Bill that would better protect Olympic athletes from sexual, emotional abuse gains bipartisan support

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WASHINGTON D.C. -- During a rare showing of bipartisan support, Republican and Democratic senators gathered Tuesday to call on Congress to pass a bill that would better protect Olympic athletes from sexual and emotional abuse.

“Children often don’t speak up when they are abused. They suffer in silence. They are taught to submit to the authority of adults," former USA Gymnast Jamie Dantzscher said. "This is especially true in the hyper-competitive world of gymnastics.”

The bill calls for the mandatory reporting of any abuse allegations by Olympic athletes. The bill also increases the statute of limitations for athletes to report abuse and requires education about sexual assault for coaches and athletes.

“We do take responsibility and apologize to any young athlete that faced abuse," Rick Adams, chief of Paralympic Sport and National Governing Body Organizational Development for the USOC said. “The Olympic community failed to protect the people it was supposed to protect."

This bill's sponsor said the legislation stems from stories by the Indy Start on how Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics handled reports of alleged sexual abuse.

“I hope this bill passes so it never happens to another child," former USA Gymnast Jessica Howard said.

Senator Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, and Senator Todd Young, R-Indiana, both have co-sponsored the bill and spoke Tuesday a press conference along with several gymnasts who have accused former USA Gymnast staff of sexual abuse.

“We are going to push for accountability. We are going to push to make sure you’re protected and we will be with you every step of the way,” Donnelly said. “This is personal to parents. This is personal to Hoosiers in particular and we aim to improve the situation moving forward.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee still needs to approve the bill before it heads to the full Senate.

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