tv Olympic Gymnasts Recount Their Experiences of Sexual Abuse CSPAN March 28, 2017 9:06pm-10:39pm EDT
c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider now three former olympic athletes testifying about protecting young athletes from abuse. 1996 gold medalist gymnast dominique testified about physical and emotional abuse while the other athletes spoke about sexual abuse. the senate judiciary committee is considering the protecting young victims from sexual abuse act. this hearing is 90 minutes.
thank you to the witnesses and also everybody that is attending today. you're very welcomyou are very k you for your interest in this issue. as you know, our committee, the judiciary committee is no stranger to contentious debate but when it comes to championing the rights of those who've been victimized, this committee has a clear bipartisan history. we are here today to build upon that bipartisan tradition and learn what more can be done to keep our children and young athletes safe from sexual predators. protecting children from abusers has been a top priority for me and other members over the years. over 30 years ago i sponsored the child abuse victims rights act, a bill to enhance civil and criminal penalties against those
who sexually exploit children. a version of this measure was enacted and continues to this day to provide a mechanism by which victims can seek justice. just last year i worked with my colleagues to pass another important measure known as the e survivor's bill of rights and it empowers survivors of sexual assault in the criminal justice system. sadly, we know that sexual abuse of children can occur in almost any setting. but what is especially disturbing is when the abuse occurs by someone in a position of trust and what should the common sense safe environment such as youth athletic programs, but we find out sometimes it doesn't turn out that way. recent headlines focused our
attention on troubling allegations of child sexual abuse in the gymnastics program around the country. usa gymnastics, financial sports organization that oversees chad gnostics in our country was the focus of an investigation last year. the newspaper detailed sexual abuse allegations from gymnasts across the country over the period of two decades. coaches, instructors and even the national gymnastics teams doctor has been accused of abusing child athletes. unfortunately, this isn't the only national sports organization that made headlines or alleged sexual abuse by coaches and instructors in recent years. we all remember that the usa
swimming several years ago in post a lifetime ban on dozens of swim coaches for abusing teenagers. the al qaeda from the latest victims led us to convene today's hearing and explore whether we are doing enough to ensure children's safety in athletic organizations. for example, some have argued that usa gymnastics didn't alert the authorities to the suspected abuse, and unless a former written complaint was the method by a victim or their family. if true, such a policy might have allowed predators to victimize children long after gymnastics officials had reason to suspect the abuse. other media accounts suggest
coaches were not banned from the sports until years after they were convicted of crime. sexual abuse is a heinous crime and should be treated as such. so, i hope that our witnesses can help us understand why allegations of sexual abuse so often remain hidden instead of being immediately reported it to law enforcement. the average perpetrator strikes multiple times before being caught, which is why it is so important they be reported thatd promptly and investigated promptly. usa gymnastics has chosen not to appear today before the committee to answer any of my or my colleagues questions but we are fortunate to have several
individuals then through the unimaginable and we will hear first-hand about his experiences. these experiences. we are also going to hear from the united states olympic committee, the organization that certifies 47 national sports organizations that work with young people. we will hear how the u.s. olympic committee is working to ensure that young athletes safety and we will hear from the prosecutor with years of experience prosecuting sex crimes. i think each of the witnesses for being here today sharing their expertise. finally, i also want to extend to my calling on th colleagues e ranking member senator feinstein for taking the lead in developing a very important bill that is a direct response to these issues.
i joined her as an original cosponsor of the legislation that has more reporting and gives survivors thgivesurvivorsd perpetrators accountable. i know that she will speak more about her bill, but i'm proud to be a cosponsor so now i will turn to the ranking member for her opening statements. >> thinks mr. chairman and thank you for being the original cosponsor of this bill. it's very much appreciated. i want everybody here to know that today we have 17 cosponso cosponsors. senator blumenthal is one, senator susan collins, senator donnelly, senator flink, senator franken, senator harris, senator klobuchar, senator mccaskill, senator nelson, senator rubio,
senator shaheen, senator dorgan and senator youngman and we are delighted to have them aboard all as original cosponsors. and i want to thank you for working with me and for your help. everybody has been quite wonderful. i would like to just recognize a few people who are here and i would like to recognize a former gymnast from paradise california who was on the usa gymnastics national team in 1999 and who competed as hms for ucla. could you stand? thank you for being here. appreciate it. and a usa national team gymnast who is currently studying at ucla. what's you stand please. thank you very much. [applause]
i met jeanette and jamie and jessica who will speak in a minute as well as several other athletes a few months ago in my office. i met her in 24 years had a meeting like that. but the unity and strength that these women have shown for pushing through accountability in olympic sports has made me so proud of their courage. they are championing the prevention of abuse to make sure that young athletes that follow in their footsteps do not experience what they had to endure. so it is because of their stories that the chair man, myself, senator collins and 15 other senators and i've listed came together to work on bipartisan legislation to make sure that all national governing bodies that oversee millions of aspiring olympians followed the
strict policies. i believe this is one issue that we can all agree and work together to make a difference. and i am so pleased that the u.s. olympics committee which is represented by greg adams here today strongly supporting the bill as well. thank you so much. i first began to learn how the sports organizations such as usa tae kwon do, swimming and in particular gymnastics handled the sexual abuse allegations just before the games in rio de janeiro. at the time it was reported that usa gymnastics considered a national governing body under the ted stevens act and had repeatedly been notified of sexual abuse allegations against
its coaches but didn't immediately report the allegations to law enforcement. these stories were heart-wrenching and involved children as young as 6-years-o 6-years-old. one such case revealed that they usa gymnastics had received at least four complaints about a member coach in 1998 ye 1998 yer reported the allegations to police. according to federal authorities, the next year, he began to molest a very young girl and in the meantime, he continued to coach children for seven more years. during this time, usa gymnastics not only avoided reporting this to police but also reassured a concerned mother that he was in good standing.
