tv Olympic Gymnasts Recount Their Experiences of Sexual Abuse CSPAN March 28, 2017 10:03am-11:37am EDT
gymnastics, swimming and tae kwon do, hearing testimony this morning from former olympic gymnasts and olympic competitors who were abused by usa gymnastics personnel. you can see the ranking member dianne feinstein of california and the chair of the committee is chuck grassley. we'll be hearing from a state prosecutor from pennsylvania and a board member from the u.s. olympic committee. charles grassley, the committee chair, they've introduce adbill that would require governing bodies of amateur athletics to immediately report sexual abuse allegations to federal law enforcement. live coverage of what's scheduled to be a two, two and a half hour hearing on cspan 3.
everyone who is attending today, thank you very much for your interest in this issue. as you probably know, our committee, the judiciary committee is no stranger to contentious debate. but when it comes to championing the rights of those who have been victimized, this committee has a clear bipartisan history.
we're 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 a lot of other members of this committee 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 survivors' bill of rights.
it employers victims in the criminal justice system. sadly we know the sexual abuse of children can occur in almost any setting. what's especially disturbing is when that abuse occurs by someone in a position of trust in what should be commonsense safe environment. such as youth athletic programs. we find out sometimes it doesn't turn out that way. recent headlines have focused our attention on troubling allegations of child sexual abuse in the gymnastics program around the country. usa gymnastics, the national sports organization that oversees gymnastics in our country was the focus of an investigation last year by the indianapolis star. the newspaper detailed hundreds
of sexual abuse allegations from gymnasts across the country, over a period of two decades. coaches, instructors, and even the national gymnastics teams' doctor have been accused of abusing child athletes. unfortunately, this isn't the only national sport organization that made headlines for alleged sexual abuse by coaches and instructors in recent years. we all remember that the usa swimming several years ago imposed lifetime bans on dozens of swim coaches for abusing teenagers. the out cry from the latest victims led us to convene today's hearing. and explore whether we're doing enough to insure children's safety in athletic
organizations. for example, some have argued that usa gymnastics didn't alert the authorities to suspected sexual abuse until and unless a formal written complaint was submitted 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 sexual abuse. other media accounts suggest that coaches weren't banned from the sports until years after they were convicted of crimes against children. 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 to
law enforcement. the average perpetrator strikes multiple times before being caught, which is why it's so important that these crimes be reported promptly and investigated promptly. usa gymnastics has chosen not to appear today before the judiciary committee to answer any of my or my colleagues' questions. but we're fortunate to have with us today several individuals who have been through the unimaginable. we're going to hear first-hand about these experiences. we're also going to hear from the united states olympic committee, the organization that certifies 47 national sports organizations that work with young people. we'll hear how the u.s. olympic committee is working to insure
young athletes' safety and we'll hear from a prosecutor with years of experience prosecuting sex crimes. i thank each of our witnesses for being here today. and sharing their stories and expertise. finally, i also want to extend to my colleague on my left here, ranking member feinstein for taking a very clear lead in developing a very important bill that is a direct response to these issues. i've joined her as an original co-sponsor of this legislation which would promote more reporting and give survivors tools to hold perpetrators accountable. i know she'll speak more about her bill, our bill i should say. but i'm proud to be a co-sponsor. now i will turn to ranking member feinstein for her opening statements. >> thanks very much, mr.
chairman. thank you very much for being the original co-sponsor of this bill. it is very much appreciated. i want everybody here to know that to date we have 17 co-sponsors, senator blumenthal is one. senator susan collins. senator cortez masto, senator donnelly, senator flake, senator harris, senator mccaskill. senator nelson, senator rubio. senat senator warren and senator young. we're delighted to have them aboard all as original co-sponsors. i want to thank you for working with me and for your help of your staff. everybody's been quite wonderful. i'd like to just recognize a few people who are here.
