USA Gymnastics has joined the U.S. Olympic Committee's "Make the Commitment: Stop Abuse in Sport" initiative, which is part of the USOC's SafeSport program, and is encouraging its clubs, coaches, judges, club owners, volunteers and parents to become active participants in the effort to stop child abuse. The goal of "Make the Commitment" is to help reduce child sexual abuse through identifying practical steps that can be taken at every level of sport.
"We believe education and engagement of our membership are important factors in the fight against child sex abuse," said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. "We need to work together and commit ourselves to promote a safe environment for all gymnasts and kids in general."
USA Gymnastics will provide pertinent information to its members regarding "Make the Commitment" and what an impact a club or individual can have in this important area. The information includes videos produced by the USOC, email blasts, stories and other materials, and will be sent beginning in February and into April, which is Child Abuse Prevention Month. The commitment program identifies practical steps clubs and individuals can take to help stop child abuse. Gym clubs and individuals can sign up by going to teamusa.org/stopabuse or through USA Gymnastics "Clubs Care."
"USA Gymnastics and our gymnastics community have demonstrated the importance of promoting a safe environment for kids through the policies we have in place and the 'Clubs Care' and 'We Care' initiatives," said Peter Vidmar, chairman of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors and two-time Olympic gold medalist. "Joining the USOC's 'Make the Commitment' program will give further support of our efforts to reduce child abuse. I want everyone in the gymnastics community to sign up and be a part of this initiative."
Malia Arrington, the USOC's director of ethics and safe sport who is leading the new venture, believes the campaign — which will provide information, resources and tools to youth sports programs across the nation to help combat child abuse — has the potential to reach a large audience and make a difference. Statistics indicate that one in every four girls and one in every six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. With an estimated 44 million girls and boys playing sports in the United States, Arrington said, the campaign's reach can be broad.
"We've got this opportunity to help (people) recognize those behaviors and intervene and prevent it," Arrington said. "The local clubs, coaches and volunteers are really the ones who have an amazing opportunity to make a real difference in this phase. We obviously operate at the national level and the national governing bodies operate at the national level, so it's really critical to get prevention tools … to local clubs."
USA Gymnastics has been diligent in the prevention of child abuse through policy development and education. Through USA Gymnastics educational initiative, the Clubs Care and We Care Campaigns, the organization has promoted awareness, zero opportunity through policy development, and zero tolerance through reporting.
To learn more about the USOC's safesport program and "Make the Commitment," go to SafeSport.org. For educational resources or learn more about what USA Gymnastics has in place and is doing to help prevent child sex abuse, please visit usagym.org/ClubsCare.