By Jim Sheehan//USA Swimming President | Monday, November 3, 2014Over the past several years, there have been reports in the media about incidents of child sexual abuse in USA Swimming. Another recent article points to a number of incidents in the past, pre-dating our Safe Sport program. As a result, as is frequently done, it provides a very incomplete look at how we examine any complaint alleging that a member has violated our Code of Conduct.
It is important to fill in those blanks and provide an update on our program.
We acknowledge the past and have learned so much through our work that we now understand the issues of abuse much clearer and have learned to better address this horrific problem. One child hurt is one too many.
We responded to the needs of our members, and specifically our athletes, with the implementation of our Safe Sport program in 2010. Safe Sport is an essential part of our responsibility to our 400,000 members through continued introduction of new programming, educational tools and outreach efforts.
Many have rated our program as the "gold standard" of youth-serving protection programs. But we haven't stopped there and we work tirelessly to continually advance the protection for all our members.
The process works successfully to address and sanction violations consistently. There are many survivors we do not read about in news stories who can share how our organization played a key role in helping them through a difficult time in their lives.
In 2013, USA Swimming commissioned a study of our Safe Sport program by an outside organization so that we would have an unvarnished analysis of where we are and where we should be heading. We contracted with Victor Vieth, Founder and Senior Director at the Gunderson National Child Protection Training Center, and he provided his report to us in early 2014.
Victor validated much of our work, and we wanted to hear about what we could do to get even better. The report contained 39 recommendations, which were reviewed by an internal task force to identify the most effective and efficient way to implement them. Some required legislation and were approved at our House of Delegates during the September convention.
A few required a task force to specifically manage the implementation to ensure it was done right. One will report to the Board of Directors at the November meeting and another will do the same early 2015.
Out of the 39 recommendations, 38 are being adopted in a phased plan. Fifteen, including the launch of SwimAssist, our new victim’s assistance fund, will be implemented in 2015 and the rest are being addressed in the coming year.
We are proud of our Safe Sport program and are committed to the never-ending efforts to keep our children safe so they can enjoy our favorite sport. The ‘bad guys’ are those who gain the trust of our children and manipulate relationships to abuse them. We must work collectively to keep our children safe from harm.