he was ultimately convicted of sexual exploitation of children in 2006 after a mother went directly to the fbi. he is now serving a 30 year sentence in federal prison. following the olympic games last summer, victims from all over the country began to come forward to talk about their abuse, and the culture of money and medals that he found had taken priority over their safety. survivors spoke about a culture that put enormous amounts of pressure on young children to keep quiet, to not complain, to simply adhere to whatever the grown-ups around them were saying. one mother wrote to the judiciary committee to bring to our attention complete complaints about a usa gymnastics team doctor that when
reported to the police for five weeks she wrote, and this is a quote, i learned that this organization at its highest level deceived me and my family. the organization not only failed to protect my daughter but when they realized she had been molested they attempted to hide it. i request that letter be entered into the record. >> without objection. >> no mother should ever have to experience the kind of pain. before i discuss the bill that we have introduced, i would like to note the committee invited usa gymnastics board chair man to testify here today, but he declined the invitation. he did however request a statement he entered into the record which indicates the organizations support for the bill and its enactment and i ask that to be entered into the record. >> without objection.
>> mr. chairman, bill that you and i and the members here today introduced three weeks ago will lead to more accountability and oversight within the usa olympic team sports. first, the bill mandates that those associated with national governing bodies such as the usa gymnastics and swimming must report child and sex abuse, child abuse and any sexual abuse as soon as possible to law-enforcement. second, the bill reforms the wall that allows minor sex crime victims to sue their perpetrators. the bill also lengthens the statute of limitations for victims to sue their perpetrators growing from a bill senator cornybillsenator cornynd earlier this year. it extends the statute of limitations from age 21 to 28,
or alternatively, ten years after the victim actually realizes the injury or violation. and third, the bill specifically delineates the responsibility for all 47 national governing bodies chartered under the ted stevens act. under the bill, those bodies must train members and implement and enforce policies to accomplish several things. first, members must report immediately abuse to law enforcement. number two, they must be allowed to easily report the abuse complaints to the national governing bodies such as the 24 hour hotline and other authorities. easy for a youngster to access. it simply cannot be the case as it is with usa gymnastics where
members reports of abuse were only recognized if they were made in writing. third, adults other than parents should be prohibited from one-on-one situations with minors without being an observable and interruptible distance from another adult, and of course whenever a team physician examines a female minor, there should be another adult in the room, just as it is in the regular population. fourth, coaches who have unresolved sex abuse allegations against him, and there are many, will be prevented from continuing to work with children until they are is no longer any risk to the child. with that, i want to thank senator grassley for calling the hearing and i also want to thank the witnesses for joining us
today. we very much look forward to testimony. >> before i introduced the panel, i have a statement from the usa gymnastics that they wanted in the record and we will honor that request, but there is also the same group that turned down the opportunity to testify today and it seems they would have done a lot more good by testifying then just giving a statement for the record and also from the national center for missing and exploited children, a statement t into the record as well, without objection those things will be entered. >> can you distribute that statement so we have it when we are questioning witnesses.
>> i'm going to introduce the whole panel and then i will go from left to right in that order. the first witnesses jamie dantzscher who won an olympic bronze medal in the summer olympic games in sydney australia. she graduated from ucla in 2005 with a degree in psychology. rick adams is the chief olympic sport organizational development at the united states olympic committee. before joining the olympic committee in 2010, mr. adams served as the ceo of managing partners of the sports and the
ceo. he graduated from ucla and obtained his law degree at crackers university. jessica howard was the u.s. national champion in rhythmic gymnastics from 99 to 2001 and is a member of the usa gymnastics hall of fame. eric olsen serves as a commonwealth attorney for separate county virginia and the national district attorneys association and chairman of the training education committee he has over two decades of experience in prosecuting domestic violence. finally, we are honored to have with us today dominique mocenau.
she and her team won the gold medal in gymnastics at the 1996 summer atlantic games and today she remains the youngest in gymnastics history. she was inducted into the united states or usa gymnastics hall of fame and u.s. olympic hall of fame. today she is a business owner, advocate and motivational speaker. thank you once again for being here. i think my staff informed you about five minutes but if you have a longer written statement, those will be included in the record and i never wrapped the gavel right at the red light going on but try to sum up in a few minutes or less than a
minute. what you start, please. >> chairman grassley, ranking member feinstein and distinguished members of the committee, i am honored to appear before you today. thank you. my parents were both competitive athletes growing up but they didn't know much about gymnastics besides watching it every four years in the summer olympics. i played t-ball and played other sports but i've never stopped asking them to let me take gymnastics. i remember taking the cushions off the couch and i would try to teach myself to flip. after years of rearranging the furniture my parents finally put me in gymnastics when i was about seven and a half-years-o half-years-old.
i loved it even more than i imagined i would. i would try anything to be like the olympians i saw in tv. i would wear my hair like them, try to walk and stand like them and i practiced my flips over and over. my parents had to beg me to leave the gym after practice every time because i couldn't get enough of it. gymnastics brought me so much joy as a little. when i was 11-years-old i started training in california. the sacrifice for my entire family because of the 90 minute drive each direction from home with my appearance worked five to six days a week and i have six siblings involved in sports as well.
