A group of senators have decided to roll out a bill to adjust the intricacies of the USA Gymnastics scandal with the implementation of The Respect for Child Survivors Act, following the Larry Nassar incident.
The intentions of the act are to improve the way the FBI interacts with underage witnesses and victims in sex abuse and human trafficking cases.
The catalyst for this endeavor surrounds the FBI’s previous failures in handling the Nassar investigation from 2015. Nassar is currently facing decades in prison for abusing underage athletes on the USA Gymnastics team.
The FBI failed to act, despite being notified of the allegations in 2015. It took them over a year to take action, leaving Nassar many more months to prey on the girls.
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Olympic gymnasts Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and Maroney are among the over 100 alleged victims of Nassar.
What is the Respect for Child Survivors Act?
The Respect for Child Survivors Act, which primarily aims to handle the interactions between the FBI and abuse victims, is a parallel to two other acts – The Adult Survivors Act and The Child Victims Act (CVA).
The act, which has officially been introduced as a bill, will soon be assigned to a committee whose members will discuss and implement the necessary and proper changes to the bill. Next, the bill will be put before the chamber and be voted on, which will determine whether it will become a law.
The timeline for this process has yet to be determined.
When will the Adult Survivors Act go into effect?
The Adult Survivors Act will go into effect in November 2022. The bill, which is sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal , was framed to resemble The Child Victims Act.
The CVA, previously passed in 2019 and extended in 2021, only covers abuse that happened to people under 18.
Who does the Adult Survivors Act serve?
The victims in the Nassar case were under 18 when the crimes were committed and reported in 2015.However, it wasn’t until 2016 that the FBI began to investigate and truly ignite action. And at this point, the young athletes surpassed the age limit the CVA covers.
The Adult Survivors Act allows a one-year windows for survivors of adult sexual abuse in New York to file a civil lawsuit. Claims will be eligible even when the statute of limitations has already expired.
What does the Respect for Child Survivors Act require the FBI to do?
The new legislation will require the FBI to use multidisciplinary teams with trauma expertise when investigating these types of cases, even in cases where the victim is no longer a child.
The bill aims to make sure cases like this are not prolonged like the Nassar investigation had been.
“It takes tremendous courage for young victims of sexual assault to tell their story and overcome the fear that they may not be taken seriously, may be ignored, or may be wrongfully blamed,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, one of the bill’s sponsors.
“To avoid re-traumatizing victims during the investigation process, it’s imperative we give these individuals the support they need to ensure survivors feel respected during the interview process and abusers are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
The bill was directly inspired by the testimony of former Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney, who was wrongfully treated during FBI interviews about the scandal.
“They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing,” said Maroney at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Sept. 2021.