Skip to main content

tv   Olympic Gymnasts Recount Their Experiences of Sexual Abuse  CSPAN  March 30, 2017 6:33pm-8:02pm EDT

6:33 pm
three former team usa olympic athletes visited capitol hill this week to support the protecting young victims from sexual abuse act. dominique mocenau, the 1996 gold medallist and former gymnast, testified about physical and emotional abuse while two other gymnasts gave remarks about sexual abuse. the senate judiciary committee hearing runs about an hour and a half. >> thanks especially to our witnesses, but also everybody who's attending today. you're very welcome, and 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
6:34 pm
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 members of this committee over the years. over 30 years ago, i respospons the child abuse victims' rights act, a bill to enhance civil and criminal penalties against those who sexually exploit children. a version of this was enacted and continues to this day to provide a mechanism by which victims can seek justice. and just last year, i worked with my colleagues to pass another important major known as the survivors' bill of rights.
6:35 pm
it empowers survivors of sexual account -- assault in the criminal justice system. sadly, we know the sexual abuse of children can occur in almost any setting, but what's especially disturbing is when that abuse occurs by someone in a position of trust, in what should be a common sense safe environment, such as youth athletic programs, but we find out sometimes it doesn't turn out that way. recent headlines have focused our attention on troubling allegations of czech 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
6:36 pm
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 team's 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 ban on dozens of swim coaches for abusing teenagers. the outcome from the latest victims led to us conveying today's hearing and exploring whether we're doing enough to
6:37 pm
ensure children's safety in athletic organizations. for example, some have argued that usa gymnastics didn't alert 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 crime 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
6:38 pm
often remain hidden instead of being immediately reported to law enforcement. the avrerage perpetrator strike multiple times before being caught, which is why it is 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 vi individuals who have been through the unimaginable. we're going to hear firsthand 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.
6:39 pm
we'll hear how the u.s. olympic committee is working to ensure 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 my colleague on my left here senate 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 cosponsor of this legislation, which would promote more reporting and give survivors tools to hold perpetrators accountable. i know that she will speak more about her bill, our bill i should say, but i'm proud to be a cosponsor, so now i will turn to ranking member feinstein for
6:40 pm
her opening statements. >> thanks very much, mr. chairman. and thank you very much for being the original cosponsor of this bill. it is very much appreciated. i want everybody here to know that date we have 17 cosponsors, senator blumenthal is one, senator susan collins, senator cortez mas to, senator donnelley, senator ernst, senator franken, senator hirono, senator klobuchar, senator rubio, senator warren, and senator young. 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 of your staff. everybody's been quite wonderful.
6:41 pm
i'd like to just recognize a few people who are here, and i'd like to recognize jeanette, a former gymnast from paradise, california, who was on the usa gymnastics national team in 1999 and who competed as a gymnast for ucla. would you stand? thank you so much for being here. we appreciate it. [ applause ] >> and matty larson, a usa national 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
6:42 pm
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 young athletes who follow in their footsteps do not experience what they had to endure, so it is because of their stories that the chairman, myself, senator collins, and 15 other senators that i have 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?