my coaches assured them that it would be worth it because i had the talent to go far. financially, mik mike pickens dt know how they would make this work, but they decided to try and hope i would have the opportunity to get a scholarship one day. gymnastics started becoming intense at this point. i trained 25 to 30 hours a week including two workouts per day in the summer. my coaches were very serious and even scared me at times. they would yell at me. my body was always a sore. i thought that's what i have to do to accomplish my dreams. i made the team for the first time when i was 12-years-old. it was palm springs california. what i remember most about that is competing at the same competition of the girls i only saw on tv like dominique mocen
mocenau. i was so excited. i mad need the team every year r that all the way up to the olympics. it was around then i was introduced to the team physician where i had only recently come to understand the medical treatment he performed for my back pain and other injuries was sexual assault. he started abusing the epicenter in texas. he abused me in california and all over the world many times in my own room, in my own bed. he abused me in my hotel room and said he had the olympic game. when i first spoke out about my abuse i thought i was the only one. i was relieved and criticized by some for bringing this issue to light.
now i know that i am not alone. more than 100 women have come forward and shared stories that are shockingly similar to mine. children don't often speak up when they are abused. they are taught to submit to the authority of adults and this is especially true in the gymnastics world. this is why i'm here today. usa gymnastics failed on the responsibility to protect the athletes under their care. they failed to take action against coaches, trainers and other adults that abused children and they allowed him to abuse young women and girls more than 20 years. the federal law that governs the program hides the responsibilities of the usa gymnastics and the wall should specify usa gymnastics must abide by strict policies to prevent abuse in order for it to maintain their certification. it's time for the law to reflect gymnastics should be protecting
athletes from abuse by coaches and doctors and that's what they failed to prevent. i am more than grateful to the committee for inviting me to add my voice to those that are supporting this important legislation. it will require other sports organizations to immediately report child abuse to law enforcement authorities and provide a victims with greater opportunities to seek justice. generations of young athletes will thank you for your leadership and so do i.. thank you. >> [inaudible]
good morning, chairman grassley, senator feinstein and members of the committee. i am the chief paralympic sport's national governing body organizational development for the united states olympic committee. my responsibilities include oversight and management of sports. the term we use for our ongoing efforts to protect athletes from abuse. the stories of abuse that we have heard today are appalling, disheartening and unacceptable. the olympic community failed the people it was supposed to protect. the u.s. olympic committee leads the diverse network of olympic sports organizations ithe united states and we must therefore take responsibility for its failures. we do take responsibility. we apologize to any young athlete who has ever faced abuse.
we recognized the difficulty of stepping forward to share your stories and it is our obligation to build on your courage and bravery to make real and lasting changes. that includes changing the policies and changing the environment that discourage the victims from reporting abuse. the u.s. olympic community recently reached an important milestone with a center for the safe sports. the center for safe sports will be responsible for investigating and resolving allegations of sexual abuse associated with the national governing bodies which are u the 47 independent entitis recognized by the u.s. olympic committee to manage the training and development in each sport. the u.s. olympic committee requires each national governing body in the center as a condition of membership. the approach that we have taken
was similar to that adopted in the anti-doping agency. the agency is very successfully concentrating expertise to ensure independence in investigations of these issues. the center brings expertise and independence to our efforts to prevent abuse of the athletes. we strongly support the protecting young victims from sexual abuse act which would require national governing bodies and their personnel to report suspected incidents of abuse to law enforcement. this requirement complements the rules that we establish for safe sports. under our bylaws and policies and procedures of the center, all national governing bodies and their personnel are required to report suspected abuse at the center and to law enforcement.
finally, mr. chairman, senator feinstein, i would like to take a moment to discuss the serious issues concerning usa gymnasti gymnastics. we share your deep concerns about usa gymnastics handling of allegations of abuse and we support the position to re-sign. we hope the resignation will offer an opportunity for the organization to implement significant change. the abuse should have been detected and prevented and it should have been promptly reported. the olympic community failed and must do better. in the center, we seek to address one of the issues this case highlights. the barriers and the disincentives victims may face seeking to report abuse.
the center for the independent path of reporting and independent system for investigating and resolving cases of sexual abuse the center removes the investigation and resolution of allegations of abuse from the control of any governing body including the usa gymnastics. and it is a resource dedicated to education and awareness of the importance of reporting abuse. we believe these changes will significantly improve the protection of youth athletes from other abuses. our work in this area will never be done. we will continue to look for additional ways to strengthen protections including supporting your important legislation. mr. chairman, senator feinstein, we appreciate your leadership in
this area in the single instance a child or sexual abuse is one too many. with the launch of the safe sports we have dramatically reformed and improved the olympic community's ability to prevent abuse of athletes. thank you again for the opportunity to be here today. and i'm happy to answer any of your questions. thank you. >> thank you very much. >> chairman grassley, ranking member feinstein, distinguished members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to speak to you. the day i found my sports was the day that i fell in love with it. those first few years of training were pure bliss but to achieve my dream i needed to switch to an elite coach. my first practice was so intense i spent the following today's ts unable to make it back to practice.
