In 1995, three young women testified before a U.S.A. Volleyball ethics hearing that they had been sexually abused by their coach, Rick Butler. The young women were filled with Olympic dreams, and Butler was one of the winningest volleyball coaches. Sports Illustrated reported the story, and Butler was banned from the sport by USA Gymnastics. But then Butler was reinstated 5 years later. Not until 2018, was he banned from all competitions including USA Gymnastics and AAU. He still lurks at competitions. In 2018, the story of Dr. Larry Nassar sexually abusing hundreds of male and female gymnasts continues to occupy the headlines.
The pattern of successful coaches with power over aspiring athletes repeats itself at every level: the youth, high school, college, Olympic, and professional. Like other arenas where children can be isolated and manipulated by predatory adults, the sports arena presents steep challenges to the protection of children. Sports, at all levels, are the latest frontier in the war against child sex abuse and is he least studied. With 45 million children involved in organized sports, this frontier needs our attention.
Sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, CHILD USA, the Ortner Center on Violence and Abuse in Relationships, and the Annenberg School for Communication, the one-day symposium is the first university event to closely examine athletes and abuse across the spectrum of sports and ages. Leading experts, athletes, officials, and policymakers will shine a light on how to change the sports culture that puts children at risk.
Athletes and Abuse Symposium will educate the public on the instances of abuse and neglect that run rampant in sport. The symposium will be comprised of four panels. The first will be geared towards youth sports; the second will cover high school and college athletics; the third will focus on incidence of abuse and neglect among elite or Olympic-level athletes; and the final panel will cover professional sports, from the NFL and MLB to the NBA, NHL, and MLS.
This one-day symposium is the first university event to closely examine athletes and abuse across the spectrum of sports and ages. Leading experts, athletes, officials, and policymakers will shine a light on what needs to change in sports culture that puts children at risk.
Participants include: Keynoter, Dominique Moceanu, Olympic gold medal gymnast, and Panelists Douglas Glanville, former MLB outfielder, Phillies, Cubs, and Rangers; Nancy Hogshead Makar, 3-time Olympic gold medal swimmer; Shellie Pfohl, CEO, U.S. Center for Safesport; and Justin Tuck, former NFL offensive end, Giants and Raiders.