and i'd like to recognize jeanette antolin a former gymnast from paradise, california who was on the usa olympics team in 1999 and competed as a gymnast for ucla. would you stand? thank you so much for being here. we appreciate it. and matty larsson usa team gymnast who is currently studying at ucla, would you stand, please? thank you very much. i met jeanette and matty along with two of our witnesses, jamie and jessica who will speak in a minute as well as several other athletes a few months ago in my office. i have never in 24 years had a meeting like that meeting. but the unity and strength these women have shown in pushing for greater accountability in
olympic sports has made me just so proud of their courage. they are championing the prevention of sexual abuse to make sure that young athletes who follow in their footsteps do not experience what they had to endure. so it's because of their stories that the chairman, myself, senator collins, and 15 other senators that i've listed came together to work on bipartisan legislation to make sure that all national governing bodies that oversee millions of aspiring olympians follow the strictest policies to prevent sex abuse. i believe this is one issue on which we can all agree and that we can work together to make a real difference. and i'm so pleased that the u.s. olympic committee, which is represented by rick adams here today -- are you here, mr. adams? right in front of me, i'm sorry. strongly supports the bill as
well. thank you so much. i first began to learn how sports organizations such as usa tae kwon do, usa swimming, and in particular usa gymnastics handled sexual abuse allegations just before the olympic games in rio de janeiro. at the time, it was reported that usa gymnastics considered a national governing body under the ted stevens act had repeatedly been notified of sexual abuse allegations against its coaches. but did not immediately report those allegations to law enforcement. these stories were heart wrenching and involved children as young as six years old. one such case, revealed that a usa gymnastics -- that usa gymnastics had received at least four complaints about a member coach, william mccabe as early
as 1998 yet never reported these allegations to police. according to federal authorities, the very next year, mccabe began to molest one very young girl. in the meantime, he continued to coach children for seven more years. during this time, usa gymnastics not only avoided reporting mccabe to police, but also reassured a concerned mother that mccabe was in good standing. mccabe 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 we 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 grownups around them were saying. one mother wrote the judiciary committee to bring to our attention complete complaints about a usa gymnastics team doctor that went 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. this organization not only failed to protect my daughter, but when they realized she had been molested, attempted to hide it. mr. chairman, i request that that letter be entered into the record. >> without objection, it will be
entered. >> thank you. no mother should ever have to experience that kind of pain. before i discuss the bill we've introduced, i'd like to note that the committee invited usa gymnastics board chairman to testify here today. but he declined the invitation. he did, however, request that a statement be entered into the record, which indicates the organization's support for the bill and its enactment. i ask that that be entered into the record. >> without objection, it will be entered. >> mr. chairman, the bill that you and i and the members here today introduced three weeks ago will lead to more accountability and oversight within usa olympic team sports. first, the bill mandates that those officiated with national governing bodies such as usa gymnastics and usa swimming must
report child and sex abuse, child abuse and any sex abuse as soon as possible to law enforcement. second, the bill reforms the law that allows minor sex crime victims to sue their perpetrators. the bill also lengthens the statute of limitations for victims to sue their perpetrators. drawing from a bill that senator cornen and i introduced 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 responsibilities 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 sex abuse to law enforcement. two, members must be allowed to easily report sexual abuse complaints to 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 sex abuse were only recognized if they were made in writing. third, adults other than parents should be prohibited from one-on-one situation with minors without being an observable and interruptible distance from another adult. 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 them -- and there are many -- will be prevented from continuing to work with children until there is no longer any risk to the child. with that i want to thank senator grassley once again for calling this hearing. and i also want to thank the witnesses again for joining us today. we very much look forward to their testimonies. thanks so much, mr. chairman. >> before i introduce the panel, i have a statement from usa gymnastics that they want put in the record. and we will honor that request. but they're also the same group that turned down the opportunity to testify today. and it seems to me like they would have done their cause a lot more good by testifying than
just giving us a statement for the record. and then also from the national center for missing and exploited children, a statement to put in the record as well, without objection those things will be entered. >> mr. chairman, could you distribute that statement so we have it when we're questioning the witnesses, please? >> we'll get it to you. >> thank you. >> i'm going to introduce the whole panel and then i'll call you from my left to my right, in that order. our first witness is jamie dancher. she won an olympic bronze medal in gymnastics in 2000 summer olympic games, sydney, australia. she graduated from ucla 2005
with a degree in psychology. rick adams, mr. adams is chief paralympic support and mgb organizational development at the united states olympic committee. before joining the olympic committee in 2010, mr. adams had served as ceo of the usa weight lifting, president manager partners of rbc sports and president and ceo of echl. mr. adams graduated from ucla and obtained his law degree, rutgers university. jessica howard was the u.s. national champion in rhythmic gymnastics from '99 to 2001. and a finalist in the '99 world championships. she's a member of the usa
gymnastics hall of fame. eric oleson serves as the commonwealth's attorney for stafford county, virginia. he serves on the board of directors of the national district attorney's association and as chairman of the training and education committee. mr. oleson has over two decades of experience prosecuting child abuse and domestic violence. finally, we're honored to have with us today dominic. she and her team won gold at the 1996 atlanta summer games. she remains the youngest gold medalist in u.s. history. she was inducted into the u.s. gymnastics hall of fame and u.s.
olympic hall of fame. today she's an author, business owner, an advocate and a motivational speaker. thank you all once again for being here. i think my staff informed you about five minutes, but if you have a longer written statement, those longer written statements will be included in the record and i never rap the gavel at the red light going on. but try to sum up in a few seconds or less than a minute your last thoughts before you turn it over to the next person. so would you start, jamie, please? >> chairman grassley, ranking member feinstein and distinguished members of the committee, i am honored to appear before you today. thank you. i fell in love with gymnastics just before i turned three years old when i saw mary luo retton
in the 1984 olympics. my parents didn't know much about olympics besides watching it every four years. i never stopped asking them to let my take gymnastics. i wanted to be an olympian. i remember taking all the cushions off the couch to use as mats and i would try to teach myself flips. after years of rearranging all their furniture, my parents finally put me in gymnastics when i was about seven and a half years old. i loved it more than i even imagined i would. and i loved to tumble and i loved to swing on bars because it felt like i was flying. i would try anything to be like the olympians i saw on tv. i'd wear my hair like them, dress like them, try to walk and stand like them. and i practiced my own bits 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 girl. when i was 11 years old, i started training as an elite gymnast at a gym in west covina, california. i needed to work with more experienced coaches at the time. that was a big sacrifice for my entire family, because it was a 90 minute drive each direction from home. both my parents worked five to six days a week. and i also had six siblings that were involved in sports as well. my coaches assured them that it would be worth it because i had the talent to go really far. financially my parents didn't know how they would make all this work, but they decided to try in hopes i would have the opportunity to get a college scholarship one day. gymnastics started becoming very intense at this point. i started training 25 to 30 hours a week, including two
workouts per day in the summer. my coaches were very serious and even scary to me at times because they would yell at me. my body was always sore. and i always seemed to be tired but i was learning new skills that i had only seen on tv so i thought that's what i had to do to accomplish my dream. i made the junior national team for the first time when i was just 12 years old. it was in palm springs, california. what i remember most about that competition as i was competing at the same competition of the girls that i had only saw on tv like dominique. i was so excited. i made the usa national team every year after that. all the way up to the olympics. it was around then i was introduced to u.s. national team physician. what i've only recently come to understand is that the medical treatment he performed for my back pain and other injuries was sexual assault.