when i did return, the work began. by age 15 i was the national champion, a position i held for three years. but the fear and intimidation took a toll as did the physical pain. by the time i reached the championships in 1999 my hips hurt so badly i could barely walk. at the world championships when i was only 15 i had a rough practice two days before the competition. my coach called me into her room where the head of the program was also present. she yelled at me so severely i sat perfectly still and my only movement was to pick the skin from my finger. among other things she said i was an embarrassment to my country, my family and her and she had never been so humiliated coaching someone and they would put me on a plane home and kick me off the next day if practice wasn't there. at the end of the meeting i wanted to jump out the window. after the world championships, usa gymnastics suggested i go to see doctor larry nassar to help
with my hip pain. parents didn't go to the range, so i went by myself. i was just thankful for a few days away from my coach. i don't remember any adults taking responsibility for me and the first time i met him i immediately trusted him, he was the premier gymnastics talked of an international reputation and i felt lucky to have been invited to work with them. for the first appointment he asked me to wear loose shorts and no underwear and that seemed strange but i obeyed. as in training i wanted to be perfect. he began to massage my leg and quickly moved inward on my thighs. he then astonished his way into me. i was rigid and uncomfortable but i didn't realize what was happening. i was confused and thought it must just be what has to happen. it happened repeatedly over the course of my week there is no time was there ever another adult in the room. coming off of the year of physical training, he acted as the good guy supporting me emotionally promising me relief from the pain.
now i know in actuality he had used me under the guide of treatment. i trusted usa gymnastic gymnasti was abused as were so many other athletes. more than 100 young women and girls have now come forward to accuse him of assault and the abusabuse was implemented to hi. according to more than 5,600 pages of records released after a lengthy court battle, some of the 54 coaches with complaints ten years were not banned for gymnastics until years after they discovered they were convicted of crimes against children. as an adult i spent years serving on the usa gymnastics board of directorboard of direca mission of protecting children from the psychological abuse that i endured. but the meeting seemed to revolve around two things, money and medals. medals. when a case came up giving my time on the board, the concerns about the reputation of the coach, not the accusation of the athlete. as i attempted to come to terms with what happened to me it's
become obvious that usa gymnastics hasn't done enough to protect athletes from any form of abuse. to show you're serious about making changes that will create a safe environment for athletes, usa gymnastics must be accountable and required to adapt a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual abuse and accusations of child abuse must be reported to the law enforcement authorities immediately. it took five weeks for them to report him to the fbi once suspicions were raised in only after conducting his own internal investigation. protecting all children and sports is of paramount importance and that is why the bill is so vital because it requires the governing bodies to immediately report allegations of abuse and will make it easier for victims to report. the legislation will help victims by extending statutes giving athletes that were abused and opportunity to seek justice when they have a better understanding of what happened to them. there's nothing more motivating and powerful than an olympic
dream but there is a long life to live after the career. my post to gymnastics life has been fraught with issues that stem from this abuse as a teenager. it should be the priority of those in power to make sure and athletes posed a sports life isn't spent dealing with the crippling effect of abuse. thank you for your efforts to protect young athletes. >> thank you, jessica, now eric. >> ranking member feinstein and members of the committee, i am the district attorney in stafford county virginia, district attorneys are called commonwealth attorneys in virginia and after 22 years as an assistant prosecutor i was elected in 2011. i've been on the board of directors, the district attorney association since 2008 and i serve as the chair of the training and education committee. i was hired to be the prosecutor for child abuse and domestic violence case and back then, abuse was often unreported and
frequently not even investigated. almost 30 years ago my former boss had the foresight to see the specialization was the key to bringing criminal justice dark suit cards into the open. the children that were being abused and we were not doing enough about it. the 1990s was a watershed decade in child protection. state legislatures and congress enacted the kind of measures aimed at protecting children from abuse and giving law enforcement the tools and resources to detect it and hold thholdsenders accountable. it was a perfect combination of state and federal cooperation. that decade saw the enactment of the violence against women act, that was 1994 it saw the establishment of the first child advocacy centers in cities across the country and at the enactment of the mandatory laws requiring teachers, professionals, caregivers to report suspected abuse and for the establishment of the multidisciplinary approach to child abuse investigations.
these advances completely changed the approach for that child sexual abuse into and a e extent the catalyst for the change was the u.s. congress. why is that the case? how do you explain the fact that in a system its rise on partisanship a deliberative body is able to enact legislation and steer the system of the 50 different philosophies in a single direction? the answer seems quite simple. in order to live up to the role as the probe's greatest democracy, we've come to realize we must protect our children. that's universal truth has guided the body for generations and over the last 30 years has tried to take him int take in as enacted and funding provided has brought protection and comfort to countless children. unfortunately, it has been tampered with the challenge of growing population and advances in technology. the advent of judicial debate coach digital has been responsible for an increase in the incident of abuse.
i would point out as we seek ways to protect children to new challenges arise. let me address the one challenge that brings us all together. if proven true there is no question it is true hearing these incredible women tell their story. reports have a familiar ring and the individuals associated with a major sports entity. they then go on to abuse that trust. just as the child welfare workers detected and prosecutors have observed. in several cases the adults see and hear and the suspect and no.
they addressed the code of silence that seems to defend when they hear or suspect child abuse. we can't combat this type of exploitation that we don't know about. they have reviewed and are supportive of the ranking member's bill to protect the victims of sexual abuse act of 2017. from the efforts of the congress, the local child welfare agencies and law enforcement agencies have been given the tools to immediately respond to reports and all the credit agencies the comprehensive multidisciplinary approach. i encourage you to continue to rely on the systems in the country.
