Olympic gold medalist Shannon Miller and former WNBA President Donna Orender co-chair committee to develop abuse prevention education program for youth athletes.
The Monique Burr Foundation for Children (MBF) announced the launch of the MBF Athlete Safety Matters™ program – a comprehensive program developed based on the principles of evidence-based and evidence-informed programs that are the first of their kind: MBF Child Safety Matters® and MBF Teen Safety Matters®. To date, MBF has reached more than 2.5 million children and teens, with the hope that will grow as youth athletes are educated and empowered to prevent, recognize, and respond appropriately to multiple types of victimization including child sexual abuse and other types of abuse, bullying, cyberbullying, and digital dangers.
“Given the recent headlines and the confirmed cases of abuse, we knew we had to respond swiftly and efficiently with a program designed specifically for youth athletes,” said Lynn Layton, President and CEO of MBF. “It is our hope that we will continue to change the conversation until comprehensive prevention education is the norm in every home, every school, every sports venue, and every community.”
Research shows that 95 percent of child abuse is preventable through education. MBF leaders, including board members Shannon Miller, seven-time Olympic medalist in gymnastics, and Donna Orender, former president of the WNBA, firmly believe that to protect youth athletes, from beginning to elite levels, parents, guardians, coaches, schools, and communities must work collaboratively and focus their energy and attention on prevention education.
“Taking training from the classroom where more than 2.5 million children and teens have been reached through our programs – to our courts, our fields, our gyms – is a natural progression of what we’re doing to keep children safe,” said Donna Orender, former WNBA President.
The need for prevention education is urgent with research showing 1 in 4 children will be victimized before the age of 18. More specifically, 75 percent of athletes report experiencing some type of abuse while participating in youth sports. Through the MBF Athlete Safety Matters program, two lessons will be presented to youth athletes in grade-level clusters (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12) by trained facilitators. The program teaches the 5 Safety Rules:
- Safety Rule #1 – Know What’s Up
- Safety Rule #2 – Spot Red Flags
- Safety Rule #3 – Make a Move
- Safety Rule #4 – Talk It Up
- Safety Rule #5 – No Blame | No Shame
“We’ve come a long way with regard to safety equipment – it’s now time to tackle all forms of abuse head on, without hesitation and without distraction,” said Shannon Miller. “As an athlete and as a mother, I know what a positive role sports can play in a child’s life. The answer isn’t to keep our children away from the incredible benefits of youth sports, it’s to educate and empower all children through youth sports.”
The MBF Athlete Safety Matters program meets the legislative requirement of the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017 for athlete prevention education. The program is currently available for youth athletes in grades kindergarten through five with additional grades being added in 2019.
“Youth sports were a hallmark of childhood and adolescence for many of us, and we understand that parents want their children to have a safe and enriching experience as they compete in the sports they love,” added Layton. “We share this commitment and want to equip youth athletes with the tools and skills to respond to unsafe situations like bullying, cyberbullying, or abuse.”
To learn more, visit www.mbfpreventioneducation.org.