6:43 pm
oh, right in front of me. i'm sorry. strong lly 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 sex abuse allegations just before rio de janeiro. at the time, it was reported that usa gymnastics 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 6 years old. one such case revealed that a usa gymnastics -- that usa gymnastics had received at least
6:44 pm
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
6:45 pm
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 grown-ups 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
6:46 pm
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 suppo for the bill and its enactment. and 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
6:47 pm
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 cornyn 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, theill specifically delineates the responsibilities for all 47 national governing bodies chartered under the ted
6:48 pm
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 a 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
6:49 pm
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 them -- and there are many -- will be presevented fro continuing to work with children until there is no longer any risk to the child. with that, i want to thank senator grassley 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 all the same group that turned down the opportunity to testify
6:50 pm
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 missing expl 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 whenuestioning the witnesses, please? >> we'll get it to you. >> thank you. >> take this one. i'm going to introduce the whole panel, then i'll call you from my left to right, in that order. our first witness is jaime dantzscher. she won an olympic bronze medal in gymnastics in the year 2000 summer olympic games, sydney,
6:51 pm
australia. she graduated from ucla 2005 with a degree in psychology. rick adams, mr. adams is chief paralympic sport organizational development at the united states olympic committee. before joining the olympic committee in 2010, mr. adams had served as ceo of the usa weightlifting president manager and partners of rbc sports and president and ceo of uchl. mr. adams graduated from ucla and obtained his law degree at rutgers university. jessica howard was the u.s. national champion in ewe rhythmic gymnastics from '99 to 2001 and a finalist in the '99
6:52 pm
world championships. she's a member of the usa gymnastics hall of fame. eric olsen serves as the commonwealth attorney for stafford county, virginia. he serves on the board of directors for the national district attorney association and chairman of training and education committee. mr. olsen has over two decades of experience prosecuting child abuse and 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 atlantic summer games. today, she remains the youngest gold medalist in u.s. gymnastics history. she was enducted into the united states or usa gymnastics hall of
6:53 pm
fame and the u.s. olympic hall of fame. today, she is an author. she's a business owner, an advocate and 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. i never wrap the cattle right 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, jaime, please? >> chairman grassley, ranking member feinstein and distinguished members of the committee, i'm honored to appear before you today. thank you. i fell in love with gymnastics before i turned 3 years old when
6:54 pm
i saw marry lou retton on tv. my parents were come pettive athletes growing up, but they didn't know much about gymnastics. i played t-ball and tried other sports. i never stopped asking them to let me take gymnastics. i wanted to be an olympian. i remember taking the cushions off the couch to make mats and teaching myself flips. after rearranging furniture, they put me in gymnastics when i was 7 1/2 years old. i loved it more than i imagined i would. i loved to tumble and swing on bars. i felt like i was flying. i would try anything to be like the olympians i saw on tv, wear my hair like them, walk and stand like them. i practiced my olympic salute other and over. my parents has to beg me to
6:55 pm
leave the gym after practice 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 in california. i needed to work with more experienced coaches at that time. this is a big sacrifice for my entire family because it was a 90-minute drive each direction from home. my parents worked five to six days a week and had six siblings involved in sports as well. my coaches assured them 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 intense at this point.
6:56 pm
i started training 25-30 hours a week, including two workouts a day. my coaches were serious and 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 only seen on tv. 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 12 years old. it was in palm springs, california. what i remember most about that competition is i was competing at the same competition of the girls i 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, dr. larry nassar. what i have come to understand is the medical treatment he
6:57 pm
performed for my back was sexual assault. he abused me at the training center in texas. he abused me in california and all over the world. many times, it took place in my own room, in my own bed. worse, he abused me in my hotel room in sydney at the olympic games. when i first spoke out about my abuse, i thought i was the only one. i was disbelieved and even criticized by some in the gymnastics community for bringing this to light. now i know i'm not alone. 400 women shared stories shockingly similar to mine. children often don't speak up when they are abused, they suffer in silence. they are taught to submit to the authority of adults. this is especially true in the world of gymnastics.
6:58 pm
women do speak up and that is why i am here today. usa gymnastics failed the most basic responsibility to protect the athletes under its care. they allow the doctors to abuse women and young girls more than 20 years. the federal law that governs our program defines the responsibilities of usa gymnastics. that law should specify that usa gymnasti gymnastics must abide by stricter policies to maintain certification. it's full-time the law reflects they should be protecting their athletes from exyule abuse by coaches and doctors. that's exactly what usa gymnastics failed to prevent. i'm more than grateful to this community for me to add my voice to those supporting this important new legislation. it will require usa gymnastics and other olympic sports
6:59 pm
organizations to report child abuse to law enforcement authorities and provide victims with greater opportunities to seek justice. generations of young athletes will thank you for your lead irship and so do i. thank you. >> thank you, jaime. now rick. >> good morning, mare chan grassley, senator feinstein and members of the committee. i am rick adams chief of parra olympic sport and development for the united states olympic committee. my responsibilities include oversight and management of safesport. the term we use for our ongoing efforts to protect athletes from
7:00 pm
sexual and other abuses. the stories of abuse 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 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 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 policies and changing the environment that discourages victims from reporting abuse. the u.s. olympic committee
7:01 pm
recently reached an important milestone with the launch of the u.s. center for safesport. the center for safesport is 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 development and training of a u.s. 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 we adopted in the u.s. antidoping agency. that agency has very successfully concentrated expertise and ensured independence in investigations of doping issues. the u.s. center for safesport
7:02 pm
brings expertise to our efforts for abuse of youth athletes. we strongly support s534, protecting young victims from sexual abuse act, which would require national governing bodies and their personnel to report suspected incidents of child sexual abuse to law enforcement. this requirement compliments the rules established for safesport. under our bylaws and policies, all national governing bodies and personnel are required to report suspected sexual abuse to the center and 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 handseling of allegations of abuse.