thank you for the opportunity to address the committee and i assure you those of us on the front lines are prepared to assist to prevent the abuse of our young athletes. we will protect, investigate, and if the unspeakable occurs, we will hold the offenders accountable. >> thank you. dominique mocenau. >> thank you for the opportunity to testify. my name is dominique mocenau and i'm a member of the gymnastics team to bring home gold for the united states and i'm here to discuss the urgent need for change in the sport i love. in the last several months hundreds of victims of sexual abuse have come forward to identify crimes under the watch or the lack thereof of the usa gymnastics. as of today there is no effective system of checks and balances to protect these athletes usually younger girls
from abuse to the extent when it has been reported, the resulting action has been in action. i support the women who've come forward to share their stories of abuse at the hands of the u.s. national team physician. their courage will hopefully bring change to an egregiously flawed and dangerous system that has failed to protect its young athletes. i personally was not assaulted however after years of suffering physical, mental abuse while training under my personal coaches, the most powerful people in usa gymnastics for many years, i have first-hand knowledge of how the culture sets the stage for the others to over. improvements to the system and efficient safety measures are long overdue. i would like to share a little background about the system that made it possible for the predators like this to thrive unchecked for decades.
it's a culture of fear, intimidation and humiliation established when they took over u.s. gymnastics from the early 1980s. the methodology from the system were swiftly embraced and implemented into the women's team beat program in the united states. they granted total control with little to no oversight from any governing body. public complaints of any kind of abuse over the years have been few and far between because the message he openly frowned upon and punished those that dare speak out about anything that could be construed as critical of the program, even physical injury. it was due to these unhealthy standards that i am myself at the age of 14 while training for the olympics was told to ignore severe pain in my leg and continue competitive routines over and over until i collapsed on the floor in the gym. it was only then they were forced to look closer to
discover i had been training on a broken leg. the fact that in 1999 the team training center was moved to the ranch at the property personally owned and operated by bella increased the lack of oversight with china with athletes required to reside for days and weeks at a time without supervision of parents or other adults not employed is in my opinion and atmosphere was created where verbal and emotional abuse was the norm. this coupled with fear of retribution for speaking out open up the door for sexual abuse to occur. regrettably, the national team training center is still located on the grounds of this branch where hundreds of young athletes train each year. each of the sexual assault victims have come forward stated that fear prevented them from speaking out sooner. these women have shared their experiences with you this morning and prior to going public these women shared their
stories with me knowing i had years publicly called for greater oversight and spoke out repeatedly about the neglect and mistreatment of athletes. i strongly encouraged them to report the incident to law enforcement and immediately put them in contact with a third-party expert in child abuse in the field. but today's discussion isn't just about the victims come it's also about the desperate need for the reordering of priorities to put the safety and welfare of young athletes first. while the president of usa gymnastics resigned after increased public awareness of these issues and the doctor is behind bars awaiting trial, the sport is still stuck with a board of directors of continuously put the organization's representation above the well-being and safety of these young girls idiot after all, it was the board of directors who voted to reward these bonuses even after knowing about these allegations. it's also telling that nobody
has even apologized or expressed any empathy of concern for those that have come forward. it is encouraging to me, however, that the bill will benefit all of the sports not only gymnastics and it's aimed at preventing behaviors that lead to all forms of child abuse. purchase a patient in the sports should be a joyful part of childhood. i know firsthand what it is and i'm proud to represent the country at the olympic games where i remained the youngest gold medalist in history. i believe the culture of abuse however undermines the sports greatness and simply is not american. this there will be a substantial step in allowing us to experience success in a properly supervised manner. gymnastics is beautiful. my children enjoy the sport and i want them and others at all levels to be safe and protected.
thank you for the opportunity to share my testimony. >> we will have five-minute rounds of questions. what policies and procedures might have been followed to better ensure your safety while you were staying in the training facility in texas? >> i believe the mandatory reporting would have gone a long way to have all of the adults that were around us and that knew there was a lot of verbal and emotional abuse going on over to the door for other abuse to occur. many coaches all these things and if there was an opportunity for the mandatory recording for accountability, i believe they would have done that much sooner and it would have allowed us a voice to speak out an up and sao this is not okay. and i believe that is extremely empowering for a young person, a child, a young woman and i believe that is extremely important because we need
accountability for these acts. hell do you think the legislation that senator feinstein and several of us that have cosponsored if enacted will make a difference to the aspiring athletes in the future? >> it would allow the community to be more vigilant and be a mandatory aspect of reporting and there will be accountability which we have lacked all of these years and that is extremely important in this time. code that we are in. >> did your parents have the ability to visit or otherwise check on you while you were staying at the usa gymnastics facility? >> our parents were not allowed at the ranch.
and in gymnastics they are encouraged not even to go to practice. they definitely were not allowed at camp and like i said you drop your kid off at any sports camp you don't stay with them the whole week and you trust the adults to supervise and protect your child. >> to you have anythind. have ao that? >> my parents would have done anything to make sure i achieve my dreams and that they were victims as well. >> to both of you again, child abuse often remains a hidden crime. why did you feel you couldn't speak out about your experiences until now or whenever you first spoke out about it? >> i personally didn't realize i was being abused until last july of 2016. i trusted him.
