In Aftermath of Larry Nassar Case, Blue Ribbon Commission of National Experts Launched to Examine Failure of Institutions to Protect Youth Athletes
“Game Over: Commission to Protect Youth Athletes,” Funded in Large Part by $300,000 Investment from the Foundation for Global Sports Development, to be led by University of Pennsylvania-Based CHILD USA
Commission Comprised of National Experts in Child Sex Abuse, Law Enforcement, Academia, Trauma, Sports and Investigative Journalism
PHILADELPHIA, PA – CHILD USA, the University of Pennsylvania-based think tank focused on child abuse and neglect, with $300,000 in funding from the Foundation for Global Sports Development (GSD), today announced the establishment of an independent Blue Ribbon Commission to examine the institutional responses to sexual abuse by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. The announcement came at the Athletes and Abuse Symposium hosted at the University of Pennsylvania, where leading national experts on sports, law enforcement, child sexual abuse, and child development convened to examine the repeated abuse of athletes across the spectrum of sports and ages.
“Game Over: Commission to Protect Youth Athletes” led by Marci Hamilton, CEO of CHILD USA and Fox Professor of Practice at the University of Pennsylvania, will have 16 members, and will immediately engage in a fact-finding exercise, before conducting public hearings to bring greater light to what happened and what went wrong in reporting. The commission expects to release a full, public report, in the beginning of 2020 with the goal of preventing abuse in the future.
“We’ve all read the headlines, we have all heard the gut wrenching witness statements from the survivors. What we need now is a comprehensive assessment of what went wrong and why,” said Marci Hamilton, CEO and Academic Director of CHILD USA. “By the time we have concluded this Commission we will better understand the institutional failings that allowed these crimes to happen and have a series of recommendations and solutions to ensure other entities and individuals don’t make the same mistakes in the future.”
“The Foundation for Global Sports Development funded this commission because we believe in the developmental benefits of sports for youth around the world,” said David Ulich, President of The Foundation for Global Sports Development and trustee of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Foundation. “Those benefits are placed at great risk when the individuals and institutions who are charged with developing and protecting our young athletes fail.”
“It goes without say that numerous organizations and institutions were unable –or unwilling –to identify and immediately remedy the pervasive abuse executed by Larry Nassar on young athletes,” said Dr. Steven Ungerleider, Vice President of the Foundation for Global Sports Development and best-selling sports psychologist. “Larry Nassar isn’t the first nor will he be the last person to pray on young athletes, if we don’t fully examine and make serious changes to how we oversee the development of young athletes in sports.”
The sex abuse scandal centered around Dr. Larry Nassar, team doctor for USA Gymnastics (USAG) and Michigan State University (MSU), is one of the most complex in modern history, involving many institutions, coaches, and adults—all of whom failed to appropriately protect hundreds of children from sex abuse. A total of 156 women and girls testified against Nassar at his 2017-18 criminal trial, but 265 have come forward so far. Experts believe there are likely more.
This independent commission will investigate all aspects of the systems that enabled the abuse, examine how they failed, reach conclusions, and issue recommendations to prevent child sex abuse in the future. It will be composed of the leading experts in the field of child sex abuse from the medical, social science, legal, and public policy arenas, each of whom is donating their time pro bono to the project.
Key components of the commission include:
- Fact-Finding, Data Collection, Searchable Data Base of All Documents The Commission will conduct a thorough public document and media review of every aspect of each institution’s and adult’s involvement in creating a pathway for Nassar to abuse hundreds of children. Fact-finding and data collection will be managed by University of Pennsylvania-based CHILD USA. CHILD USA will also bring in experts in data collection and storage to identify research leads and to construct a searchable database of all documents, which will be released to the public upon completion of the project. The Commission will collect and analyze the data in order to independently assess the environments that enabled the abuse.
- Legal and Policy Review Upon review of the data and facts, the Commission will make specific recommendations on statutory remedies and institutional policy changes necessary to provide greater support and protection for child athletes. The Commission will conduct a thorough review of state and federal laws and institutional policies and procedures in place at each step along the way. The study of existing laws will be comprehensive, including but not limited to: state reporting requirements, child protection, statutes of limitations, and civil rights laws; federal laws including Title IX, federal statutes of limitations, and the Ted Stevens Act; and the public programs constructed to deal with children in sports, universities, and schools.