7:03 pm
and we support steve penny's decision to resign. we hope 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.
7:04 pm
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. senator for safesport, we have dramatically reformed and improved the olympic communities ability to prevent abuse of athletes. thank you, again, for this
7:05 pm
opportunity to be here today. 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 is the day i fell in love. the training was pure bliss. i needed to switch to an elite coach. my first practice with my new coach was so intense i spent the following two days vomiting and unable to make it back to practice. when i did return, the work began. by 15, i was u.s. national champion, a position i held three years. the fear, intimidation that permeated my training took a toll as did the physical pain. by the time i reached world championships, my hips hurt so badly, i could barely walk.
7:06 pm
when i was just 15, i had a rough practice two days before the competition. my coach called me into the room where the head of the program was also present. she yelled at me so severely, i sat perfectly still. my only movement was to pick the skin from my finger. she told me i was an embarrassment to the country and her. she was humiliated coaching someone like me and they would put me on a plane home. by the end of the meeting, my finger was bloody and i wanted to jump out the window. after those world championships, they suggested i go see dr. larry nasser to help with my hip pain. parents did not go. i was thankful to have a few days away from my coach. i don't remember any adult taking responsibility for me. the first time i met dr. nasser, i trusted him. he was the premier usa gymnastics doctor. i felt lucky to have been
7:07 pm
invited to the ranch to work with him. he asked me to wear loose shorts and no underwear. that seemed strange, but i obeyed. as in training, i wanted to be perfect. he massaged my legs and moved inward on my thigh and into me. i was rigid and uncomfortable. i didn't realize what was happening. i was confused and realized it must have to happen. this happened repeatedly over my week at the ranch. at no other time was there another adult in the room. coming off a year after training, he supported me emotionally and promised relief from the pain. now i know he expertly abused me under the guise of treatment. i trusted usa gymnastics, but i was sexual aabused as were other athletes. more than 100 women and girls came forward to accuse him. according to more than 5,600
7:08 pm
pages of usga records released on march 3 rd, some of the 54 coaches with sexual abuse complaints spanning ten years were not banned from gymnastics until years after usa gymnastics realized they were crimes on children. i spent years serving on the usa board of directors. the meeting seemed to revolve around two things, money and medals. when a sexual abuse case came up during my time on the board, the concern was about the reputation of the coach, not the accusation of the athlete. as i have attempted to come to terms what happened to me, it is obvious usa gymnastics has not ne anything to protect athletes against abuse. making changes to create a safe environment for athletes, usa gymnastics must be accountable and adopt a zero policy against sexual abuse.