he was a good guy and a bright light at the camp. as far as the verbal and emotional abuse, that was the culture of it and if i said anything about that abuse, they were in control of taking my dream away in a second. >> did you have anything to add attacks >> i didn't realize until last august that this was my reality and then it hit me so hard and i hope this bill passes so this never has to happen to another child. >> to both of you again, what policies or procedures might have been followed to ensure your safety while you were staying at the facility? spin at the least there should have been another adult in the room to be i shouldn't have been alone with him but i was alone with him every single day that i
was there and there was no adult i remember having any responsibility for me. i think if somebody had been in that room it would not have happened. >> do you have anything to add to that? >> i agree and also bringing more awareness. nobody ever told us that a policy to be a loan or that you needed another adult. i never knew that as a child. so it is obviously difficult to talk about. i think that it is important to educate people either the athletes about what is right and wrong. i just trusted the doctor. >> this will be my last question then i will turn to senator feinstein. in your opinion what accounts on the part of some adults who have reason to suspect child abuse to
come forward. >> senator grassley, mr. chairman, that is a tall drink of water right there. i think there's a lot of different reasons. adults don't want to believe. that's the first thing they just don't want to believe it. i think that there is a responsibility that adults have placing their children in these situations and if it is true that they've placed children in a situation they were abused or exploited or they have oversight of a situation that permits that, that reflects on them and that fear of exposure and so they don't want to believe it. and i'm not talking about the abusers i'm talking abut the goodhearted adults whose heart is in the right place but upon hearing incidences or suspecting abuse don't immediately report it, and it's not that they are bad people. they made a bad decision and i wish i knew the answer to why they made that bad decision but i think it's wrapped up certainly in sports and the goal
i think your testimony here and the women who are supporting you is a big step in that direction and i just want you to know that. mr. adams i would like to ask you this. you are the chief of the national governing body organization, organizational development and it's estimated that some 8 million athletes fall under the umbrella of the 47 national government bodies nationwide. the indianapolis star uncovered at least four cases in which usa domestics was warned of suspected abuse by coaches but didn't report them to law enforcement. according to public records
these coaches one on two refused at least 14 under age kids while usa gymnastics that on this report. how many times over the last 10 years has the u.s. olympic committee been notified about a coaches sexual misconduct for any sport? >> thank you senator. the number of times that i am aware of is relatively low. the gymnastic case that you were referring to, the information we had was oftentimes inaccurate and upon getting accurate information about cases, our board took the step to ask for and ultimately the leadership
resigned. there are cases now that as you know under the center for safe sport it will be mandatory to report those. >> will you track that reporting >> senator i think that's one of the most important thing is, i guess we will track that reporting and that data will uncover what is clearly a failed system. the culture has been broken and part of that culture i believe is reflected in a lack of data around those instances. because of that the center for safe sport will now provide a safe place that victims can report. it does not require a victim. it does not require a third party. the center can exert jurisdiction even through public reports. if the victim or first confidentiality that will be
afforded to him or her and i think it speaks to the accountability and independence that this will no longer be left in the hands of people who clearly did not exercise appropriate judgment in many many cases. >> in my meeting in the office, what came through was a number of women said this is all about money. they don't really care about us. that was the implication and coaches were not sanctioned. if a coach was suspected they simply moved to another usa gymnastic approved facility and i think the women here can attest to that as being correct. the question comes, what can you do to see that coaches who have participated in sexual behavior
with young children are rooted out of your sport and that goes for taekwondo, that goes for swimming, that is for the whole thing. >> what we have done is through the center for safe sport there is a searchable database now that every individual that is found to violate the code will be in the database. a parent can search to see if their son or daughter's coach is in that database. one of the flaws in existing system is what you just identified and that is to say that where there was vigilance the predators would avoid those situations and they would simply move as between sports, as between clubs, and the issue of band lists is another area where
there needs to be consistency. >> will you have band lists where a predator of whom you have knowledge, and the victim has sustained that will they be banned from going to another gym and doing it to another girl? >> based on the offense that they have committed, if they have been banned for that offense, yes you'll be able to search the database and it will reflect that. there'll be instances of discipline that are lesser than my lifetime ban so in those lesser cases it may be that this individual is able to work in a different place. a band individual by the center for safe sport will be in the database. it will not be permitted within the national governing body community to be a member or to
work in that capacity. >> that statement is a major statement. i think it's going to be hard to do that anyway that we can help you, we will and i think i am really hardened with what you say and i hope that gets hard to the women that their testimony can play a major role in stopping this for the future. so thank you very much mr. adams >> senator kennedy. >> thank you mr. chairman and thank all of you for coming today and sharing their thoughts thoughts -- your thoughts with us. i want to ask each of you to take about 30 seconds and tell me if you were king or queen for a day and could do anything you want to do, how would you fix this problem? we will start here and go down there. >> while i believe this bill will fix a lot of what is going on and a lot of our problems in
the sport. not only our support but all team sports. if we could eliminate any kind of abuse and also require the mandatory reporting for any suspected abuse i do believe it will help clean up our sport and also help all youth sports verses future generations. the well-being of the athlete should only come first and to me this is one of the most things in sports. it was lacking in our own sports tremendously because everybody around us knew that abuses were going on but they chose not to act because it became part of the cultural norm and that allows the door to be opened because of the fear, because of the retaliation of so many things. so i do believe if we can clean this up with the mandatory
reporting i believe that will help a lot of our concerns going on in this sport. >> mr. chairman and senator kennedy to suggestions. one i echo dominique's comments. if you expand mandatory reporting you are going to address that code of silence. if individuals are able to keep their suspicions to themselves and many times they will keep their suspicions to themselves. if it's against the law for them to keep it to themselves that they are mandated to report that they are going to report and you will hear more about it. the other thing i would suggest is this. i think as adults we expect children to think like adults and that's the mindset that we have adults have to get out of. kids don't think like adults. hearing the stories of these two amazing women that just told us about sexual the sexual abuse of the experience and they didn't even realize it at the time. you have that and add a layer on
this expectation that they are supposed to report a bad thing that happens like an adult would do. we need to educate these children. we need to educate our athletes. we need to take time with every single athlete entering a national sports organization and set them down repeatedly educate them to let them know what their avenues are if they feel uncomfortable. i think that would go a long way to help. >> i honestly just really really want everybody that falls in love with a sport to be safe and to go to the gym to go to their club and to be able to participate in an environment free of abuse. i think the culture of fear and intimidation and control that permeates gymnastics is a very scary place to put your child. i would want for my future children, would want them to walk into any gym and know that they could love that's poor completely and come out on the other end is healthy adults.
