President Donald Trump signed a measure on Wednesday aimed at preventing the kind of systemic sexual abuse perpetrated by Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who was recently sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison.
More than 150 women and girls said in court that he sexually abused them over the past two decades, including gold medalist Aly Raisman.
Sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, the legislation creates an organization independent of the U.S. Olympic Committee that would be responsible for receiving and handling inquiries and reports about abuse and making sure that allegations are promptly reported to law enforcement when necessary or resolved internally.
“The world witnessed firsthand the bravery of 156 women — so many of whom have represented our country at the highest levels of athletics in the Olympics — confronting a man they were told they could trust, as Larry Nasser was sentenced to prison for sexually assaulting them,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, said in a statement. “These women have endured too much, which is why we must do more to protect our amateur athletes, so this never happens again.”
The measure aims to ensure that law enforcement is contacted within 24 hours for certain kinds of incidents and make training mandatory.
The event took place behind closed doors in the Oval Office and comes as the White House is engulfed in its own abuse scandal with former staff secretary Rob Porter. The president has not publicly condemned Porter or expressed sympathy to Porter’s two ex-wives.
But White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has said “the president and the entire administration take domestic violence very seriously and believe all allegations need to be investigated thoroughly.”
Trump, given the range of sexual harassment and assault allegations against him, has long struggled to respond to the nationwide focus on the mistreatment of women.
During the election, at least 15 women made allegations against Trump ranging from sexual harassment and sexual assault to lewd behavior around women. They came forward in the wake of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape of Trump released in October 2016 that caught him saying on a hot mic: “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the p****. You can do anything.”
But the White House — through Sanders and others — has dismissed all the allegations against him as old news that had been litigated during the 2016 campaign.