The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the organization founded by John and Reve Walsh in 1984 after their son Adam was abducted and murdered, has announced a partnership with a number of athletes from the University of Michigan and The Ohio State University who were sexually abused by team doctors at the respective universities.
The partnership will focus on NCMEC's sports safety program that will educate coaches, trainers, parents, and other adults about how to keep young athletes safe from child sexual abuse. It will also aim to teach both adults and the athletes themselves about how to recognize and report abusive behavior.
Former University of Michigan football player Chuck Christian and former OSU lacrosse player Mike Avery will lead a team of athletes who will participate in a wide-range of initiatives for NCMEC including training and best practices for parents and coaches as we work to educate communities across America about this topic.
According to Callahan Walsh, son of John and Reve Walsh and a Child Advocate at NCMEC, it's vitally important to have survivors of sexual abuse participate in this program because their collective experiences shine a light on the prevalence of sexual abuse in sports.
“We are privileged to work with these survivors who have chosen to partner with NCMEC to help educate parents, coaches and the public regarding child sexual exploitation,” said Walsh. “The courage it takes to come forward and lend their voice and experience is unmatched and will make this world a safer place for children. Our goal is to create an environment in youth sports where children are safer, and they can just be kids.”
Chuck Christian, who played tight end at the University of Michigan from 1978-1982, including playing during UM's Rose Bowl win in 1981, providing a voice and sharing his story with parents, coaches and young athletes is important because it blows the shroud of secrecy off of what has been considered a taboo subject.
"The culture of silence surrounding sexual abuse in sports has long been the only reason it was able to continue," said Christian. "By bringing this subject into the light and alerting these young athletes that they don't have to tolerate this behavior is the first step toward ensuring that it doesn't continue."
Christian and hundreds of other athletes were sexually abused by University of Michigan team doctor Robert Anderson over a 35-year period. Christian and hundreds of others have sued the university.
Christian's attorney Michael Wright represents hundreds of athletes at both the University of Michigan and The Ohio State University and sees this partnership as a way to begin to eradicate sexual abuse from sports.
"So many lives were devastated after these athletes suffered horrific sexual abuse at the hands of team doctors," said Wright. "While many of these athletes are using the legal process to get a measure of justice, we also wanted to provide an avenue for mentorship and guidance so that children who are just beginning their sports careers won't have to endure similar tragedies."
Mike Avery, who played lacrosse at OSU from 1988-1991 and currently serves as a morning anchor at a FOX affiliate in Grand Rapids, Mich., is participating because he wants to be a voice for change. Avery and hundreds of other OSU athletes were abused by team doctor Robert Strauss during annual physicals and other visits.
"We collectively need to raise our voices and provide support for one another in order to stop this behavior from continuing," said Avery. "This partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children will provide a national outlet to reaching tens of thousands of young athletes, their parents and coaches to tell them that they need to come forward if they experience abuse or see others who are being abused."