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The Army of Survivors: Scoring a perfect 10 for children in sports 

Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Programme / Partner story

Source: Pexels 

Our partner, The Army of Survivors (TAOS), was created in 2018 by a group of survivors of sexual abuse in sports, and is the only national organisation in the United States that advocates for, and supports, survivor athletes. Starting as a volunteer-run organisation with big ambitions, TAOS has become a professional organisation with national and international recognition.  

As a result of its ambition, it has been making significant progress towards its goal of ending sexual assault against young athletes. A recent example of this is the signing of a six-bill package into law by the Governor of Michigan to prevent sexual violence and improve access to justice for survivors. The bills will improve training for those required to report child abuse, codify consequences for medical professionals who use their authority to sexually abuse patients, and prohibit someone from using their authority to prevent or attempt to prevent reporting child abuse or sexual assault.  

This win has special significance, as these are the first bills against child sexual abuse to be signed into law in Michigan, a state where some of the most notorious crimes of sexual abuse towards children have taken place. The bills will have a tangible impact for all children across Michigan, and TAOS is committed to advocating for all US states to pass similar legislation.  

For example, it is currently working with the US Congress on the Safer Sports for Athletes Act of 2023 (the bill), which would bring much needed reforms to the US Center for SafeSport (the Center) – an independent safe sport organisation codified by the US Congress in 2018 to prevent abuse, educate, and bring accountability to sport throughout the US Olympic and Paralympic Movement (USOPC). The Center is fully independent from the USOPC, with the power to resolve abuse and misconduct reports for more than 11 million individuals. Its SafeSport Code governs all participants in the USOPC, and all governing bodies within the USOPC must adhere by the Center’s Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policies.  

TAOS conducted a series of interviews in May 2022 with a wide range of athletes who had had experiences with the Center. It found that there was a lack of trauma-informed training, poor communication, and a lack of transparency that raised questions about how the Center was deciding to resolve reports. The bill includes several reforms that target these specific shortcomings that were highlighted from TAOS’s interview sessions – such as increased transparency, communication, and trauma-informed training and support. The bill is expected to be formally introduced in the US Congress in August. 

At merely half a decade old, TAOS has created a monumental shift in the protection of child athletes in the US. The examples here are just a couple of their achievements, and you can find a list of all their successes by clicking here. 

This grant falls under Oak’s Prevent Child Sexual Abuse (PCSA) programme, and within that our priority funding area of safe sports, that supports efforts to safeguard children in sport and support survivor advocates in sports. You can find out more about the programme by clicking here. You can learn more about TAOS by clicking here.