7:09 pm
accusations must be reported to law enforcement immediately. protecting all children in sports from abuse is och paramount importance. that is why this bill is vital. it requires amateur governing bodies to report allegations of sexual abuse and it will make it easier for victims to report. this legislation will greatly help victims with the statute of limitations giving them the opportunity to seek justice. there is nothing more motivating and powerful than an olympic dream. there is a long life to live after the span of a gymnastics career. mine has been fraught from issues i endured as a teenager. it should be the priority of those in power to make sure your post life is not dealt with crippling abuse. thank you for your effort to protect vulnerable young
7:10 pm
athletes. >> thank you, jessica. now eric. >> chairman grassley, ranking member feinstein, members of the committee, my name is eric olsen. district attorneys are called commonwealth attorneys in virginia. after 22 years i was elected the commonwealth attorney in 2011. i have been on the board of directors of the national district attorney association since 2008 and serve as the chairman of the committee. i was hired in 1989 to be the prosecutor for child abuse and domestic violence cases. back then, child sexual abuse cases were underreports and frequently not investigated. almost 30 years ago, my former boss had the forsight to see special investigation was the key to bringing the dark secret into the open. the secret children were being abused and we weren't doing enough about it. the 1990s was a decade in child
7:11 pm
protection. state legislatures and congress aimed at protecting and giving law enforcement tools and resources to detect it. it was the perfect combination of state and federal cooperation. that decade auz the enactment of violence against women act, 1994 and saw the establishment of the first child advocacy centers across the country. the enactment of reporting laws requiring teachers, professionals, caregivers to report suspected abuse and saw the establishment of multidisciplinary approach to child abuse investigations. these advances completely changed approach to child sexual abuse and the catalyst for that change was this body, the u.s. congress. why is that the case? how do you explain the fact that in a system that thrives on partisanship, the body is able to enact legislation and steer 50 different philosophies in a
7:12 pm
single direction? the answer, it seems, is quite simple. to live up to our role as the world's greatest democracy, we must protect our children. that universal truth guided this body for generations. over the last 30 years, the strides taken, laws enacted and funding brought comfort to count lsz children. that has been tempered with the challenges of a growing population and advances in technology. digital photography brought child exploitation to the screen and responsible for child sexual abuse. this doesn't suggest i'm critical of the advances made, i point out as we constantly seek ways to protect children, new challenges arise. today, let me address what comes together, the sexual abuse scandal surrounding u.s. gymnastics. if proven true, there's no
7:13 pm
question it is true, hearing these incredible women tell their story. the reports of abuse have a familiar ring. individuals with a sports entity, the entity trusted by parents in the care of their children, who go on to abuse that trust. it's not the first time it happened. painful to admit, it won't be the last. scandals have shown and child welfare workers and prosecutors observed for decades, as secretive as it is, in so many cases, adults see, adults hear, adults suspect and adults know. yet, even today, in too many cases, a report is never made. i encourage this body to enact whatever legislation can address this code of silence when adults hear or suspect child abuse. stated simply, we can't combat this if we don't know about it. nda reviewed and is supportive
7:14 pm
of ranking member feinstein's bill of protecting young victims of the youth act of 2017. there is one suggestion i would like to offer, from the efforts of this congress over the last 30 years, local child welfare agencies have been given the tools to immediately respond to reports of child abuse. in all accredited agencies, a comprehensive approach is taken the minute a report is received. i encourage you to continue to rely on the existing systems across the country. if you expand the mandatory reportinging to ensure an immediate report is given in the dual jurisdiction cases, i suggest this because we are well positioned to respond in the way the public expects us to respond. it's what we do every day. i thank you for the opportunity to address the committee and i assure you we are prepared to assist in any way we can.
7:15 pm
we will protect, we will investigate and if the unspeakable occurs, we will hold offenders accountable. thank you. >> thank you. now dominique. >> thank you for allowing me to testify. my name is dominique mocenau. i brought home gold for the united states. i'm here to discuss the need for change in the sport i love. in the last sefrlg months, 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's no system of checks and balances to protect the athletes. when sexual abuse has been reported, the resulting action of usag has been inaction. i applaud and support the brave women who came forward to report the sexual abuse. their courage will hopefully bring change to a flawed and
7:16 pm
dangerous system that failed to protect young athletes. i was not sexual aa-sauled by doctor nasser. after years of suffering physical, mental and emotional abuse by training under my coaches, the most powerful people in usa gymnastics many years. i have firsthand knowledge of how the culture set the stage for other atrocities to occur. safety measures for all athletes are long overdue. i would like to share background about the system that made it possible for predators like dr. nasser to thrive, unchecked for decades. it is a culture of fear, intimidation and humiliation established by coaches when they took over u.s. gymnastics after defecting from romania in the 1980s. th moth oddologies were embraced and implemented into the women os program in the united states.
