Adopt SafeSport within US Masters Swimming to protect athletes from sexual misconduct
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While United States Masters Swimming has brief rules prohibiting sexual misconduct and harassment in Section 4 of it's handbook, they are vague and provide no guidance, repercussions, definitions or imperative to actually care for swimmers who have experienced wrongdoing. This section of the rule book also leaves these cases at the hands of volunteer boards who may or may not have an understanding of the intricacies of cases of sexual misconduct.
I am proposing that United States Masters Swimming adopt SafeSport like USA Swimming, USA Triathlon, and many other sports.
I am a nearly 13 year member of United States Masters Swimming and have served on the board of my team, set national records, volunteered, traveled national for meets, swam around islands. In January, 2020 a man undid my swimsuit and exposed my breasts from another lane at practice. I immediately reported this to my coach. My team president at the time, took it upon himself to berate me for being 'irrational'. When I went to the regional-state governing body, they kicked me to the National office (based in Sarasota, Florida) where Jessica Reilly, Senior Business Director, said there was nothing they could do and offered me a refund to leave. I went to the police after the Chair of the Florida regional governing body said she couldn't believe me until I had a police report. Due to the specificity of the law, this is not considered sexual assault and the police couldn't help me. After nearly two months of being harassed, asked to leave, receiving threatening texts from team mates, I was finally called into the pool and reprimanded that I reported wrong, but told that 'something was done' about this man. To this day I still don't know what that is. The only thing I do know is that my team elected a new team president who re-published the rules on sexual misconduct and told me the way this was handled was not acceptable.
At many points in my reporting process, I was told to go to SafeSport, and I did. However, because United States Masters Swimming does not participate in SafeSport, there was nothing they could do for me.
By participating in SafeSport, the policies on sexual misconduct would be consistent and there would be no right or wrong way to report. Many adult swimmers come up through USA Swimming, and many swimmers also participate in USA Triathlon. Coaches would also receive the same training on sexual misconduct as USA Swimming and USA Triathlon coaches do. This would provide consistency across the board.
Participation in SafeSport would also help prevent repeat offenders. In many sports, swimming included, offenders have historically been widely known about, but hop from team to team to continue participating in the sport and hurting other victims. Even if my small team removed one person for sexual misconduct, they could move to another team to continue swimming. Currently, United States Masters Swimming reserves the right to remove folks on the USA Swimming Banned list, but they only do so if that person is pointed out to them. Sadly, that means there are folks who have committed sexual misconduct so bad that they were kicked out of USA Swimming but they are still coaching and swimming for United States Masters Swimming.
This would also protect our volunteers and coaches. My case deeply concerned the Florida regional governing body and they have made it clear that they want to change the bylaws so they aren't responsible for dealing with sexual misconduct cases as and feel they need protection. By having SafeSport handle these cases, these volunteers can focus on what they came here to focus on.
Most importantly, adopting SafeSport within United States Masters Swimming would protect our swimmers with the same caliber of service as USA Swimming or USA Triathlon does.
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