by Elizabeth Gibbons
Legislation on Amateur Sports
On January 30, the Senate unanimously passed a bill to require governing bodies of amateur sports, the sports in which most minors participate, to report sexual abuse allegations to law enforcement within 24 hours. The bill stipulates new training to prevent misconduct, extends the statute of limitations for victims, and calls for procedures to limit one-on-one time between minors and adults. This legislation creates a uniform national standard, bypassing the patchwork of state legislation that allows abuse to slip between the cracks. The bill was overwhelming passed by the House on Monday, January 29th, and now goes to President Trump’s desk. Senator Dianne Feinstein from California sponsored the bill in response to the Larry Nassar case – 150 women and girls accused the Olympic doctor of sexual assault under the guise of medical treatment. He has now been sentenced to 175 years in prison. Nassar was also a physician at Michigan State University and Michigan has been accused of covering up or denying allegations of abuse against Nassar. In her press conference on Tuesday, Senator Feinstein and Jeanette Antolin, a former gymnast, called on the US Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, and Michigan State University to reevaluate their systems and create stronger support structures for those who report abuse, noting that every minute wasted, innocent children are at risk. Such legislation is only made possible thanks to the bravery of the women who came forward, shared their pain, and demanded action so that others would not be hurt. USA Gymnastics, Michigan State, and many other sports bodies have fostered a culture that puts “money and medals” ahead of their athletes.
California Turpin Family Case
The “California Torture House” has been in everyone’s news feed recently. Here are the facts of the story and ways you can spot abuse.
For years, David and Louise Turpin imprisoned, beat, and psychologically tormented their 13 children, who range in age between 2 and 29. The parents are facing lifetime imprisonment on the following charges: 12 counts of torture, 1 count of a lewd act on a child, 7 counts of abuse of a dependent, 6 counts of child abuse, and 12 counts of false imprisonment. Both parents have plead “not guilty.” Now in federal custody and receiving treatment, the Turpin children show signs of severe malnourishment, cognitive impairment, and nerve damage – all caused by the severity of the abuse they endured. The children were bound to their beds using chains and padlocks for weeks or months at a time. If not bound, they were locked away in separate rooms. The children were starved, then allegedly teased with food they were not allowed to eat. Their hygiene was incredibly poor and they had never received medical care. It has been reported that, when asked, one child did not know what medication was, indicating how far removed from the world the children were.
With all the media attention now focused on this family, neighbors of the Turpins are asking if they could have intervened sooner. Apparently, neighbors had been suspicious of the parent’s behavior, but had never contacted authorities. The children were homeschooled and forced to sleep all day and be up all night, thus keeping them isolated and away from neighbors. Louise and David Turpin interacted with their neighbors just enough to lower suspicion, and some of the children were seen with enough regularity that many neighbors simply thought the family was simply “very private.” The Turpins’ relatives were also surprised at the abuse allegations, saying they had been estranged from Louise and David for years.
This is an outlying case of extreme abuse and complete isolation. Typical cases of abuse have typical signs that can be recognized: bruising on the torso, inconsistent stories about injuries, fear of adults, or fear of going home. It can be difficult to recognize the signs and symptoms of abuse and even more difficult to act on that recognition, but it is important to trust your gut. Please remember that you are not the investigator, you are the concerned citizen and reporting suspected abuse can be a daunting task, but it might save a life. If you do believe a child is being abused or you would like more information about filing a report, contact your local child protective service or police station. You can also contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 800-4-A-CHILD or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.
See also “Recognizing Child Abuse and Neglect: Signs and Symptoms,” from the Child Welfare Information Gateway, at https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/signs.pdf.
Elizabeth Gibbons is CWLA’s editorial intern. She can be reached at email@example.com.