The United States Center for SafeSport (SafeSport) has exclusive authority to handle allegations of sexual abuse and sexual misconduct within the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and their recognized National Governing Bodies (NGBs). SafeSport investigates and responds to misconduct allegations and issues decisions on whether those accused have violated the SafeSport Code.
Coaches are mandatory reporters under the SafeSport Code and can be sanctioned for failing to report an alleged incident of misconduct and/or abuse.
What Qualifies as Abuse and Misconduct?
SafeSport is committed to protecting athletes and others involved in sports from:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Sexual misconduct
These forms of abuse and misconduct are often divided into two categories:
Sexual abuse and misconduct includes, but is not limited to:
- Gender-related or sexual harassment, including requests for sexual favors. Sexual harassment includes harassment based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
- Non-consensual sexual contact
- Attempted non-consensual sexual contact
- Non-consensual sexual intercourse
- Attempted non-consensual sexual intercourse
- Sexual exploitation
- Inappropriate sexual conduct, such as bullying or hazing
Emotional and Physical Misconduct
Emotional and physical misconduct includes, but is not always limited to:
- Emotional misconduct, which may include verbal acts, physical acts, acts that deny attention or support, criminal conduct, or stalking.
- Physical misconduct, which may include intentional contact or non-contact behavior that causes or reasonably threatens to cause physical harm. Some examples include hitting, biting, strangling, or isolation in a confined space.
- Bullying a minor, which includes repeated or severe aggressive behaviors directed at a minor that are intended to emotionally, physically hurt, control, or diminish the minor.
- Hazing or conduct that subjects a person to physical, mental, emotional, or psychological abuse, humiliation, or degradation as a condition of joining or being socially accepted by a team, group, or organization.
- Harassment, or repeated or severe conduct that causes fear, humiliation, or annoyance, offends or degrades, creates a hospital environment or reflects discriminatory bias to try to establish dominance or power over someone based on age, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, national origin, or disability, or any other conduct that constitutes harassment under federal or state law.
Coaches Are Mandatory Reporters
Adult participants, including coaches, are mandatory reporters of:
If a coach reasonably suspects that a child was abused, the coach must immediately report the alleged abuse to law enforcement and SafeSport.
A coach who suspects sexual misconduct has occurred must immediately report the alleged misconduct to SafeSport and also to law enforcement if there is reasonable suspicion that a crime was committed.
Emotional and Physical Misconduct
SafeSport requires coaches to report emotional and physical misconduct, such as hazing, bullying, stalking, and harassment, to the athlete’s NGB.
Coaches must report any criminal dispositions involving child abuse or sexual misconduct to SafeSport, and all other criminal dispositions to the relevant affiliated organization.
Misconduct Related to SafeSport’s Processes
Coaches who suspect aiding and abetting, retaliation, or abuse of process must report these concerns to SafeSport. A coach who fails to report any of these things may face penalties.
What Happens After a Coach Reports Abuse?
A coach can report abuse by completing a form or calling SafeSport. Upon receipt of the report, SafeSport will:
Conduct an Initial Intake
First, SafeSport will determine if the alleged misconduct falls under the SafeSport Code and if the person committing the alleged misconduct is a U.S. Olympic or Paralympic participant. If both these things are true, SafeSport will consider the nature of the allegation. SafeSport has exclusive jurisdiction over sexual misconduct allegations and discretionary jurisdiction over emotional and physical misconduct allegations. Once SafeSport determines it has jurisdiction, the intake process will begin. SafeSport will make initial contact with relevant parties and begin to gather evidence.
Do an Investigation
A trained investigator is assigned to the case. The investigator conducts interviews and gathers evidence until the investigation is complete, and they prepare a formal investigation report.
Come to a Resolution
SafeSport considers the investigation report, reviews the case, and issues a notice of decision. If the decision includes a sanction, the respondent may request arbitration. Both the respondent and SafeSport can appeal to the arbitrator, who makes a final decision.
A failure to report suspected abuse or misconduct can lead to SafeSport sanctions, including a suspension.
Are You a Coach Who Has Been Accused of Failing to Report to SafeSport?
If you are involved in a SafeSport matter, it is crucial that you speak with an experienced sports attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call us directly at +1-207-747-5899 to schedule your free consultation. Our firm is devoted to the very specific practice of sports law and has represented athletes and coaches from throughout the United States. We are dedicated advocates and will work diligently to protect your career and your professional reputation. Don't hesitate. Contact us today.