the doctor abused me at the national training center in texas. he abused me in california at meets and all over the world. many times it took place in my own room, in my own bed. he abused me in my hotel room in sydney, at the olympic games. when i first spoke out about my abuse at the hands of the doctor i thought i was the only one. i was disbelieved. and even criticized by some in the six community for bringing this disturbing issue to light. now i know that i'm not alone. more than 100 women have come forward and shared stories that are shockingly similar to mine. children often don't speak up when they're abused. they suffer in silence. they are taught to submit to the authority of adults. this is especially true in the hypercompetitive world of elite gymnastics. women do speak up and that's why i'm here today.
usa gymnastics failed its responsibility to protect athletes. they failed to take action against coaches trainers and other adults that abuse children and they allowed the doctor to abuse young women and girls for more than 20 years. the federal law that governs our olympic program defined the responsibility of usa gymnastics. that law should specify that usa gymnastics must abide by stricter policies to prevent sexual abuse in order to maintain its certification. it's time the law reflects that usa gymnastics highest prioritipriorit priorities should be preventing their athletes from sexual abuse. i am more than grateful to this committee for inviting me and to add my voice to those who are supporting this important new legislation. it will require usa gymnastics and other sports organizations to immediately report child abuse to law enforcement authorities and will provide
victims with greater opportunities to seek justice. generations of young athletes will thank you for your leadership and so do i. thank you. >> thank you, jamie. now rick. [ inaudible ] >> good morning, chairman grassley, senator feinstein and members of the committee. i'm rick adams, chief of paralympic sport and national governing body organizational development for the united states olympic committee. my responsibilities include oversight and management of safe sport. the term we use for our ongoing efforts to protect athletes from sexual and other abuses.
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 sport organizations in the united states, and we must, therefore, take responsibility for its failures. we do take responsibility. and we apologize to any young athlete who has ever faced abuse. we recognize 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 our policy and changing the environment that discourages victims from reporting abuse. the u.s. olympic committee recently reached an important
milestone with the launch of the u.s. center for safe sport. the center for safe sport will be responsible for investigating and resolving allegations of sexual abuse associated with the national governing bodies. which are the 47 independent entities recognized by the u.s. olympic committee to manage the training and development in each olympic 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 with the center is similar to the approach that we adopted in the u.s. anti-doping agency. that agency has very successfully concentrated expertise and insured independence in investigations of doping issues. the u.s. center for safe sport like wise brings expertise and independence to our efforts to prevent abuse of youth athletes.
we strongly support s 534. protecting young victims from sexual abuse act, which would require national governing bodies and their personnel to report suspected incidents of child and sexual abuse to law enforcement. this requirement complements the rules that we established for safe sport. under our bylaws and the policies and procedures of the center, all national governing bodies and their personnel are required to report suspected sexual abuse to the center and to law enforcement. finally, mr. chairman, senator feinstein, i would like to take a moment to discuss the very serious issues concerning usa gymnastics. we share your deep concerns about usa gymnastics' handling of allegations of abuse. and we supported steve penny's
decision to resign. we hope that his resignation will offer an opportunity for the organization to implement significant change. the abuse should have been detected. it should have been 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 disincentives that victims may face when seeking to report abuse. the center creates an independent path for reporting, and an independent system for investigating and resolving cases of sexual abuse. the center removes the investigation and resolution of allegations of sexual abuse from the control of any national governing body, including usa gymnastics. and it is a resource dedicated
to education and awareness of the importance of reporting abuse. we believe that these changes will significantly improve the protection of youth athletes from sexual and 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 to require reporting of abuse. mr. chairman, senator feinstein, we appreciate your leadership in this area. a single instance of child or sexual abuse is one too many. with the launch of the u.s. center for safe sport, we have dramatically reformed and improved the olympic community's ability to prevent abuse of athletes. thank you again for this opportunity to be here today.
and i would be happy to answer any of your questions, thank you. >> thank you very much. now jessica. >> chairman grassley, ranking member feinstein, distinguished members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to speak to you. the day i found my sport, rhythmic gymnastics was the day i fell in love with it. those first few years orf training were bliss but to achieve my goal of becoming a world class athlete i needed to switch to an elite coach. when i did return, the work began. by age 15, i was u.s. national champion a position i held for three years. but the fear and intimidation that permeated my training sessions took a toll, as did the physical pain. by the time i reached world championships in 1999 my hips hurt so badly at times i could badly walk. at those world championships when i was 15, i had a rough practice two days before the
competition. my coach called me into her room where the head of our 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 told me i was an embarrassment to my country, my family and her. she had never been so humiliated coaching someone as she was on me and would put me on a plane and kick me off the team if my practice wasn't better. by the end of the meeting i wanted to jump out the window. usa six suggested i go to the karolyi launch to see the doctor to help with my hip pain. i went by myself. i was thankful to have a few days away from my coach. i don't remember any adult taking responsibility for me. and the first time i met the doctor i immediately trusted him. he was the premier usa gymnastics doctor with an international reputation and i felt lucky to have been invited to work with him.
