Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today gave the following statement on the House floor in support of the Protecting Young Victims From Sexual Abuse Act of 2017 (H.R. 1973).
Chairman Goodlatte: Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Today, we are able to continue our efforts in protecting children by passing legislation to protect young athletes from abuse. The country was shocked at the revelations in recent years concerning the ongoing abuse endured by young athletes at the hands of their coaches and trainers in USA Gymnastics and USA Swimming. These children were betrayed by people they trusted, by people they looked up to, by people who had a duty to protect them.
That’s why I’m pleased to be on the floor here today in support of the Protecting Young Victims From Sexual Abuse Act. This bill imposes a requirement to report child abuse for those authorized by US sport national governing bodies such as USA Gymnastics and USA Swimming to work with minor athletes, or members of these national governing bodies. As is the case with existing federal mandatory reporting requirements, these individuals will be required to make a prompt report to law enforcement when they “learn of facts that give reason to suspect that a child has suffered an incident of child abuse.” This provision will ensure that the malfeasance on the part of national governing bodies, like USAGymnastics, in failing to report allegations of abuse to law enforcement, never occurs again.
The bill further strengthens existing civil remedies for victims of sexual abuse who wish to seek civil damages from their abusers. The bill clarifies that once a victim has established a harm occurred, the court will presume damages of $150,000. It relaxes the statute of limitations standard for victims – the ten-year period will now begin when the victim reasonably discovers the violation or harm – not when it accrues. It also extends the statute of limitations to ten years after a legal disability is lifted – in other words, minors who are victims will have ten years from the time they reach adulthood to file.
Finally, the bill expands the authority of the national governing bodies to develop practices, policies, and procedures to prevent sexual abuse and clarifies the duties of the bodies in developing these practices.
Sports have always been a central aspect of American life. Sports teach our children about focus, teamwork, and leadership, and we should encourage our children to participate, to be a part of healthy competition – but in doing so, we need to assure we keep these competitive atmospheres safe. I am pleased to see that the U.S. Olympic Committee has helped to establish a new organization called the Center for SafeSport to prevent and respond to emotional, physical and sexual abuse of young athletes.
I commend Ms. Brooks for introducing this important legislation and I urge my colleagues to support it.
I reserve the balance of my time.
For more on the House Judiciary Committee’s work to protect children, click here.