March | April 2013

Melodee Hanes Addresses Summit on Preventing Child Abuse in Sports

On March 19, 2013, OJJDP’s then-Acting Administrator Melodee Hanes delivered opening remarks at “Safe To Compete: Protecting Child Athletes From Sexual Abuse,” a 2-day summit sponsored by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. The summit, which took place at NCMEC’s offices in Alexandria, VA, brought together experts in responding to child abuse, coaches, athletes, parents, and leaders of more than 50 youth-serving organizations.

Melodee Hanes
Melodee Hanes, OJJDP’s then-Acting Administrator, delivered opening remarks at the summit. “Protecting children from abuse is at the very heart of what we do at OJJDP,” Ms. Hanes said. Ms. Hanes cited the OJJDP-supported National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, which revealed that 60 percent of American children are exposed to violence, crime, and abuse—either as victims or witnesses—in their homes, schools, and communities.

Ms. Hanes noted that 85 percent of child molesters are in positions of trust. “As a prosecutor in Iowa and Montana, I prosecuted the Jerry Sanduskys,” Ms. Hanes said. “These people are not stupid. They know where to look, how to cultivate their victims. I prosecuted coaches, I prosecuted teachers, I prosecuted a hobby shop owner who was also a Sunday school teacher. We as adults, parents, brothers, [and] sisters need to give these kids support. Information is power. It’s important to know what to look for, and what to do in response.”

The summit featured an overview by experts in responding to child sexual abuse and discussed how federal- and state-mandated reporting laws may affect youth sports programs. Joe Ehrmann, former NFL defensive lineman and survivor of child sexual abuse, facilitated working sessions on the following topics:

  • Prevention in the context of youth sports organizations, prevalent risks, and how to identify risks specific to individual organizations.
  • Youth sports organizations’ child sexual abuse policies, the development of a national strategy to address the sexual abuse of child athletes, and training for staff on child abuse prevention in sports organizations.
  • The engagement of parents and communities on the issue of child sexual abuse.
  • The development of a “sound practices” document that can be embraced throughout the youth sports arena.

Other speakers at the summit included John Ryan, CEO of NCMEC; Steve Salem, president, Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation; Cal Ripken, Jr., the baseball legend; Sheldon Kennedy, former NHL hockey player and survivor of child sexual abuse; John Walsh, host, "America’s Most Wanted”; Sharon W. Cooper, M.D., CEO of Developmental and Forensic Pediatrics and member of the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence; Julie Novak, associate vice president of child safety, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America; Kate C. Staley, Ph.D, research scientist, Pennsylvania State University; and Malia S. Arrington, director of Ethics and Safe Sport, United States Olympic Committee.

Know The Rules
The OJJDP-funded publication, “Know the Rules . . . for Child Safety in Youth Sports.”

According to the National Council of Youth Sports’ Report on Trends and Participation In Organized Youth Sports, in 2008, more than 44 million boys and girls played in an organized youth sports program.

Resources:

Answers to frequently asked questions about the abuse of child athletes and a flier with guidelines for parents whose children participate in organized sports activities are available online. The OJJDP-funded flier, “Know the Rules . . . for Child Safety in Youth Sports,” is available in English and Spanish.

More information about NCMEC and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation is also available online.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. For more information on child maltreatment, and resources for promoting child and family well-being, visit the Administration for Children & Families’ Web site.