have a program in place. You can’t sign off that you delegated the responsibility to anyone else, you have to take responsibility for your own program.
Stop It Now Campaign has some tools and free webinars
Publications and resources related to laws on child abuse and neglect, including state-specific information regarding reporting laws and policies. www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/index.cfm
Child Help USA
National hotline and website offers support in response to all child abuse and can link you to local reporting agencies, 1.800.422.4453, www.childhelpusa.org/
The Child Welfare Information Gateway
A listing of toll-free child abuse reporting numbers by state: http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/reslist/rl_dsp.cfm?rs_id=5&rate_chno=11-11172.
About the Author
Jenny has served as the JVA Executive Director since 2010. She co-founded Milwaukee Sting VBC in 1989 serving as director, head coach and board member through today. She served as Operations Director and then Executive Director of Badger Region Volleyball Association from 1998-2010. Jenny is passionate about junior volleyball and sees the JVA as a vehicle to improve the junior club experience for club directors, coaches and the club member families.