USA Gymnastics uses National Child Abuse Prevention Month to build awareness with members, clubs, and parents
posted on 04/02/2014

INDIANAPOLIS, April 2, 2014 – National Child Abuse Prevention Month provides a natural vehicle for organizations nationwide to build awareness of this important social issue within their communities. USA Gymnastics is using April to further its efforts to educate coaches, parents and gymnasts about the importance of promoting a safe gymnastics environment. As part of its educational outreach program "We Care Campaign," USA Gymnastics is sending parents booklets with information and ideas on how to discuss these sensitive but important issues with their children. In addition, USA Gymnastics is encouraging its clubs, coaches, judges, club owners, volunteers and parents to become active participants in the effort to stop child abuse through the U.S. Olympic Committee's "Make the Commitment: Stop Abuse in 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."

This is the second straight year for the parental educational outreach, which complements the "Clubs Care Campaign" that focuses on raising awareness among gymnastics clubs to further their efforts for maintaining a safe environment in their gyms.

The two booklets sent to the parents are "Think First & Stay Safe," which goes to parents of 9-year-old athletes, and "Let's Talk Teens," which is sent to parents of 13-year-old athletes. As part of the "Clubs Care Campaign," member clubs receive a poster to promote a safe environment. A four-page summary that highlights USA Gymnastics' abuse and misconduct prevention efforts is also included and may be used as a resource and shared with parents and concerned adults.

The goal of "Make the Commitment: Stop Abuse in Sport," which is part of the USOC's SafeSport program, is to help reduce child sexual abuse through identifying practical steps that can be taken at every level of sport. USA Gymnastics is providing its members with pertinent information regarding "Make the Commitment" and the impact a club or individual can have in this important area. 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 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 provides 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 initiatives, the Clubs Care and We Care Campaigns, the organization has promoted awareness, zero opportunity through policy development, and zero tolerance through reporting.

USA Gymnastics' educational partners for providing content for both of these educational initiatives cover the spectrum from building awareness to empowering action. Additional information and access to these partners are available at or

  • U.S. Olympic Committee SafeSport program – SafeSport seeks to create a healthy, supportive environment for all participants. Through education, resources, and training, it helps members of the sport community recognize, reduce, and respond to misconduct in sport. It includes information geared for parents. (

  • Child Lures Prevention/Teen Lures Prevention (CLP) – CLP's mission is to help ensure the personal safety of children and youth through increased awareness, education, advocacy and action. Its initial focus will include educating parents about grooming behaviors and signs of abuse. (

  • Darkness to Light (D2L) – D2L exists to empower adults through awareness and educational programs to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to childhood sexual abuse. It will concentrate on building awareness among parents about what they can and should do to prevent harmful situations from developing. (

  • Stop It Now!® – The mission of Stop It Now! is to prevent the sexual abuse of children by mobilizing adults, families and communities to take actions that protect children before they are harmed. Because of its belief that adults are in the best position to keep children safe from sexual abuse, it will focus on turning awareness into action. (

The education-focused efforts supplement the steps USA Gymnastics already has taken to promote a safe environment for its athletes through policy and guideline changes implemented in the last few years. Here's a quick overview of what is currently in place.

  • Participant Welfare Policy – provides guidance on how clubs, coaches and parents can work together to provide a safe environment, as well as requirements and expectations of USA Gymnastics' members. The topics covered in the policy, which may be read in its entirety at, include: definitions of abuse used by USA Gymnastics for both physical and sexual abuse; reporting procedures and requirements for suspected abuse; misconduct/grievance procedures; member obligations and recommendations, as well as staff; standards of behavior; and education and communication about the policy to members and the general public.

  • Mandatory criminal background screening and safety/risk management certification for professional members – background screening is renewed every two years; safety/risk management certification is renewed every four years.

  • Code of Ethical Conduct – offers general principles to guide the conduct, and the judicious appraisal of conduct, of all USA Gymnastics' members (including employees and agents of USA Gymnastics) in situations that have ethical implications.

  • Published list of individuals banned from membership in USA Gymnastics – posted on the website and printed in both magazines. This lifetime ban means the individual does not have any of the rights or privileges associated with membership in USA Gymnastics, including but not limited to participation in any event conducted or sanctioned by USA Gymnastics. Beginning in 2012, once a final decision has been rendered to bar an individual from membership, not only will the person's name and state be posted on the permanently ineligible for membership list, but also which of the Corporation's Bylaws, rules, regulations or policies was violated. (The expanded listing only applies to matters investigated after the adoption of this policy.).

  • Bylaws changes. Changes to the Bylaws, including Articles 9 and 10 that deal with Member Misconduct and Disciplinary Proceedings and Grievances, improve policies and avoid any ambiguity in the procedures. The most significant changes included an expanded definition of misconduct; delineated types of complaints; clarification of who can file a grievance; and providing additional information on the permanently ineligible list.

  • Member Clubs. To become a USA Gymnastics Member Club, the organization must have a policy consistent with USA Gymnastics' Participant Welfare Policy; certify that no persons permanently ineligible for USA Gymnastics membership – which includes convicted sex offenders and/or persons on the permanently ineligible for membership list – are or will be associated with the organization or its activities in any way during the membership/registration term; and employ at least one staff member who holds a current professional or safety-certified instructor membership.

  • Sanctioning policy. USA Gymnastics expanded its sanction policy to ensure that the club(s), independent organization(s), and/or committee(s) that host a sanctioned event is a Member Club of USA Gymnastics.

  • Only Member Clubs may apply for membership in USA Gymnastics on behalf of an athlete and/or register a team of athletes into sanctioned events. If an athlete who is not affiliated with a Member Club wants to apply for membership in USA Gymnastics, he/she (or his/her parent/guardian if the athlete is under the age of 18) must apply directly to USA Gymnastics for such membership. His/her status will be "unaffiliated athlete."

To learn more about the USOC's SafeSport program and "Make the Commitment," go to For educational resources or learn more about what USA Gymnastics has in place and is doing to help prevent child sex abuse, please visit and