Last week the equestrian world blew up with the news that a once shining star of the sport had taken his life. He was under investigation by the newly formed (2 years ago) US Center for Safe Sport for allegations of sexual misconduct and his friends say he was broke, reputation ruined, and had nowhere to turn in his effort to clear his name. I am not writing this for “that” debate. I am far from qualified to speculate on either his mindset or the truth or extent of the allegations against him. I only offer this as a basis for the following.
This is not the first time I have taken on the subject of Safe Sport. The Center came to be, based on the Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017 which was signed into law in 2018. At it’s heart, in the aftermath of the Larry Nassar/USA Gymnastics debacle it is designed to make sure the NGBs (National Governing Bodies) of Olympic disciplines do everything in their power to protect youth in sports from physical, mental and sexual abuse which includes bullying, threats and shaming. So what’s the problem you ask?
So far, no problem. Everyone can agree that children’s safety, in sport or out, is paramount. Safe Sport seems to be doing a good job at the education and training part of their mission. It is the resolution program where I part ways with them. It is my opinion that they have a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ mentality and they hide behind the reasoning that they are not subject to the same due process tenets because they are a private, non-profit. They have no transparency and by that, I do not suggest they release names of those coming forward with claims of abuse. I do, however, suggest that they not publish the names of the accused on their website until a resolution has been reached. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the names are published before any in-depth investigation.
I have been quite vocal in my opinions though I have never addressed the guilt or innocence of an accused, the validity or lack thereof of an accuser, nor am I interested in the names of the accusers. Again, I am neither qualified to determine guilt or innocence nor is it any of my business who these people are. My argument is with the policy and it seemed fairly simple to me that to exercise my right to abide by a current law while working to amend or change it was purely within my rights…HA! You see, this debate suffers from what every debate in our country currently suffers from; irrationality.
There is a popular forum on a magazine website for equestrians. Those in lockstep with Safe Sport are up in arms with those who don’t agree. They have been rallying each other to screen shot comments from other social media outlets with the names and comments from those with a differing opinion and forward them to Safe Sport and the USEF (United States Equestrian Federation). Sorry to burst your bubble kids, but I have already written letters voicing my opinions to the USEF and the twenty-nine senators who sponsored or co-sponsored the Safe Sport Act…signed ’em too. So your attempts to ‘out’ me and those others who disagree as “supporters of abuse” and “just scared because we are afraid we are next” is comical. Oh, by the way, I used my actual name in my communications instead of a cutesy screen name for your anonymity on the forum.
These same forum groupies have begun a list of those that have donated to a GoFundMe page for the family of the man mentioned above. Evidently support for someone’s family is also considered by them to be support of sexual abuse. You guys ever hear of Joseph McCarthy? Well, he had this list of people that didn’t agree with him, and…well, you should Google it.
Finally, I have been accused of victim shaming. I want to amend policy, not abolish, and I am victim shaming. Now I know amend and abolish both start with “a” but I can assure you that’s where the similarity ends. I want to have a debate over the policies of an organization in existence for less than two years and I am victim shaming. I never suggested any person coming forward with a claim of abuse didn’t have a right to speak and be heard and I am victim shaming..
Well, herein lies the problem. I, and others, have a differing opinion on this important and complicated subject. Instead of a dialogue, those of you that stand steadfastly with Safe Sport against bullying and threatening take my words and send them to the USEF and Safe Sport; to do what I’m sure I don’t know but you hope the idea of it scares me and makes me stop. Those of you standing against shaming want to publish the names of those disagreeing with you to, I’m guessing, make them ashamed of their actions. Anyone seeing a pattern? No? Oh my…