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Annual Meeting 2018's Moderated Forums: The SafeSport Initiative

by Glenye Cain Oakford | Jan 17, 2018, 10:00 PM EST

As reports of abuse roil other sports, US Equestrian invited the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s chief operating officer, Malia Arrington to discuss the SafeSport initiative and how its policies and training are fighting emotional, physical, and sexual misconduct—including bullying, cyberbullying, hazing, harassment, and abuse—in equestrian sports and in the other Olympic and Paralympic disciplines.
The SafeSport intiative provides information, resources, and a protocol that helps members of the equestrian community recognize, respond to, and reduce abuse or unsafe conduct, such as bullying, physical misconduct, or sexual abuse.

 

Take-Home Messages
The U.S. Center for SafeSport in Denver, Colo., is the first national nonprofit solely dedicated to preserving the safety and well-being of athletes. 
Its purpose is to enable every sport participant to thrive by fostering a national sport culture of respect and safety, in and out of competition. The Center has adopted a SafeSport Code for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movement that applies to its 47 member National Governing Bodies, including US Equestrian. The SafeSport Code defines prohibited conduct, including sexual misconduct, and it also imposes on all US Equestrian members and participants a mandatory duty to report misconduct.

 

The center now has exclusive jurisdiction over all claims of sexual misconduct, meaning that US Equestrian will refer any reports it receives to the center. 
US Equestrian still has jurisdiction over other, non-sexual misconduct, such as cyberbullying and online harrassment. US Equestrian also is workinig to develop a training module that focuses on the role of SafeSport in equestrian activity.

 

You can make a difference: mandatory reporting by sport participants, licensed officials, trainers, parents, and others on the ground is critical to preventing and ending abuse.
All US Equestrian members and participants have a mandatory duty to report misconduct. And that’s key, Arrington explained.
“Mandatory reporting is critically important,” she said. People who suspect sexual abuse or grooming for sexual abuse should report that directly to the center. “You might also have an obligation to report to law enforcement if it involves child abuse or neglect,” said Arrington. “We can certainly assist with that.”

 

Training makes people aware of the “grooming” for abuse—and helps stop it.
“What we’ve certainly seen with respect to the training requirements is how important that education component is, and not just for people who have day-to-day contact with the athletes, but also those people who are on the grounds and are the eyes and ears of the community.” Arrington said. “The point of the training is, one, to make those of you aware of what the grooming process looks like. … The other really big part of the training is to help you understand some best practices around policies and procedures.”
Those best practices can help a team or organization avoid higher-risk situations and protect against SafeSport Code violations.

 

Err on the side of reporting.
“One of the questions we get a lot is, ‘How much do I need to know before I report?’” said Arrington. “One think to keep in mind is don’t feel like you need to be the gatekeepers of that question. There are folks at the center who really are in the position to evaluate whether or not this is a code violation and whether or not it does need to go to law enforcement. I always encourage people to err on the side of reporting, particularly because there is a mandatory obligation to report, and failure to report is in itself a violation of the code.”
For people in abusive situations, there is also a 24-hour hotline operated by RAINN—the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, the nation’s largest anti-sexual-violence organization. Those who contact RAINN can remain completely anonymous. The hotline number is 1-866-200-0796 and an online chat is available at hotline.rainn.org/safesport.
Reporting can be done conveniently, by phone or online, and can be anonymous.

US Equestrian’s website has a library of resources about SafeSport, including ways to report suspected abuse, links to training resources, and more.
Visit USequestrian.org’s SafeSport page to learn more, access incident report forms, get Safesport training, learn more about the U.S. Center for SafeSport, and more.


About the Speaker: Malia Arrington
Malia Arrington is the Chief Operating Officer for the U.S. Center for SafeSport in Denver, Colo. She helped charter the organization through her work with the U.S. Olympic Committee. In 2012, she was tasked with creating the USOC’s SafeSport initiative, which imposed safeguards and provided training and education related to emotional, physical, and sexual misconduct – including bullying, hazing, harassment, and abuse. More recently, she oversaw the externalization of the program and the 2017 launch of the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which independently investigates and resolves allegations of sexual misconduct for the USOC’s 47 member national governing bodies.
 

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