- Public Participation and Transparency This will be an open and transparent commission to ensure accountability and integrity of both the process and the findings. The Commission will provide regular public updates on its progress to ensure continued transparency. Once the data collection has been completed, the Commission will hold public hearings at the University of Pennsylvania with commission members, invited experts and witnesses, and parties involved in the Nassar case. Specifically, current and former officials from Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, US Olympic Committee, coaches (including the Karolyis), survivors, attorneys involved in the lawsuits, and others will be invited to testify.
Upon completion of the fact finding, data collection, and public hearings, the commission will compose and release its findings to the public and policymakers. All materials gathered and testimony obtained will be archived and made available to the public.
In addition to being chaired by Marci Hamilton of CHILD USA, commission members include:
Steven Ungerleider, PhD, co-founder of the Foundation for Global Sports Development
Steven Berkowitz, MD, Associate Professor, Clinical Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine; Director, Penn Center for Youth and Family Trauma Response and Recovery
Pat Ciarrocchi, former CBS3 Philadelphia news anchor who has covered the sex abuse crisis in depth
Sharon Cooper, MD, CEO, Developmental and Forensic Pediatrics, P.A.
David Corwin, MD, Professor and Director of Forensic Services, Pediatrics Department, University of Utah
James Carpenter, Esq., Former Chief, Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit, Philadelphia D.A. Office
Melissa Jampol, Esq., former Assistant US Attorney, New Jersey
Kathleen Faller, MSW, Professor Emerita of Children and Families in the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan; Director, Family Assessment Clinic; Principal Investigator on the University of Michigan site of National Child Welfare Workforce Institute
Teresa Huizar, Executive Director, National Children’s Alliance
Jennie Noll, PhD, Professor for Healthy Children, Dept. of Human Development and Family Studies, Penn State; Director, Child Maltreatment Solutions Network
Daniel Pollack, MSW, JD, Professor at Yeshiva University’s School of Social Work and a frequent expert witness in child welfare lawsuits
Monica Rowland, Former President, Athletes Advisory Council to the US Olympic Committee, Pentathlon Coach
Philip Scribano, DO, MSCE, Director of Safe Place: The Center for Child Protection and Health at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; program director of the Child Abuse Pediatrics Fellowship Program
Joyanna Silberg, PhD, Senior Child Trauma Consultant, Sheppard Pratt Health System; Owner, Childhood Recovery Resources; President, Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence
James R. Marsh, Esq., Founder, Children’s Law Center (Washington D.C.)
Courtney Kiehl, CHILD USA Fellow and former elite gymnast
Ali Boren, Esq. Executive Director, CHILD USA
Fox Leadership Program Fellows, University of Pennsylvania
Toll Public Interest Center Interns, University of Pennsylvania School of Law
CHILD USA Interns
The Advisory Committee consists of:
Nancy Hogshead Makar, J.D., Chair
Lynn Abraham, former Philadelphia District Attorney, Archer
Dean Colson, Esq., Colson Hicks Eidson
Jane Eisner, journalist, EIC, The Forward
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (invited)
Prof. Richard Gelles, University of Pennsylvania
Thomas Kline, Esq., Kline & Specter PC
Thomas Lyon, Esq., USC School of Law
Paul Mones, Esq.
Abbie Newman, R.N. J.D., CEO of Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center
David Ulich, Esq., Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP
About The Foundation For Global Sports Development
Working closely with international sports federations, generous donors and committed athletes, The Foundation for Global Sports Development promotes sportsmanship, education, fair play and ethics among the world’s youth. The Foundation gives special emphasis to groups and communities that are most in need or most underserved by current programs, including women, minorities and youth.
About CHILD USA
CHILD USA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit located at the University of Pennsylvania dedicated to ending child abuse and neglect through research-based public policy advocacy. CHILD USA is the nation’s leading organization that tracks and advocates for access to justice for child sex abuse victims.