About TAOS

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What is the mission of The Army of Survivors?

Our mission is to bring awareness, accountability, and transparency to sexual violence against athletes at all levels. Our work is athlete survivor-founded, survivor-led and trauma-informed and we carry out our work through three pillars that support TAOS’ mission: education, resources, and advocacy.

What is the goal of The Army of Survivors?

Our goal is to end sexual assault against young athletes by ensuring perpetrators and enablers are held accountable, creating transparency in reporting, building an environment in which athletes do not fear retaliation when reporting abuse, and advocating for change to protect survivors. 

How was the army of survivors founded?

In January 2018, more than 500 women came forward about the abuse they had experienced at the hands of the now defamed USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University physician who was convicted of sexually abusing hundreds of female athletes spanning three decades. After coming forward with their stories, more than 40 survivors decided to harness the pain from their trauma and work to ensure no athlete experiences sexual violence again. And from that, The Army of Survivors was born. In the following months, the survivors worked to gain non-profit status for The Army of Survivors. It has since grown into a national organization working to bring awareness and accountability to sexual violence against athletes on behalf of survivors across the country. For more information on what The Army of Survivors is currently working on, please visit Our Projects page.

What are you currently working on?

The Army of Survivors is working to provide resources to survivors and their allies, advocate for culture change, educate the community, and build sustainability within the organization. To better understand what we are currently working on, please visit Our Projects. The strategic vision of our organization can be found within our 2021-2023 Strategic Plan and is also found on Our Impact.

What impact has the Army of Survivors had since you began your work?

To better understand the impact we’ve had, please see Our Impact. Our annual reports give a deep dive into the work that we’ve done, and the impact we’ve made.

Are you advocating only for athlete survivors?

While our mission is to bring awareness, accountability, and transparency regarding sexual violence against athletes at all levels, our aim is for our work to impact survivors of any type of sexual violence. We distribute and create resources, advocate throughout nation by educating leaders on laws and bills that protect athletes from sexual violence, and bring more education and awareness to sexual violence. Our partnerships with other organizations and on broader projects that support our mission ensure that we support all survivors, with our organization filling the void and broadcasting the voices of survivors in sport. If you need additional support, please visit our resources page.

Are you advocating only for survivors in Michigan?

No. We strive to have a national impact with our work.

How is my money used?

The Army of Survivors focuses on creating resources, on advocacy, and on education that supports survivors of sexual violence. We create resources that support and encourage survivors. We actively advocate for legislation that gives survivors better access to justice. And we support education programs for youth and communities about sexual violence, its repercussions, and methods of prevention. For more information about our work, please visit Our Projects or view our 2021-2023 Strategic Plan for our future strategic visioning.

In 2021 100% of private individual donations that were spent went toward mission related activities.

How is time spent at the Army of Survivors?

Below is a breakdown of the number of hours spent within our organization on our objectives:

5% Newsletter and annual report
20% Resource creation
10% Sharing stories
10% Digital content creation
20% Educating state and community leaders
5% Grant gifting
5% Relationship building
10% Survivor input
10% Community participation
5% Shedding light on community issues

What are the tax implications of my donation?

The foundation was incorporated in the state of Michigan on Aug. 2, 2018. We received 501(c)(3) status from the IRS on Aug. 8, 2020. Contact your tax professional regarding tax benefits of donations.

Does the organization represent the “sister survivors”?

Our statements and actions have a limited ability to represent all narratives of the Sister Survivors of the sexual abuse enabled by Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, and the US Olympic Committee. The majority of our founding volunteers are Sister Survivors of this case; however, The Army of Survivors is a separate entity. We fully support these Sister Survivors and all other survivors of sexual violence.

General FAQ

What is the prevalence of sexual abuse in sport?

A recent study indicated that 13% of student athletes are victims of sexual assault through their participation in sport 1). This statistic is likely low due to underreporting. With participation levels as they are today, there are at least 5.91 million survivors in the United States alone (2)(3).

Your main focus is sexually abused athletes. Why is this group overlooked or marginalized more than other groups?

Child athletes, like all children, need the right supports so that they experience healthy development. But right now, elite child athletes are at risk for experiences that harm their development, including physical injury, psychological burnout, and abuse (emotional, physical and sexual). Too often, coaches and sports institutions are only concerned about winning, and willingly put children at risk of physical and mental harm. And because sports institutions give coaches too much power, abuse is common and goes unchecked. Child athletes have the same needs as other children, as well as needs that are specific to their role as athletes.

In addition to unchecked power, and a focus on outcomes rather than wellbeing, the public often looks at athletes as super-human. When people think that child athletes are superhuman—and therefore as more than just children or more than mere humans, it is hard for them to see that child athletes need the same things other children do, such as socialization with other children and support for mental health and development, in addition to the training and supports they receive in their role as athletes. People have a hard time seeing that superhuman children can actually get hurt or might need breaks for their bodies and minds to develop well or to heal.

Source: Communicating about Child Athlete Wellbeing: Challenges, Opportunities,and Emerging Recommendations by Frameworks. January, 2021.

Why are so many athletes reluctant to report?

Generally, RAINN gives us a good understanding of why sexual violence victims choose to report, or not to: 

Of the sexual violence crimes reported to police from 2005-2010, the survivor reporting gave the following reasons for doing so:

  • 28% to protect the household or victim from further crimes by the offender
  • 25% to stop the incident or prevent recurrence or escalation
  • 21% to improve police surveillance or they believed they had a duty to do so
  • 17% to catch/punish/prevent offender from reoffending
  • 6% gave a different answer, or declined to cite one reason
  • 3% did so to get help or recover loss

Of the sexual violence crimes not reported to police from 2005-2010, the victim gave the following reasons for not reporting:

  • 20% feared retaliation
  • 13% believed the police would not do anything to help
  • 13% believed it was a personal matter
  • 8% reported to a different official
  • 8% believed it was not important enough to report
  • 7% did not want to get the perpetrator in trouble
  • 2% believed the police could not do anything to help
  • 30% gave another reason, or did not cite one reason

Within sport, additional barriers to reporting may include:

  • Fear of retaliation
  • Not understanding it was assault or abuse 
  • Not knowing how or where to report
  • Fear of being sidelined or kicked off the team
  • Fear that reporting would jeopardize their career
  • Threats from perpetrators (financial, physical, or emotional

What is sexual abuse?

According the American Psychological Association, sexual abuse is unwanted sexual activity with perpetrators using force, making threats, or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent. More than 90% of victims know their perpetrators. Victims’ immediate reactions to sexual abuse may include shock, fear, and disbelief. Survivors demonstrate these emotions in many different ways that may or may not look like distress to untrained observers. Long-term effects of sexual abuse and rape include feelings of anxiety, fear, powerlessness, and post-traumatic stress disorder. While efforts to treat sex offenders remain unpromising, psychological interventions for survivors—especially group therapy—appears to be effective.

What is the difference between sexual abuse and sexual assault?

When perpetrators use force that is immediate, of short duration, or is infrequent rather than ongoing, the incident is referred to as a sexual assault rather than abuse. We support survivors of both traumas.