actually believe that is what our sport is possible and we can do that. >> i also agree with everything that has been said. what i would do is add to that. i think as ms. howard said every young boy or girl deserves to be safe, supported and strengthened. there is tremendous value in the sport and we need to create an environment where that value is possible to achieve. the other thing i would add an mr. olson mentioned it i think the education and awareness is a really important piece and senator feinstein i just wanted to add that part of the u.s. center for safe sport, one arm if it is solely outreach and education and i think that is so important that we talk about and you have heard today that so many times young boys and young girls and parents, they simply don't know and i received an
e-mail from a friend in colorado springs whose daughter is a an aspiring archer and she's 13 years old. it was the welcome to the u.s. center for safe sporting now and it provided all the resources and the tools and the education, and i immediately thought to myself this 13-year-old aspiring archer will have a different journey. i think that's very important. >> i obviously agree with what everyone said to matt. if i was queen i think steve penny resigning or being forced to resign i guess, it's a good step but i think it's a baby step so if i was queen i would
get rid of every person in usa gymnastics. i don't think people realize that it's not that they didn't reported and this bill is an amazing step and hopefully instill some fear into these people but not only lack of reporting it, it's knowing about it and taking it further to protecting the perpetrator. so steve penny, i know he resigned that there already talking about replacing him with people that would rehire him anyway. i would want to make sure that the same types of people aren't going to be in charge of gymnastics. >> thank you all. >> thank you all. i believe this is the order. a habit for the other side blumenthal a bend klobuchar and then franken and then hirono. i will let you guys argue it out.
that's what i was told. >> she was here. >> thank you very much all of you and i come to this as a former prosecutor. thank you but also as the cochair of the olympics caucus and i just want you to know that we are so proud of you. our athletes for being willing to put yourself out there for your country country but we are even prouder of you for coming forward today and having the courage to talk about what has happened and what you would like to see changed so thank you for that. i am glad that the center for safe sports is starting in that you are here to take responsibility from the perspective of the olympic committee and what i keep hearing from the women up here is the issue of reporting.
can you talk to me about how the center for safe sport can help with that echoes clearly sometimes even when they say there's mandatory reporting people are afraid to report. and what difference will it make for that. >> thank you for that and again i think the mandatory reporting obviously is a significant component of that. what we have done with the center is to require that all incidents are reported to both the center into law enforcement. the center has commensurate obligation to do the same. we have put in place penalties if individuals do not report the code of the safe sports center has no statute of limitations which i think is very important. the issue of encouraging and
ensuring that people report i think is in part about trust. the trust has been broken. the center and the olympic family need to rebuild that trust so people believe when they report they will be treated with care. they will be taken seriously and that the case will be looked at on that basis. so by requiring complementary mandatory reporting we believe that sends a message throughout the olympic movement that it is in fact mandatory in every case. >> ms. howard could you tell me more about the factors that made it difficult to report for you? >> i just realized in july that i was abused. as far as the verbal abuse and emotional abuse, physical abuse,
it was the culture and these people were in control of my dream. if we said anything then we weren't invited back to camp. we wouldn't make the usa national team. they were in control of everything. if we didn't weigh what they wanted, it eat what they wanted, look the way they wanted then they could take our spot away. sin i suppose you feel that way that you were in a bubble if you wanted to stay on the team or not. >> the fact that its little kids and that's all we knew. we didn't know you could be any different. >> right, thank you. ms. howard. >> like jamie i didn't really realize until last august that i had been abused. i was very uncomfortable when it happened but i didn't know
enough to accuse the national team doctor. again i was extremely lucky to be invited. i was only gymnast at that point they got to see dr. nasser so it didn't even come into my head. was really unfathomable so i just hope that their education people will be able to notice if something is going on and will be able to reported immediately. >> thank you. okay, senator feinstein and i were discussing the ages and i know with what we are seeing now and the charges against dr. nasser 22 felony counts, two of the victims under age 13 when this happened. how old were you? >> i was 15. >> and i would think the way you describe this when you were being yelled at by your coaches and then you go to this other guy who was supposed to be so nice to you was kind of a two-pronged approach.
