The Time is NOW

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

Dr. Larry Nassar was fired by Michigan State University last fall after multiple allegations of sexual abuse. As of this writing, he has been charged with 25 counts of criminal sexual misconduct in state court and accused of molesting more than 100 young women while acting in his role as a sports-medicine doctor and USA Gymnastics chief medical officer for more than 20 years. In addition, in mid-July he pleaded guilty to child pornography charges.

The allegations against Nassar date from 1994-2016, a span of more than 20 years. Nearly all of the women were adolescents or college-age when they were treated by Nassar for back, hip, and other injuries—and subsequently abused.

This summer, USA Gymnastics added two people to its senior staff to oversee “athlete protection.” One will lead a department focused on protecting athletes, including policies, educational programs, and reporting; the other will provide supporting in-house legal counsel. While it is a positive step that USA Gymnastics has made athlete protection a public priority, the announcement also may lead you to wonder: Is this too little, too late?

It’s too late to prevent the abuse that happened to the young athletes over the course of Nassar’s career, but it is NOT too late to protect future generations of young people. And it’s certainly never too late to establish child protection policies or strengthen your organization’s existing processes.

Be proactive:

Screen and train everyone in your church, school, or organization that works with young people. When people know what to look for, they are more empowered to stop abuse when they see it and report abuse when they suspect it.

Educate parents and staff. Many are hesitant to question authority, especially that of a tenured doctor or long-time clergy member. Parents, staff, and volunteers need to listen to their instincts and speak up when something doesn’t seem right. Put the children first, and listen when they are brave enough to speak up! Churches, schools, and all organizations serving children need to be clear about their state’s mandatory reporting requirements.

Our society has seemed to become immune to hearing these heart-wrenching reports, even when the abuse has gone on for decades. Make sure you have a plan in place to protect the children, youth, and vulnerable adults in your organization. Review your policy annually, and make sure your staff and employees are up-to-date with their training and background checks. The time to start is now.