The tendency to abdicate personal responsibility and allow government and sanctioning organizations to preside over us in a “nanny state” runs rampant through our society these days. Whether we are subject to mandates and laws regarding plastic straws, reusable bags, or mandatory labels that the hot coffee just purchased is actually hot, we can’t escape it.
And the reason we tolerate it? It is certainly not the ‘spoonful of sugar’ suggested by Mary Poppins but rather a shovelful of guilt. Guilt that we are never enough; never do enough and aren’t good enough or responsible enough to protect the environment, ourselves, or our children.
Now, the industry in which I’ve worked my entire adult life has jumped into the guilt trip with both feet, or shall I say hooves. After the somewhat recent disclosure regarding sexual abuse and the Olympic gymnasts, all governing bodies of Olympic sport went insane, in my opinion, and formed SafeSport. At it’s core, SafeSport aims to educate and enlighten athletes and others about the warning signs of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and to provide tools for reporting on abusers. This is not a bad idea, we can all agree we must eradicate the dangers to our children wherever we find them. But here is where SafeSport and I part ways.
From the outset, SafeSport has proceeded with a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ policy. Based on possible infractions, people have been removed from their jobs and banned from even setting foot on a horse show grounds until SafeSport decides the case. A man well-known in the industry was banned for life; notable in that he had already been dead for years. He was not offered due process, a jury of his peers, or the ability to face his accusers because he was already dead. I did not know him personally nor his accusers so my judgement is not on the truth of the claims against him, but in my opinion a token pronouncement to make an example of him decades later makes a mockery of anything SafeSport might be trying to accomplish.
At it’s heart, SafeSport is a CYA (cover your ass) move for these governing bodies in sport that don’t wish to be involved in future litigation. By requiring every member 18 & over that wishes to participate in a United States Equestrian Federation Show as well as parents, officials, etc. etc. to complete mandatory testing, the USEF is effectively saying, “Not our fault, they took the test.”
All the above is sadly, old news to those involved in equestrian sport. The body that was put in place to oversee horse shows, year-end awards, and protect the animal has ventured into, yet again, new ground. As of June 1st, they have implemented policies regarding ‘electronic communications’. Adults in the sport may not communicate with a minor on email or social media unless another adult is copied on the communication. Adults are not to accept “friend request” by a minor and it’s suggested the minors like the fan page of the adult instead. Really??? How many among us have fan pages…or want them?
What really disturbs me is that with this latest pronouncement it feels as if all trainers that communicate with their students via text, email or Facebook are being considered to be unworthy of trust and under suspicion for their obviously shady motives. If I was a trainer, I would be offended. If I hadn’t already told the USEF to shove it and not renewed my nearly 40 year membership I’d do it now. The problem is these adults in the horse world are over a barrel. It is the way they make their living and they can’t tell them to go to hell as easily as I did.
Listen, we can all agree the abuse of children is beyond repugnant and we should all do everything we can to protect those that cannot protect themselves. BUT, I don’t need help, and tests, and mandates and sanctions on my communications to do that, and neither do most of you. We all need to be alert to things that don’t seem right, but in today’s climate, to paraphrase Tina Fey on SNL, “Bitch, I can’t be any more alert than I already am!” When do we stop letting organizations tell us what is best for us, how we should behave and how we should feel? There are not only two choices; to drink the Kool-Aid of guilt or to look the other way. I never had a nanny and I don’t need one now. Damn straight if I witness abuse of any nature to a child I’m going to sing like a canary as are most adults I am acquainted with. I never need SafeSport to tell me I should, that’s the difference.