7:17 pm
they were granted total control with little to no oversight from a governing body. public complaints of any abuse over the years have been few and far between because usag ost sized and punished those who spoke out about anything that was construed as critical of the program, even physical injury. due to these unhealthy standards, i, myself, training for the olympics was told to ignore severe pain in my leg and continue repetitive routines over and over until i collapsed on the floor in the gym. it was then, they discovered i had been training on a broken leg. the fact that in 1999, the national team training center was moved to their ranch, personally owned and operated by them increased the lack of oversight with child athletes required to reside at the ranch for days.
7:18 pm
it's in my opinion, that an atmosphere was created where 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 training center is still located on the grounds of the caroli ranch where hundreds train every year. each sexual assault victim stated fear presented them from speaking out sooner. two of the women, jaime and jessica shared their experiences with you this morning. prior to going public, they shared their story with me knowing i had years for greater oversight and spoken out about the neglect and mistreatment by usag. i strongly encourage them to report the incident to law enforcement and immediately put them in contact with a third party expert in the field of child abuse in sports.
7:19 pm
today, the discussion is not just about dr. nasser and his victims, it's a need for reordering priorities to put the safety and welfare of young athletes first. while the president of usa gymnastics steve penny resigned after increased public awareness of the issues and dr. nasser is behind bars awaiting trial. we are stuck with a board of directors who put the reputation above the well being and safety of the young girls. it was usag who awarded steve penny with financial bonuses even after the sexual abuse allegations. it is telling nobody from usag apologized or expressed concern for the survives who have come forward. it is encouraging to me the bill will benefit all youth sports, not solely gymnastics and aimed as all forms of child abuse.
7:20 pm
participation in youth sports should be joyful. i know firsthand what it takes to reach the pinnacle of sport and proud to represent our country at the olympic games where i represent the youngest gold medalist in gymnastics history. it 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'll have five minute rounds of questions. i'll 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
7:21 pm
way. to have all the adults that were around us that knew there was a 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 reporting for accountability, i believe they would have done that much sooner and it would have allowed us @leitus us @athletes to speak up and say this is not okay. i believe that is extremely empowering for a young person, a child, a young women and i believe that is extremely important because we need accountability for these horrendous acts. >> how do you think that this, dominique again, how do you think the legislation that senator feinstein and several of us that co-sponsored, if enacted will make a dimps to aspiring olympic athletes in the future?
7:22 pm
>> it will allow our community to be much more individual lent. 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 we are in. >> okay. jaime 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 and there are also -- the parents are victims, too, in this. in gymnastics they are highly encouraged not to go to practice. they were not allowed at camp. you drop your kid off at any camp, any youth camp, you drop them off and don't stay with them the week. you trust the adults to supervise and protect your
7:23 pm
child. >> jessica, do you have anything to add to that? >> no, just that my parents would have done anything to make sure i could achieve my dream and they are victims, too. >> okay. >> 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 when ever 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. nasser. he was the good guy, he was my buddy, he was the bright light at the camp. as far as the verbal abuse and emotional abuse, like we said, 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
7:24 pm
second. >> anything to add, jessica? >> just the same. i didn't realize until last august that this was my reality and then it hit me so, so hard. i just hope this bill passes so this never has to happen to another child. >> to both of you again, i'll start with jessica, what policies or procedures might have been followed to better ensure your safy 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. nasser and i was alone with him every single day i was there and there was no adult that i remember having, you know, any responsibility for me. i think that if somebody had been in that room, it would not have happened. >> you have anything to add, jaime, to that? >> i agree. also bringing more awareness. nobody ever told us that a
7:25 pm
