GA--Victims' group calls for ouster of USA Gymnastic officials re abuse
For immediate release: Friday, August 5
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, 314 645 5915 home, [email protected])
Two USA Gymnastics officials should resign in the wake of a disturbing IndyStar investigation showing that they didn’t call police about reports of sexual abuse by coaches — relying on an irresponsible policy that enabled predators to abuse gymnasts long after USA Gymnastics had received warnings about their suspected crimes.
Any other officials in the organization who have refused to report allegations of child sex abuse to law enforcement should step down too.
The IndyStar investigation uncovered cases of children suffering the consequences of this self-serving secrecy, including a Georgia case in which a coach preyed on young female athletes for seven years after USA Gymnastics dismissed the first of four warnings about him.
This is 2016. These guys know better. This isn't ineptitude or ignorance. It’s callousness and recklessness. Look at Penn State. Enablers like Joe Paterno and high-ranking administrators were sacked because they ignored or hid abuse reports involving Jerry Sandusky. That’s what must happen here.
Wrongdoing stops when heads roll, not when pledges are made and policies are promulgated. And two of the top officials who have clearly put kids in harm’s way are Steve Penny (the group’s head) and Robert Agnew, an investigator who admitted “that he sometimes disagreed with how the organization handled complaints” but “deferred to top USA Gymnastics officials on whether to report allegations to police or child welfare officials, even if he ‘probably felt’ a report should be made,” according to the Star. (He also said “I would not independently refer a case to law enforcement.”)
Words don’t protect kids, action does. And no act more quickly stops reckless behavior than when those who act recklessly are fired.
IndyStar's findings included:
Top executives of USA Gymnastics said they seldom, if ever, reported allegations of sexual abuse to police without being prompted.
Some coaches who were the subject of complaints that weren’t reported went on to molest children.
USA Gymnastics has a policy of screening out complaints that do not include a signed statement from a parent or victim.
Officials were reluctant to report alleged sex abuse by coaches because of the potential impact on their reputations and because “the coach is as much a member as the athlete.”
No matter what officials do or don’t do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in organizations or institutions to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling law enforcement, get justice by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)