for our first appointment he asked me to wear loose shorts and no underwear. that seemed strange but i obeyed. as in training i wanted to be perfect fth he began to massage my leg and moved inwards on my thighs. he massaged his way into me. i was rigid and uncomfortable but i didn't realize what was happening. i was confused and thought it must be what had to happen. this scenario happened repeatedly over the course of my week at the ranch. at no time was there ever another adult in the room. coming off a year of different training, he acted as the good guy, promising me relief from the pain. now i know than he expertly abused me under the guise of treatment. i trusted usa gymnastics but i was sexiually abused. more than 100 young women and girls have accused him of assault. the abuse was not limited to him. according to more than 5,600 pages of records release today the indy star on march 3rd.
some of the 54 coaches with complaints were not banned until years after usa gymnastics discovered they were convicted of crimes against children. as an adult i spent years serving on the usa gymnastics board of directors with the mission of protecting children in my support from the abuse i endured. the meetings seem to revolve around money and medals. when a sexual abuse case came up, the concern was about the reputation of the coach. as i have attempted to come to terms to what happened to me it has become obvious that usa gymnastics has not done enough to protect athletes. to show they're serious about making institution wide changes that will create a safe environment for athletes, usa gymnastics must be accountable and required by law to adopt a zero tolerance policy regarding sexual abuse. accusations of child abuse must be report today the law enforcement authorities immediately.
it took five weeks for usa gymnastics to report the doctor to the fbi. only after conducting its own internal investigation. protecting all children in supports from abuse is of paramount importance. that's why this bill is so vital. it requires amateur athletic government bodies to report allegations of sexual abuse and will make it easier for victims to report. the legislation will also greatly help victims by extending the statute of limitations, giving athletes an opportunity to seek justice when they have a better understanding of what happened to them. there is nothing more motivating and powerful than an olympic dream. but there is a long life to live after the span of a gymnastics career. my post gymnastics life has been fraught with issues that stem from the abuse i endured as a young teenager. it should be the priority of those in power to make sure that an athlete's life is not spent dealing with abuse. thank you for your efforts to protect athletes. >> thank you, jessica, now eric.
>> chairman grassley, ranking member feinstein, members of the committee. i'm the district attorney in stafford county, virginia. district attorneys are called commonwealth attorneys in virginia. after 22 years as an assistant prosecutor, i was elected the commonwealth's attorney in 2011. i've been on the board of directors at the national district attorney's association since 2008 and i serve as the chairman of our training and education committee. i was hired in 1989 to be the prosecutor in domestic violence and child abuse cases almost 3c. the secret that children were being abused and we weren't doing enough about it. the 1990s was a water shed decades in child protection. state legislatures and the u.s. congress enacted significant measures aimed at both
protecting children from abuse and giving law enforcement the tools and resources to detect it and hold offenders accountable. that decade saw the enactment of the violence against women act. that was 1994. it saw the establishment of the first child advocacy centers. it saw the enactment of mandatory reporting laws requirirequir. and it saw the establishment of multidisciplinary worlds. the catalyst for the change watwas this body. how do you explain the fact that a system that thrived on partisanship a body is able to enact legislation and steer a system of 50 different philosophies in a single direction. the answer is quite simple.
in order to live up to our role as the world's greatest democracy we've come to realize we must protect our children. that universal truth has guided this body for generations. over the last 30 years, the strides taken, laws enacted and the funding provided has brought protection and comfort to countless children. unfortunately, that success has been detempered with advances i technology, the advent of the internet and has been the source of increased sexual abuse. i point this out as we seek ways to protect children, new challenges arise. today, let pme address the one challenge that brings us together, the sexual abuse scandal surrounding usa gymnastics. if proven true -- there's no question that is true, just hearing these incredible women tell their story.
the reports of abuse have a familiar ring. individuals associated with a major sports entity, that entity entrusted by parents for the care and nurturing of their children who go on to abuse that trust. this is not the first time it's happened and painful to admit it likely won't be the last. just as past scandals have shown and just as child welfare wo workers and detectives and prosecutors have observed for decades, as secretive as child sexual abuse is, in so many cases, adults see. adults hear. adults suspect. and adults know. yet even today in too many cases report is never even made. i encourage this body to consider whatever legislation that can help. stated simply we can't combat this type of exploitation if we don't know about it. we have reviewed of ranking
member's feinstein's bill. there is however one suggestion, i would like to offer related to this specific legislation. from the efforts of this congress over the last 30 years, local child welfare agency and local law enforcement agencies have been given the tools to response to reports of child abuse. all accredited agencies a comprehensive approach is taken the minute a report is received. and i encourage you to continue to rely on the existing systems in states across the country. if you expand the federal system of mandatory reporting to insure that an immediate authority is made to local as well as federal authorities, i suggest this because we're well positioned to respond in the way the public expects us to respond. i thank you for the opportunity to address the community and i assure you that those of us on the front lines are prepared to assist in any way we can. we will protect, we will investigate and if the
unspeakable occurs, we will hold offenders accountable. >> thank you, now dominique. >> senators, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. i'm an olympic gymnast and member of the first women's gymnastics team to bring home gold for the united states. in the last several months hundreds of victims of sexual abuse have come forward to identify crimes that occurred under the watch or lack thereof of usa gymnastics. as of today, there is no effective system of check and balances to protect these athletes, usually young girls, from abuse to the extent that when sexual abuse has been reported, the resulting action has been inaction. i support the brave women who have come forward to share their painful stories of the sexual abuse at the hands of the the gymnastics physician. they courage will ho-- i was no
assaulted by dr. nassir. after years of suffering physical and mental abuse while training under my coaches, the karol karolyis, i have first-hand knowledge how it set the stage. improvements to the system and efficient safety measures for all young american child athletes are long over due. i would like to share backgro d background. it's a culture of fear, intimidation and humilimation established by martha and bella karol karolyi. their methologies were quickly adopted. they were granted total control
with little to no oversight. public complaints of any kind of abuse over the years have been few and far between because usag frowned upon ostracized and punished those who dare speak out about anything that could be construed as critical of the program. even physical injury. it was due to these unhealthy standards i 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. it was only then that they were force today look closer to discover i'd been training on a broken leg. the fact that in 1999 the national team training center was moved to the karolyi ranch, personally owned by bella and marta karolyi increased the lack of oversight. athletes were required to stay at the ranch.