policy was even to be alone or you needed another adult. i never knew that as a child. and just, maybe -- it's definitely obviously very difficult to talk about, but i think it's important to educate people. even the athletes about what is right and what is wrong. like i said, i just trusted the doctor. >> eric, this will be my last question, 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 took them forward? >> senator grassley, mr. chairman, that's 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. adults just don't want to believe it. i think there's a responsibilities that adults have placing their children in
7:26 pm
this situation and if it's 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'm not talking about the abusers, i'm talking about the good hearted adults whose heart is in the right place that upon hearing incidents or suspected abuse don't immediately report it. it's not that they are bad people. they have made a bad decision and i wish i knew the answer to why they made that bad decision. i think it's wrapped up, certainly in sports and the goal being achievement and a focus on that final goal. in many cases, the athletes are secondary to the goal. that's the culture that has to change. >> thanks, mr. chairman. i want the women who testified
7:27 pm
to know how proud i am of you for standing up. i know how hard it is and i know how hard it is to be in an intense public situation and discuss this kind of thing, but 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 and may not have understood it. one of the women there, and i won't name her, was married, had her child there and she was crying with the tears rolling down her face. 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
7:28 pm
direction and i want you to know that. mr. adams, i would like to ask you this, you are the chief of the national governing body organizational development. it's estimated that some 8 million athletes fall under the umbrella of the 47 national governing bodies nationwide. "the indianapolis star" uncovered four cases in which usa gymnastics was warned of suspected abuses by coaches, but didn't report them. according to public records, these coaches went on to abuse at least 14 underage 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
7:29 pm
coaches sexual misconduct for any sport? >> thank you, senator. the number of times that i am aware of working in safesport is relatively low. the gymnastics 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 resigned. there are cases now that, as you know under the center for safesport, it will be mandatory to report those. part of -- >> 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
7:30 pm
uncover what is clearly a failed system. the culture has been broken and part of that culture, i believe, is reflected in the lack of data around those instances. because of that, the center for safesport 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 and i think it speaks to the accountability and the independence 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 it a number of women said this is all about money and
7:31 pm
medals? 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. 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? that goes for tae kwon do, that goes for swimming, that goes for the whole thing. >> what we have done is through the center for safesport, there is a searchable data base now
7:32 pm
that every individual that is found to have violated the code will be in the data base. a parent can search to see if theiron or daughter's coach is in that data base. one of the flaws in the existing system is what you just identified and that is to say that where there is individual lens, the predators would avoid those situations and they would simply move as between sports, as between clubs and the issue of banned listed 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?
7:33 pm
based on the evidence, yes, you will be able to search the data base. there will be instances of discipline that are less than a lifetime ban. in the lesser cases, it may be that this individual is able to work in a different place, a banned individual, by the center for safesport will be in the data base and 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, but any way 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 a major role in stopping
7:34 pm
this for the future. thank you very much mr. adams. >> thank you. >> senator kennedy? >> thank you mr. chairman and 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 king or queen 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. >> well, i believe this bill will fix a lot of what is going on and in 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 the mandatory reporting for any suspected abuse, i do believe it will help clean up our sport and also help all youth sports for
7:35 pm
the future generations. the well being of the athletes should always come first. for me, this is one of the most important things in sport and it was lacking in our own sport, tremendously. everybody around us knew that abuses were going on, but they chose not to act because it became part of the cultural norm. that allowed the door to be open because of the fear, because of the retaliation fear and so many things. so, i do believe that if we could clean this up with the mandatory reporting, i believe that will help a lot of our concerns from 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.
