by Tim Joyce and Irvin Muchnick
Congressman George Miller, the California Democrat who is ranking minority member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, told Concussion Inc. on Friday that he is “very disappointed” by “more allegations about sexual abuse of minors by swim coaches with inconsistent responses by USA Swimming.”
These are the strongest words and the most direct criticism of USA Swimming by Miller, or any other elected leader, since his June 2013 request to the Government Accountability Office for a report on federal laws governing abuse reporting requirements in youth-serving programs, including amateur sports.
The statement came at the end of a week that saw Chuck Wielgus, the executive director of USA Swimming since 1997, denied a scheduled induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, thanks to a successful public petition by abuse victims, which was led by Diana Nyad and organized by the Women’s Sports Foundation. On Friday, Wielgus said he was “sorry” he had not done more to stop sex abuse in his sport. Many are calling for Wielgus to resign or be fired.
These reporters also advocate housecleaning of the swimming executive and board hierarchies, criminal prosecution of Wielgus and others, and Congressional intervention to fully air a generation’s coach sex abuse stories and to propel reforms of the Amateur Sports Act of 1978.
Brian Levin, Congressman Miller’s House Education and Workforce press secretary, told us:
Rep. Miller is very disappointed, given the GAO’s most recent findings on: schools’ inconsistences with reporting sexual misconduct and struggles with enforcing protections against abuse; continued reports of abuses at residential programs for teenagers that are intended to help them with behavioral, emotional, mental health, or substance abuse problems; reports of seclusion and restraint in schools; and more allegations about sexual abuse of minors by swim coaches with inconsistent responses by USA Swimming.
As Rep. Miller said in his January letter to Chairman Kline, hearings will:
“…provide all of our members with the opportunity to explore in depth the significant concerns around child sexual abuse that fall within this Committee’s oversight and legislative jurisdiction…we must take every available and reasonable step to ensure that the individuals with whom we entrust our children every day protect them from abuse…[Scheduling hearings] is a first step in ensuring that Congress is examining all federal approaches that can protect children from sex abuse and harassment in schools and other settings outside their homes.”
[Miller’s January 30 letter to Congressman John Kline, chair of the committee, is viewable at http://democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/sites/democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/files/documents/1.30.2014-GMLettertoKlinereGAOReportOnChildSexAbuse.pdf.]
While Rep. Miller’s letter was motivated by the GAO’s findings about abuse by school personnel, it calls, more generally, for hearings on sexual abuse of children by adults in settings outside of their homes. The increasingly widespread reports and allegations of abuse by swim coaches, as well as questions about the responsiveness of USA Swimming to the issue, have drawn much of the national focus to swimming programs. But it is clear that we need to have a greater public discussion on sexual abuse more broadly, and this includes abuse in youth athletic programs.
Complete links to Concussion Inc.’s coverage of the petition drive that forced the withdrawal of the Chuck Wielgus induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame are at “Chuck Wielgus Belongs in the Hall of Justice, Not the Hall of Fame,” http://concussioninc.net/?p=9233.
This week’s cover story in South Florida’s New Times, “An Underage Sex Scandal Leads to South Florida’s Swimming Hall of Fame,” is at http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2014-06-05/news/sex-scandal-swimming-hall-of-fame-fort-lauderdale/.