POLICY PRIORITY AGENDA
The Army of Survivors (TAOS) is the only national organization advocating for child athlete survivors of sexual violence. Founded and led by athlete survivors, TAOS’ mission is to bring awareness, accountability, and transparency to sexual violence against athletes at all levels.
Through its work, TAOS is committed to ending sexual assault against athletes by ensuring perpetrators and enablers are held accountable, creating transparency in reporting, and advocating for cultural change to better protect athletes. TAOS is dedicated to working within a trauma-informed, intersectional approach.
Young athletes face extreme vulnerability to abuse because of their age, isolation, the intimate nature of coaching and sporting skills, increased physical care and scrutiny, pressures and stressors of athletic competition, as well as concerns about career opportunities in a finite time frame. A 2021 study by World Players Association found that 13% of student-athletes experience sexual violence through their participation in sports, yet this number is believed to be much higher due to the nature of underreporting.
There remains the necessity to shift toward a culture change in sports with athlete- and survivor-centered, trauma-informed solutions. One of the goals of TAOS is to advocate for inclusive, diverse, and trauma-informed national and international laws and policies that support survivors of sexual abuse in sports. Preventing and addressing sexual violence in connection to educational systems and student-athletes requires institutional and national policy change. Through its advocacy work, TAOS hopes to address the deficiencies in our current system and how it is failing athletes.
TAOS works with national and international partners to create transformative change. For example, TAOS is a proud member of the Keep Kids Safe Movement, which supports the passage of comprehensive national legislation that would invest in policies, programs, and research to increase the reach of programs that protect survivors of childhood and adolescent sexual violence.
The policy priorities of TAOS are:
Preventing Sexual Violence, Including Education and Culture Change
- Create culture change to better protect young athletes by incentivizing campuses and school districts to include model policies and best practices co-created by athletes and athlete-survivors regarding sexual assault and abuse in sports. This should include trauma-informed and evidence-informed or evidence-based curricula specific to sexual assault in sports, prevention policies and practices, how to report, student-athlete rights, and model action post-reporting. It is important to note that many sports programs in the United States take place outside of the school setting and prevention should include education and outreach to parents/guardians, coaches and trainers.
- Significantly increase investments in prevention strategies to reduce sexual violence and promote social norms changes including consent, diversity, and equity; trauma surveys for youth who might need care and services; programs that support active bystander and upstander approaches; those that engage men and boys not only as survivors, but as allies in changing social norms; and those that engage parents.
Intervention, Healing, and Service
- Invest in survivor-centered and trauma-informed services so survivors can engage in processes that help them heal which can include comprehensive mental health services, family and community supports, and evidence-informed or evidence-based counseling and healing to process trauma. We support the passage of an Athlete Survivor Bill of Rights.
Community, Institutional, and System-Based Accountability
- Strengthen reporting procedures and the governance structure of sports systems.
- Support the revision of the Title IX rules to improve the ability for student survivors to report harassment and sexual violence, increase transparency of the Title IX process, improve safety, and hold universities and colleges accountable. This includes holding universities accountable by requiring university leaders to certify if they have received any reports of sexual abuse perpetrated by university employees.
- Improve international mechanisms of reporting and accountability for those who cause harm and systems who allow abuse to continue.
- Support legislation prohibiting nondisclosure and non-disparagement agreements.
- Ensure that persons who cause harm and institutions that enable abuse are held responsible and provide criminal legal and civil systems remedies for survivors.
- Support survivor empowerment legislation such as statutes of limitation reform and expanded victims’ rights legislation.
- Reflect the same policy principles for change with international sports organizations and governments so there is more transparency, better alternatives, and protections for athletes from abuse and retaliation.
- Support the broader Brave Movement to end childhood sexual violence. These efforts informed the Brave Movement’s #BeBrave Global Call to Action, with four global priorities:
- Justice: Abolish statute of limitations laws to guarantee that survivors who choose to can bring perpetrators and complicit institutions to justice;
- Investment: Mobilize billions of domestic financing by governments and, as appropriate, official development assistance from wealthy countries to solve this neglected crisis in low and middle-income countries to finance comprehensive policies and programs for prevention, healing, and justice;
- Safety: Ensure a child rights-driven approach to creating a safe and secure internet for all children and adolescents, free of sexual violence;
- Inclusion: Inclusion of survivor voices in policy-making and decision-making.
Led by and informed by survivors’ experiences, TAOS is thoughtful in its policy engagement and will only support policies that that value and operationalize diversity, equity and inclusion into its practices and policies and that adhere to the following guiding principles: survivor and athlete-centered, research based, trauma-informed, cognizant of the intersectionality of these issues, and supportive of under-resourced communities.