7:36 pm
if individuals that suspect are able to keep their suspicions to thems, they will. if it's against the law to keep them to themselves, if they are mandated to report, you are going to hear more about it. the other thing i suggest is as adults we expect children to think like adults. that's the mind set we have to get out. kids don't think like adults. hearing the stories of these two amazing women that told us about sexual abuse they experienced and didn't 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 it. we need to educate these children. we need to educate our athletes and take time with every athlete entering a sports organization and set them down and repeatedly educate them to let them know what their avenues are if they
7:37 pm
feel uncomfortable. that might go a long way to help you fix it. >> i honestly 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 that the culture of fear, intimidation and control that permeates gymnastics is a scary place to put your child. i would want for my future children, i would want them to walk into a gym and know they can love that sport completely and come out on the other end as healthy adults. i truly believe 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
7:38 pm
deserves to be safe, supported and strengthened. there is tremendous value in sport. we need to create an environment where that value is poz possible to achieve. the other thing i would add is the education awareness is a really, really important piece and senator feinstein, i just wanted to add that part of the u.s. center for safesport, one arm is outreach and education. i think that is so important that we talk about and you have heard it today, so many times young boys and young girls and parents simply don't know. i received an e-mail from a friend in colorado springs whose daughter is an aspiring archer. she is 13 years old. it was the welcome to the u.s. center to safesport e-mail. it provided all the resources and tools and education. i immediately thought to myself,
7:39 pm
this 13-year-old aspiring archer will have a different journey and i think that's very, very important. >> i obviously agree with what everyone said, too. if i was queen, i think that steve penny resigning or being forced to resign, i guess, is 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 that i don't think people realize it's 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, it's not only lack of reporting it, it's knowing about it and taking it further to
7:40 pm
protecting the perpetrators. so, if steve penny, i know he resigned, but they are already talking of 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 usa gymnastics. >> thank you all. >> thank you, all. i believe this is the order i have it for the other side. blumenthal, then kob chklobucha franklin. is that wrong? i'll let you argue it out. >> seniority. >> she was here. >> if you were here then you should go first. >> okay. >> thank you very much, all of you. i come to this as a former prosecutor, thank you mr. olsen, but also as the co-chair of the olympics caucus and i just want
7:41 pm
you to know that we are so proud of you, our athletes for being willing to put yourself out like this for our country. we are even prouder of you for coming forward today and having the courage to talk about what's happened and what you would like to see changed. thank you for that. mr. adams, i think i'd start with you. i am glad that this center for safesport is starting and you are here to take responsibility from the perspective of the olympic committee. what i keep hearing from the women up here is this issue of reporting. could you talko me about how the center for safesport could help with that? clearly, when you 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
7:42 pm
significant component of that. what we have done with the center is to require that all incidents are recorded to the center and 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 safesport 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 that individuals believe when they report they will be treated with care, they will be taken seriously and that their case will be looked at on that
7:43 pm
basis. so, by requiring complimentary mandatory reporting, we believe that sends a message throughout the olympic movement that it is, in fact, mandatory in every case. >> miss howard, can you tell me about the factors that made it difficult to report for you? >> i just realized in july that i was sexually abused. as far as the verbal abuse and emotional abuse, physical abuse, it's just -- it was the culture. and these people are 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. you know, they were in control of everything.
7:44 pm
if we didn't weigh what they wanted, look the way they wanted, they can take our spot away. >> i suppose you feel that way when you are more on the bubble if you are going 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. okay. thank you. >> thank you. >> miss howard? >> like jaime, 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. again, i was extremely lucky to be invited. i was the only rhythmic gymnast that got to see dr. nasser. the idea didn't come into my head, it was unfathomable.
7:45 pm
i hope through education, people will notice something going on and report it immediately. >> thank you. okay. senator feinstein and i were discussing the ages, i know with what we are seeing now is the charges against dr. nasser, 22 felony counts, two victims under the age of 13 when this happened. how old were you? >> i was 15. >> i would think with the way you describe this when you were being yelled at by your coaches, then go to this other guy that is supposed to be nice to you, it is a two-pronged approach. is that how it felt and you finally were with someone that is going to be kind to you, then this happened? >> he was on our side. he wasn't one of the scary people. you know, you learn through all of your time in the gym, you just need to listen and obey and he wasn't like that.
7:46 pm
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. your voice and face are of just 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.
7:47 pm
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. 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. 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 light. i want to say how deeply disappointed i am that the --
7:48 pm
that usa gymnastics has failed to come forward. i am deeply disappointed they have given us a statement, but no witness to question. because 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 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 for what happened here. i want to ask mr. adams, how likely is it that no one knew?
7:49 pm
that's what i think the ordinary person would say. didn't somebody know? and 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. and i believe that the athletes have spoken very clearly to what is a flawed 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 that is what we need to change. that is why we have committed to
7:50 pm
education and awareness, safe places, resolution, independence, mandatory reporting, because these are be these are the connective tissues that ultimately can change what is clearly so broken based on what we've 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's 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 sports organization. we've heard stories about it before and hopefully we won't hear stories about it in the future but we've heard about them before so i'm not sur pricesed by that. i think jamie makes a very important point.
