by Irvin Muchnick
The Centers for Disease Control accepts unprecedented private funding from the National Football League for its watered-down “concussion education initiative.”
Figures like Congresswoman Linda Sanchez share the stage with WWE for public service announcements about how bullying is bad. (What, you expected WWE to say bullying is good?)
So no one should be surprised that USA Swimming is on the White House list of “partners” for Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Month.
This is easy do-gooder ink for all concerned. It does nothing about the role institutions and corporations play in protecting their money and image, at the expense of victims. In the case of USA Swimming, there are scores, likely hundreds of them, in cases swept under the rug for a generation by the same executive and board leadership now patting themselves on the back for creating a too-little, too-late “Safe Sport” program.
Yesterday one of those victims, Dani Bostick, told her story on these pages. An obvious inference is that there are many women out there whose lives have been similarly scarred by USA Swimming. At no cost to itself – indeed, to perverse praise – the organization carries on with retrospectively throwing obscure coaches under the bus, one by one, at the pace at which survivors like Bostick do all the heavy lifting. But where is the proactive effort to locate and make whole the unaccounted-for victims?
And above all, where is the assurance that women who expose themselves by coming forward will not be subjected to slut-shaming and orchestrated local campaigns questioning their sanity – as Bostick documents she was, and as the victim in Outside magazine’s article last fall has been? What is USA Swimming prepared to do about that?
Reducing college campus party and date rape is a trendy cause, and a good one. The far larger and grimmer truth, however, is that the national problem of sexual assault is not primarily a phenomenon involving contemporaries and peers. It is a pattern of authority-figure abuse enabled, denied, and covered up by institutions.
USA Swimming is among the very worst abuse nests. Solutions require serious federal investigation and legislative reform. The Obama White House’s latest press release of cosmetic alliances with many of the very groups perpetuating the problem is profoundly unserious.