an atmosphere was created with verbal and emotional abuse was the norm. this coupled with fear of retribution for speaking out opened the door for sexual abuse to occur. regrettably, the national team training center is still located on the grounds of the karolyi ranch where hundreds of young athletes train each year. each of dr. nassir's victims who have come forward have stated that fear prevented them from speaking out. two of these women have shared their experiences with you this morning. prior to going public, these women shared their stories with me. knowing i had years publicly called for greater oversight and have spoken out repeatedly about the neglect and mistreatment of athletes by usag. al i encouraged them to report the incident to law enforcement and i immediate put them in contact with a third party expert. but today the discussion is not just about dr. nassir and his
victims. it is also about a desperate need for reordering of priorities to put the safety and welfare of young athletes first. while the president of usa gymnastics resigned this month after dr. nassar is mind bars awaiting trial. our sport is still stuck with the board of directors that have mutt the board's reputation above the well-being and safety of young girls t was usag's board of directors that voted to award steve penny with financial bonuses after knowing about the sexual abuse allegations. it is telling that nobody in usag has apologized or ex preds any empathy of concern for the survivors that have come forward. it is encouraging that this bill will benefit all youth sports, not solely gymnastics. it is aimed at preventing behavior that leads to all forms of child abuse. participation in youth sports should be a joyful part of our
childhood. i know firsthand what it takes to reach the pinnacle of sport and i am proud to have represented our country at the olympic games where i remain the youngest gold medalist in u.s. gymnastics history. i believe the culture of abuse undermines the sports greatness and is simply un-american. this bill will be a substantial step in allowing us to experience success in a safe and properly supervised manner. gymnastics is beautiful. my children enjoy the sport. i want them and others at all levels to be safe and protected. thank you for this opportunity to share my testimony. >> we have five-minute rounds of questions. i'm start with dominique. 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 that knew there was ea lot of verbal and emotional abuse that was going on that opened the door for other abuses to occur. many coaches saw these things. if there was an opportunity for the mandatory recording for accountability, i believe they would have done that much sooner and if wout would have allowed athletes a voice to speak up and say, no, this is not okay. i believe that is extremely empowering for a young person, a child, a young woman. i believe that is extremely important because we need accountability for these horrendous acts. >> do you think that this, dominique, again, how do you think the legislation that senator feinstein and several of us co-sponsored, if enacted, will make a difference to aspirg olympic athletes in the future? >> it will allow our community
to be much more vigilant. there will be a mandatory aspect of reporting and there will be accountability, which we have lacked all of these years. that is extremely important in this time period that we are in. >> jamie and jessica, did your parents have the ability to visit or otherwise check on you while you were staying at the texas usa gymnastics facility? >> no. our parents were not allowed at the ranch. the parents are victims too in this. in gymnastics, they are highly encouraged to not even go to practice. they weren't allowed at camp. like i have said, you drop your kid off at any camp, any youth sports camp. you drop your kid off. you don't stay with them the whole week. you trust the adults to supervise and protect your
child. >> jessica, do you have anything to add? >> my parents would have done anything to make sure i could achieve my dream. they are victims too. >> 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 know i was abused or realize it until last july. july of 2016. i trusted dr. na sar, he was the good guy, my buddy, the bright light at the camp. as far as the verbal abuse and emotional abuse, like we said, it was just that was the culture of it. if i said anything about that abuse, they were in control of taking my dream away in a second. >> do you have anything to add,
jessica? >> just same. i didn't realize until last august that this was my reality. then, it just hit me so hard. i hope this bill passes so this never has to happen to another child. >> to both of you again, and i'll start out with jessica, what policies or procedures might have been followed to better ensure your safety while you were staying at the training facility? >> at the very least, there should have been another adult in the room. i should not have been alone with dr. nassar. i was alone with him every single day i was there. there was no adult that i remember having any sfont for me. i think that if somebody had been in that room, it would not have happened. >> do you have anything to add, jamie, to that? >> i agree and also bringing more awareness. nobody ever told us that a policy was even to be alone or that you needed another adult.