7:51 pm
we've talked about mandatory report regular we talked about this culture to not report something because you don't want to believe it. but, you know, there's a boogeyman out there and that is the actual protecting of the individuals where someone not only suspects but hearing multiple reports or hearing a credible report of sexual abuse and that person is actually protected and then goes on to abuse someone more. so on the one hand it's ignorance or i don't want to believe it and that's bapd enough. and mandatory reporting can address that. but to hear the stories of individuals that are allowed to continue or shifted to another sports organization because they're protected and then they go on to abuse somebody else, it's intolerable but i've seen it before. >> i wish i could understand how or why it happens, i just understand that it does happen and it needs to stop. >> my time has expired,
7:52 pm
mr. chairman, but i join you in expressing sfrong strong disappointment and recruit 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 damage that's been done to survivors of this terrible tragedy. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you senator blumenthal. senator her romo. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> i want to add my thanks to the three young women who have come forward and the panel for your testimony today and i wanted to thank 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 have been going on for a long, long time, way too long.
7:53 pm
any time there is a control situation where there are power issues, et cetera, the victims are often very afraid to speak out and your circumstances describe yet another example of an environment of control where you come to trust someone who is abusing you. so i want to ask mr. olsen, you have read the bill, have you not? >> i have, senator. >> so are there -- the bill requires mandatory reporting and we're told that the mandatory reporting of sexual abuse should be done -- must be done by a certain categories or described individuals. and that's usually the case on mandatory reporting laws, but in a situation where there are no witnesses and if the victim doesn't come forward, how does mandatory reporting address the problem? >> i think the language in the bill corrects most of the state
7:54 pm
bills that, i mandatory reporting, and that indicates when there's a suspicion of sexual abuse. so it doesn't have to be witnessed, doesn't have to be a formal complaint. if there's a suspicion of sex wral abuse or child abuse, there is a requirement that it be reported. that's tracked in the bill. that's the way most states track it and that's the standard for requiring an individual to make a report if they're covered by the bill. >> so for the young women who testified here, you read the bill, you know who's supposed to report, do the mandatory reporting. in your situation, were there people that you had encountered who should have suspected that you were being abused? any of you. >> there's no way they didn't know. at the ranch, after our second practice, our treatment was mandatory. if you were injured you went to see dr. nassar. and after the lights were out in the gym and the training area
7:55 pm
that 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 -- eye 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's a grown man in my room alone with me. giving me medical treatment in my bed. they didn't -- they didn't do the very least and make sure there was another adult in there, at the very least. >> so do you all think that under this bill 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? >> well. >> that's what you think this bill will address. >> i hope the bill will instill fear hopefully but maybe just having one conversation with us would have, you know, about what's appropriate and what's
7:56 pm
not. and just bricking more awareness to the issue. >> and i also believe not only was dr. nassar abusive, but remember, there's an environment where many coaches were also abusive. they're not typically going to report themselves, but 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 believed that this was the norm, the screaming, the yeg, 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, i them to go further than turning a blind eye? >> senator, there are provisions in the bill for training and
7:57 pm
education and awareness as all these women athletes indicate. awareness is a key factor in bringing it forward as dominique said, the abusers aren't going to report themselves. and so it's necessary for the athletes to be educated. there are provisions in the bill to provide a lot nor education and awareness through the national organization. >> so 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 and in criminal cases i think that's a little bit beyond my wheel house. >> okay. thank you. senator feinstein we'll have
7:58 pm
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 be thank you you all. i know for some of you it's a very emotional thing to be talking about and legitimately so. but 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. [ indistinctive conversations ].
7:59 pm
8:00 pm
8:01 pm
coming up later or c-span 3 a hearing on private property rights, a supreme court case on fees for swiping your credit card. the house ways and means committee meets on the president's tax returns. later, the house armed services mm


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on