Cal Ripken Jr., Joe Ehrmann and Sheldon Kennedy played different sports. Their careers were as different as their demeanors and speech. But their cause was singular as they grabbed the microphone and spoke to the heads of Pop Warner, USA Swimming, the Boys and Girls Clubs and 50 other youth organizations.
“Basically, we’re all committed to make sure more kids don’t suffer,” said Ehrmann, a towering, gruff, white-haired former defensive lineman who played for the Baltimore Colts and Detroit Lions in the 1970s and early 1980s.
In the coming days, a document intended by its authors to be the “gold standard” for helping prevent childhood sexual abuse will be made available at safetocompete.org. The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and the children’s center that hosted the two-day event in Alexandria are urging every youth sports organization to adopt a set of guidelines. The goal is to enlighten both kids who play sports and their parents, to empower the bystander who sees something wrong and to better expose the sick people who prey on children.
The committee that assembled the guidelines benefited from the the input of pediatricians, law-enforcement officials, advocates for better background checks of coaches and volunteers, and a team of international sports scientists. It also had the personal anecdotes of survivors such as Ehrmann and Kennedy, and the social conscience of Ripken.
“After this I think every parent of a youth sports player in America today ought to be able to go to any coach and say, ‘What’s different since Penn State? What have you put in place that makes my child safer and better protected?’ ” Ehrmann said. “And I think if we can create that kind of social agitation that would really force a tremendous amount of organizations and coaches to implement it, [we’ve succeeded] in helping some of those kids.”
This was a disturbing — but even more necessary — meeting of minds.
An FBI survey of incarcerated pedophiles, we were told at Tuesday’s session, revealed they committed on average 150 acts of molestation. Some of the literature found in the homes of arrested pedophiles included nearly 200-page guides on how to groom boys for sexual abuse, naming specific coaching and volunteer jobs in which they had a better chance of not getting caught. “It doesn’t matter how or where you want to find children, but sad and lonely children are the children you want to look for,” stated one of the directives, available online to pedophiles. There were interviews with convicted child sexual predators about the demented rationalization they use to “help” kids through a rough time.