i never knew that as a child. it is very difficult to talk about. i think it is really important to educate people, even the athletes, about what is right and what is wrong. as i said, i just trust the doctor. >> erika, this will be my last question and then i'll turn to senator feinstein. in your opinion, what accounts for continued reluctance on the part of some adults who have reason to suspect child abuse to come forward? >> senator grassley, mr. chairman, that's a tall drink of water right there. i think there is a lot of different reasons. adults don't want to believe, that's the first thing. adults just don't want to believe it. i think there is a responsibility that adults have placing their children in this situation. if it is true that they have
placed children in a situation they were abused or exploited or if 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. i am not talking about the abusers. i'm talking about good-hearted adults whose heart is in the right place that upon hearing incidents or suspecting abuse don't immediately report it. it is not that they are bad people. i wish i knew the answer to why they have made that decision. it is wrapped up certainly in sports and the goal being achievement and a focus on that final goal and in so many cases the athletes are secondary to that goal. that's the culture that has to change. >> thanks, mr. chairman. i want the women who have
testified to know how very proud i am of you for standing up. i know how hard it is. i know how hard it is to be in an intense public situation and discuss this kind of thing. the faces that i saw in my office when the women first came to me really convinced me of the lasting impact of what was done to them once it was realized and all the feelings that go along with a woman much older than when she was abused, when she was extraordinarily young maand may not have understood it. one of the women there, and i won't name her, was married, had her child there. she was crying with the tears rolling down her face. so what that said to me is it takes a long time to get over this. i think your testimony here and the women that are supporting you is a big step in that
direction. 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. it is estimated that some 8 million athletes fall under the umbrella of the 47 national governing bodies nationwide. the indianapolis star uncovered at least four cases in which usa gymnastics was warned of suspected abuse by coaches but didn't report them to law enforcement. acourti according to public records, these coaches went on to abuse at least 14 under-aged gymnasts while usa gymnastics sat on these reports. how many times over the last ten years has the u.s. olympic committee been notified about a
coach's sect you'xual misconduc any sport? >> thank you, senator. the number of times i am aware of working in safe sport is relatively low. the gymnastic cases that you are referring to, the information that we had was oftentimes inaccurate and upon getting accurate information about these cases, our board took the step to ask for and ultimately the leadership re-signed. there are cases now that as you know under the center for safe sport it will be mandatory to report those. part of that -- >> will you track that reporting? >> senator, i think that's one of the most important things. yes, we will track that reporting. that data will uncover what is clearly a failed system.
the culture has been broken. part of that culture,ibl i beli, is reflected in the 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 prefers confidentiality, that will be afforded to him or her. i think it speaks to the accountability and the 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 that a number of women said, this is all about money and medals.
they don't really care about us. that was the implication. coaches were not sanctioned. if a coach was suspected, they simply moved to another usa gymnastic-approved facility. i think the women here can ak t attest to that as being correct. the question comes, what can you do to see that coaches who have participated in p sexual behavior with young children are rooted out of your sport. that goes for tae kwon do, swimming, for the whole thing. >> what we have done is through the center for safe sport, there is a searchable database that
ever individual that is found to have violated the code will be in the database. a parent can search to see if their son or daughter's coach is in the database. one of the flaws in the existing system is what you just identified. that is to say that where there was vigilance, the predators would avoid those situations. they would simply move as between sports, as between clubs, and the issue of banned lists is another area where there needs to be consistency. >> will you have banned 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 they have committed, if they have been banned for that offense, yes, you will be able to search the database and it will reflect that. there will be instances of discipline that are lessor than a lifetime ban. in those lessor cases, it may be that this individual is able to work in a different place. a banned individual by the center for safe sport will be in the database and not permitted within the national governing body community to be a member or work in that capacity. >> that statement is a major statement. i think it is going to be hard to do but any way that we can help you, we will. i think i am really heartened with what you say. i hope that gives heart to the women that their testimony can play amy juror role in stopping
this for the future. thank you very much, mr. adams. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank all of you for coming today and sharing your thoughts with us. i wanted to ask each of you to take about 30 seconds and tell me if you were queen or king for a day and could do anything you wanted to do, how would you fix this problem? >> we'll start here and go down there. >> 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 sport but all youth sports. if we could eliminate any kind of abuse and also require mandatory reporting for any suspected abuse, i do believe it will help clean up our sport and also help all youth sports for the future generations.
the well-being of the athletes should always come first. this is one of the most important thing in sport. it was lack ing in our own spor tremendously. everybody around us knew that abuses were going on. they chose not to act because it became part of the cultural norm. that allowed the door to be o n opened because of the fear and retaliation here and so many things. i do believe that if we could clean this up with the mandatory reporting, i believe that will help a lot of our concerns going on in the sport. >> mr. chairman and senator kennedy, two suggestions. one, i echo dominique's comments. if you expand mandatory reporting, you are going to address that code of silence that seems to descend. if individuals that suspect are
able to keep their suspicions to themselves, and many times they will keep their suspicions to themselves, if it is against the law for them to keep it to themselves, if they are mandated to report, they are going to report. you are going to hear more about it. the other thing i would suggest is this. as adults, we expect children to think like adults. that's the mind set that we, as adults have to get out of. kids don't think like adults. hearing the stories of these two amazing women telling us stories of sexual abuse they experienced and they didn't realize it and this expectation they are supposed to report a bad thing that happens like an adult would do. we need to educate these children and our athletes. we need to take time with every single athlete that's entering a national sports organization and sit them down and repeatedly educate them to let them know what their avenues are if they
feel uncomfortable. that might go a long way to help you. >> i honestly really want everybody that falls in love with the sport to be safe, to go to the gym, to go to their club and to be able to participate in an environment free of abuse. i think that the culture of fear, intimidation and control that permeates gymnastics is a very scary place to put your child. i would want for my future children, i would want them to walk into any gym and know that they can love that sport completely and come out on the other end as healthy adults. i truly believe that that is what our sport is -- it's possible. we can do that. >> i also agree with everything that's been said. what i would do is add to that that i think as miss howard said, every young boy or girl deserves to be safe, supported and strength thenned.