you finally were with someone who is going to be kind to you and in then this happened. >> he was on our side. he wasn't one of the scary people. you learn through all of your time in the gym that you just need to listen and obey and he wasn't like that. he was very kind. >> thank you very much. >> senator blumenthal. >> thank you mr. chairman. first of all let you join in thanking everyone of you for being here today, particularly the athletes who have the courage and strength to come forward. your voice and face are of unestimable value in the compelling case that you make four changes in the way oversight and scrutiny is
provided to protect young women and girls. what happened to you is something i see through also the length of her prosecutor. i had been one for many years before coming here but what happened to you is every parent's worst nightmare. as a father for of four children and having entrusted my daughter to coaches somewhere lurking in the back of every parents mind is the possibility in any sport that this kind of abuse can happen. and so what you have provided us is a powerful insight into the need for oversight and care in this sport and every other sport when it comes to young athletes and it's not just the physical abuse. as you put it so eloquently, it is the emotional and verbal
abuse and the culture of physical abuse that can go beyond just ordinary competitive life. i want to say how would deeply disappointed i am that usa gymnastics had failed to come forward. i'm deeply disappointed that they had given us a statement that no witness to question because i want to know what they are really prepared to do beyond this paper. i want to know what actions they are really going to take. if they say as they do hear the gymnastics community has been shaken to its core by recent events i believe that they have been shaken to their core but if they really cared they would be
here. and their failure to appear mr. chairman i think is unfortunate to put it mildly. they have to answer to what happened here. i want to ask mr. adams how likely is it that no one knew? that's what i think the ordinary person would say. didn't somebody know and isn't usa gymnastics accountable or should be held accountable for knowing? >> in my view the gravity and the volume of the information could do nothing but suggest that the answer to your question is yes. we should have known and i believe that the athletes have
spoken very clearly to what is a flawed culture, where the brand and the sport in the results are given a higher priority than the health and well-being of the athletes and that is what we need to change. that is why we have committed to education and awareness, safe places, resolution, independence, mandatory reporting because these are the connective tissues that ultimately can change what is clearly so broken based on what we heard today. >> as law enforcement mr. olson is a fellow prosecutor how good they have not known? wouldn't you say in your professional judgment there is simply no way they could not have known? >> i find it hard to believe that somebody didn't know.
i don't get it hard to believe that this code of silence existed in a national sports organization. hopefully we'll would hear stories about it in the future. we have heard about at the foresight not surprised by that. i think jamie makes a very important point. we talked about mandatory reporting and we talked about this culture do not report something because you don't want to believe it but there's a bogeyman out there and that is the actual protecting of the individuals where someone not only ex-suspects or hearing credible reports and that person is actually protected in and goes on to abuse this more. on the one hand it's ignorant or i don't want to believe it and that's bad enough and mandatory reporting can address that. but to hear the stories of individuals that are allowed to
continue for shifted to another sports organization because they are protected and then they go on to be a somebody else is intolerable and inexcusable. i've seen it before. i wish i could understand how or why it happens. all i do is understand that it does happen. >> my time has expired mr. chairman but i join you in expressing her strong disappointment of that usa gymnastics is not here to answer that question which is as important as any question, how did they not know, they must have known if the commonsense reaction of a parent or prosecutor an ordinary person serving this catastrophic damage that has been done to survivors of this terrible tragedy. thank you mr. chairman. >> thank you senator blumenthal.
senator hirono. >> thank you mr. chairman eye want to add my thanks to the three young women who have come forward and the panel for your testimony today and i want to thank the chair and the ranking member for bringing this issue to the floor. this reminds me very much of the sexual abuse in the military that has been going on for a long long time, way too long. anytime there's a control situation where their power issues the victims are often very afraid to speak out and your circumstances described yet another example of an environment of control where you come to trust someone who is abusing you. so i want to ask mr. olson, you have read the bill have you not? the bill requires mandatory reporting. we are told that the mandatory reporting of sexual abuse must be done by certain categories or
described individuals and that's usually the case in the mandatory reporting laws with a situation where there are no witnesses and that the victim doesn't come forward how does mandatory reporting address the problem? >> i think most state does require mandatory reporting in that indicates when there's a suspicion of sexual abuse so doesn't have to be a witness, does that to be a formal complaint. if complaint. if there is a suspicion of sexual abuse or child abuse there is a requirement that it be reported. that's crafted in the fellow that's the way most states crafted and that's the standard for requiring an individual to make reported they are covered by the bill. >> for the young women who testified, you read the bill and you know who is supposed to report in mandatory reporting. in your situations where their people that should have
suspected you were being abused? any of you? >> there is no way they could know. after our second practice our statement was mandatory. after the lights were out in the gem in the training area we had was closed you weren't allowed in the gem and the only other area to get treatment within our own room. the other adults never supervise that. there was never another adult with me. >> if they were not there i don't understand how they would know that you are being abused. >> you said they did not know. >> there was a grown man in my room alone with me. giving me medical treatment in my bed. they didn't at the very least make sure there was another adult at the very least. >> do you think under this bill
under situation like that they needed to take some kind of an affirmative action? should they have asked you what was going on and was there anything happening? >> i also think maybe just having one conversation with us about what is appropriate and what is not. and bringing more awareness to the issue. >> i also believe not only what dr. nassar was abusive but there's an environment where many coaches were also abusive. they are not typically going to report themselves with their people around that need to be educated on what is appropriate training that is positive to the athlete and what are those appropriate methods to use that are positive and enhancing for the athletes but not abusive. a lot of the coaches believe that this was the norm. the training, the galang the belittling and the humiliation
that training through injuries. they need an education as well. >> do you think the bill provides enough of a duty of care to these people who interacted with these young athletes to require them to go further than turning a blind eye? >> senator there are provisions in the bill for training and education and awareness. as all these women athletes indicate awareness is a key factor in bringing it forward. as dominique said abusers aren't going to report themselves. it's necessary for the athletes to be educated. there are provisions in the bill to provide lots her education and awareness. >> do you think the bill requires a duty of care for these people? >> as a prosecutor i think that's more of a civil question. as a prosecutor in criminal cases i think that's beyond my
wheelhouse. >> thank you. >> senator feinstein we will have some questions put in writing. senator feinstein and i have concluded that most of the important questions have been responded to so i want to thank you all. i know for some of you it's a very emotional thing to be talking about legitimately so. thanks for telling us about your opportunities and mr. adams i hope everything you told this will be followed through by every other organization in the olympics and thank you mr. olson. thank you all. meeting adjourned.
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