the there is tremendous value in sport. we need to create an environment where that value is possible to achieve. the other thing i would add and mr. olsen mentioned it, i think education and wearness awarenes really important piece. senator feinstein, i wanted to add that part of the u.s. center for safe sport, one arm is solely outreach and education. i think that is so important that we talk about, and you have heard it today, that so many times, young boys and young girls and parents, they simply don't know. i received an e-mail from a friend whose daughter is an aspiring archer 13 years old. it was the welcome to the u.s. safe center for sport and it provided all the research and tools and education. i immediately thought to myself, this 13-year-old aspiring archer
will have a different journey and i think that's very, very important. >> i obviously agree with what every said too. if i was queen, i think that steve penny re-signing or being forced to re-sign is a good step. i think it is a baby step. if i was queen, wouldi would ge of every person in usa gymnastics. i don't think people realize that it is not that they only didn't report it and that this bill is going to be an amazing step and hopefully instill some fear into these people but not only lack of reporting it, it is knowing about it and taking it further to protecting the
perpetrators. if steve penny, i know he re-signed but they are already talking about replacing him with people that would just rehire him anyway. i would want to make sure that the same types of people aren't going to be in charge of usa gymnastics. >> thank you, all. ible th i believe this is the order. i have it for the other side blumenthal and franken and horonal. is that wrong? i'll let you guys figure it out. >> she was here. >> if were you here, you go first. >> thank you very much, all of you. i come to this as a former prosecutor. thank you, mr. olsen. also, as the co-chair of the olympic caucus. i just want you to know that we are so proud of you.
our athletes, for being willing to put yourself out like this for our country but we are even prouder of you for coming forward today and having the courage to talk about what has happened and what would you like to see changed. thank you for that. >> mr. evans, i will start with you. i am glad this center for safe sports is starting and you are here to take responsibility from the perspective of the olick pym committee. what i keep hearing from the women up here is this issue of reporting. could you talk to me about how the center for safe sport could help with that? sometimes when you say there is mandatory report, people are afrid to report whachlt difference will it make for that? >> thank you for that. 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 and to law enforcement. the center has a commensurate obligation to do the same. we have put in place penalties if individuals do not report. the code of the safe sport center has no statute of limitations, which i think is very important. the issue of encouraging and ensuring that people report is in part about trust. the trust has been broken. the center and the olympic family need to rebuild that trust so individuals believe that when they report, they will be treated with care. they will be taken seriously and that their case will be looked
at on that basis. by requiring complimentary mandatory reporting, we believe that sends a message throughout the olympic movement that it is, in fact, mandatory in every case. >> could you tell me more about the factors that made it difficult to report for you? >> all right. i just realized in july that i was sexually abused. as far as the verbal abuse and emotional abuse, physical abuse, it was the culture. these people were in control of my dream. if we didn't do it their way or 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, eat what they wanted, look the way we wanted, they can take our spot away. >> you probably feel that way when you are more on the bubble if you are going to be able to stay on the team or not? >> i look back. we were kids. that's all we knew. we didn't know it could be any different. >> right. thank you. >> miss howard? >> like jamie, i didn't really realize until last august that i had been sexually abused. i was very uncomfortable when it happened but i didn't know enough to accuse the national team doctor. i was extremely lucky to be involved. i was extremely lucky to be invited. i was the only rhythmic gymnast that got to see dr. nassar. i hope through education people will be able to notice if something is going on and be
able to report it immediately. >> thank you. senator feinstein and i were discussing the ages and i know with what we are seeing now is the charges against dr. nassar. 22 felony, two of the victims under age 13 when this happened. how old were you? >> i was 15. >> i would think with the way you described this when you were being yelled at by your coaches and then you go to this other guy who is supposed to be so nice, it was kind of a two-pronged approach. is that how it felt that you were with someone who was going to be kind and 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 you just need to listen and obey. he wasn't like that. he was very kind.
>> thank you very much. >> senator blumenthal? >> thanks, mr. chairman. first of all, let me join in thanking every one of you for being here today, particularly the athletes who have the courage and strength to come forward. ush voi your voice and face are of inestimatable value and the compelling case that you make for 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 lens of a prosecutor, having been one for many years before coming here but through the eyes of a parent. what happened to you is every parent's worst nightmare. as a father of four children and
having entrusted my daughter to coaches, somewhere lurking in the back of every parent's mind is the possibility in any sport that this kind of abuse can happen. 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. it is not just 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 deeply disappointed i am that usa
gymnastics has failed to come forward. i am deeply disappointed they have given us a statement but no witness to question. i want to know what they are really prepared to do beyond this paper. i want to know what action they are really going to take. if they say, as they do here, the gymnastics community has been shaken to its core by recent events. i believe they have been shaken to their core but if they really cared they would be here. their failure to appear, mr. chairman, i think is unfortunate to put it mildly. they have to answer for what happened here. i want to ask mr. adams.
how likely is it no one knew? didn't someone know. isn't usa gymnastics accountable or should it 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. they should have known. ib i believe that the athletes have spoken very clearly to what is a failed culture where the brand and the sport and the results are given a higher priority than the health and well-being of the athletes and na that is what we need to change. that is why we have committed to
education and wearness, safe places, resolution, independence, mandatory reporting. these are the connective tissues that ultimately can change what is clearly so broken based on what we have heard today. >> as a law enforcer, mr. olsen, as a fellow prosecutor, how could they have not known? wouldn't you say in your professional judgment there is simply no way that they could not have known? >> i find it hard to believe that somebody didn't know. i don't find it hard to believe that this code of silence existed in the national sport organization. we've heard stories about it before. hopefully, we won't hear stories in the future. we've heard about it before. i'm not surprised about that. i think jamie makes a very important point. we have talked about mandatory reporting. we talked about this culture to
not report something because you don't want to believe it. there is a boogeyman out there, the actual protecting of the individuals where someone not only suspects but hearing multiple reports or a credible report and that person is actually protected and then goes on to abuse somebody. on the one hand, it is ignorance or i don't want to believe it. that's bad enough. mandatory reporting request address that. to hear the stories of individuals that are allowed to continue or shift into another sports org gang zation because they are protected and go on to abuse somebody else, it is intolable and inexcusable. i understand it does happen and it has to stop. >> my time has expired, mr. chairman. i join you in expressing strong disappointment and regret 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. is the common sense reaction of a parent, a prosecutor, an ordinary person surveying this catastrophic damage that's been done to survivors of this terrible tragedy. >> thank you, senator blumenthal. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to add my thanks to the three young women that have come forward and the panel for your testimony today. i wanted to change the chair and the ranking member for bringing this issue to the floor. >> this reminds me very much of a sexual abuse in the military that has been going on for a long, long time, way too long.
any time there is a control situation where there are power issues, the victims are often very afraid to speak out. your circumstances describe yet another example of an environment of control where you come to trust someone who is abusing you. i wanted to ask mr. olsen, you have read the bill, have you not? the bill requires mandatory reporting. we are told that the mandatory reporting of sexual abuse should be done, must be done by a certain categories or described individuals. that's usually the case on mandatory reporting laws. in a situation where there are no witness and the system doesn't come forward, how does mandatory reporting address the problem. >> think the language tracks most of the state bill that is require mandatory reporting. that indicate when is there is a
suspicion of sexual abuse. it doesn't have to be witnessed. it doesn't have to be a formal complaint. if there is a suspicion of sexual abuse or child abuse, there is a requirement to be reported. that's tracked in the bill. that's the way most states track it. that's the standard for requiring an individual to make a report. for the young women who testified, you have read the bill and know who is supposed to report, do the mandatory reporting. >> were there people who you had encountered who should have suspected that you were being abused? any of you. >> there is no way they didn't know. at the karolyi ranch, after our second time, if you were injured, you went to see dr. nassar. after the lights were out and the training area we had was
closed, you weren't allowed in the gym. the only other area to get treatment was in our own rooms and the other adults never supervised that. there was never another adult with me. so how could they not know? >> i'm sorry. so if they were not there, i don't understand how they could not know that you were being abused. >> how did they know? >> you said they could not know. >> they didn't do enough to protect. there was a grown man in my room alone with me giving me medical treatment on my bed. they didn't do the very least and make sure there was another adult in there at the very least. >> do y'all think that under this bill that in a situation like that that they needed to take some kind of an affirmative action and they should have asked you what's going on, is there anything happening? >> i think the bill will instill fear, like i said, hopefully, but i also think that maybe just having one conversation with us about what's appropriate and what's not and bringing more awareness to the issue.
>> i also believe not only was dr. nassar abusive but there was an environment where many coaches are also abusive. they are not typically going to report themselves. there are people around that need to be educated on what is appropriate training that's positive to the athletes and what are the appropriate training methods to use that is positive and enhancing to the athletes but not abusive. so a lot of the coaches believe that this was the norm. the screaming, the yelling, the belittling, the humiliation, the training through injuries. they need an education as well. >> mr. olsen, do you think that 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. >> there are provisions in the
bill for training and awareness as all these women athletes indicate. wearness is awareness is a key factor in bringing it forward. at b the abuseers aren't going to report themselves. it is necessary for the athletes to be educated. there are provisions in the bill to provide a lot more education and awareness through the national organization. >> do you think the bill requires a duty of care for these people? >> senator, as a prosecutor, i think that's more of a civil question. as a prosecutor in criminal cases, i think that's a little bit beyond my wheelhouse. >> thank you. >> senator feinstein, we'll have
some questions to 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 is a very emotional thing to be talking about and legitimate pli so. thanks for telling us about your tough opportunities and mr. adams i hope that everything you told us will be followed through by every other organization within the olympics and thank you, mr. olsen. thank you all. meeting adjourned.
you can find this hearing at c-span.org. there is a link on the main page. you can find it by typing athletes in the search bar. we will show the hearing again in its entirety in just a moment. first, i want to let you know about some more live coverage coming up on c-span3 of the house ways and means committee meeting to consideration legislation to require the treasury secretary provide president trump's tax returns and other financial information from 2006 to 2015. we'll have the hearing live at 4:00. you can also watch live online at c-span.org or listen live on the free c-span radio app. after reports of sexual abuse of athletes in olympic sports, the senate judiciary committee held a hear wg testimony from former gymnasts who were abused by usa gymnastics personnel. we heard from a virginia prosecutor