The Foundation for Global Sports Development is dedicated to fighting sexual abuse and has committed $1 million towards a new education and abuse prevention program called COURAGE FIRST, in collaboration with Survivors and leading national child abuse prevention organizations. The program will include a tour of the documentary At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal, produced by Dr. Steven Ungerleider and David Ulich (Munich ‘72 and Beyond) of the organization’s production arm, Sidewinder Films, and directed by Erin Lee Carr.
About COURAGE FIRST
Child sex abuse is common in the US with 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys being victims. With COURAGE FIRST, The Foundation for Global Sports Development will support youth-serving organizations and institutions in creating safe and abuse-free environments for children and teens. Survivor advocates and partners are involved in every step of the initiative, from consulting on program development and participating in digital assets to attending youth and sports-centered conferences, roundtables and workshops. The website, COURAGEFIRST.org, provides adults and teens with easy-to-access and age appropriate online tools including: Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children® certification course in English and Spanish; a multimedia awareness and education campaign of podcasts; videos and imagery; a monthly e-newsletter to keep readers up to date on research, policy and legislation; links to FAQ’s, testimonials, social media accounts and national hotlines; as well as a link to register to host or attend screenings of At The Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal.
About COURAGE FIRST Film Tour
A tour of screenings of At Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal began shortly after the HBO release and will continue at film festivals, universities, sporting events and community town halls across the U.S. and around the world. Upcoming stops include the New York Public Library, Brown University, Michigan State University, Jerusalem Cinematheque and the Women Sports Film Festival in San Francisco. Speakers at select screenings will include producers, Dr. Ungerleider and Mr. Ulich; leading child abuse prevention partners; as well as COURAGE FIRST Survivor advocates Alexis Alvarado, Christina Barba, Larissa Boyce, Charmaine Carnes, Kat Ebert, Grace French, Denise Gallion Cervenka, Lyndsy Gamet, Trinea Gonczar, Megan Halicek, Louise Harder, Heather Kelly, Sabrina Mar, Emily Meinke, Emma Ann Miller, Danielle Moore, Jessica Ann Smith, Kristen Thelen, Amanda Thomashow, Melody van der Veen.
Following select screenings, COURAGE FIRST will lead a presentation about the film’s themes of child sex abuse in sports, what “grooming” looks like and the long-term trauma of sexual violence to help viewers connect the dots and take action in preventing child abuse in their own environments. Furthermore, the program will include strategic discussion guides, roundtables and surveys.
About At The Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal
At The Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal chronicles how for more than two decades Dr. Larry Nassar was the osteopathic physician for the U.S. Women’s Olympic gymnastics team and a physician at Michigan State University (MSU), while sexually abusing hundreds of female athletes. The documentary premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival followed by a May 3, 2019 home release on HBO platforms.
Based on years of research by producers Dr. Steven Ungerleider and David Ulich, the documentary, directed by Erin Lee Carr, features testimonials from coaches, lawyers, journalists, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, and most importantly the dozens of brave athlete survivors at the center of the scandal, that go beyond the sensational headlines. The film reveals a dangerous system that prioritizes winning over everything else, including protecting young female athletes. It exposes an environment in which young women spent their youth competing for victory on a world stage, juxtaposed against a culture where abuse was hidden, and lives were forever damaged.
Dr. Larry Nassar worked with athletes, especially gymnasts, as a respected trainer and team physician. He taught Sunday school, volunteered in the community and was seemingly well-liked. While Nassar tended to aches and pains, becoming a friend and confidant to many girls along the way, some of the methods he presented as treatment were sexual abuse.
For years, accusations and evidence grew against the doctor, as several young women came forward to their coaches, universities and parents. At Michigan State, mounting evidence suggested that reports of Nassar’s improper treatments, which sometimes occurred when parents were present, were dismissed by officials who chose to defend the popular doctor.
In 2016, after Rachael Denhollander went public with her story in the Indianapolis Star, the tide finally began to turn against Nassar, as more and more women filed lawsuits against him and the institutions that had shielded him for so long.
Nassar was subsequently fired from MSU. In 2017, he pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography after 37,000 images were found on his computer. He eventually also pleaded guilty to abuse charges in Michigan, with the understanding that another 125 cases would not be tried. After one of the most high-profile trials in recent history, Nassar was found guilty and is currently in federal prison.
At his Jan. 2018 Ingham County sentencing, 88 survivors had been scheduled to make statements. By the end of that week, 156 women, all with a shared history of abuse, had bravely come forward. Trinea Gonczar, another survivor and a longtime family friend of Nassar, said to her abuser, “You hurt me, as I’ve had to realize I was abused for many years of my life…I will do everything for the rest of my life to make sure that the ‘you’s’ of this world don’t get to hurt another one of us.”
After a week of powerful testimonies, Judge Aquilina meted out a 175-year sentence, effectively imprisoning Nassar for life. Because so many survivors went public, some of the institutions and athletic organizations that protected Nassar, began to implement changes. In March 2018, MSU agreed to a $500 million settlement for athletes abused by Nassar. In Oct. 2018, Steve Penny, former president of USA Gymnastics, was arrested for tampering with evidence in the Nassar case. His case is still pending. Congress went on to pass legislation enforcing mandatory reporting of sexual abuse in amateur sports. One week after Nassar’s sentencing, the entire board of USA Gymnastics resigned. One month later, Scott Blackmun stepped down as the chief executive of the United States Olympic Committee, an organization that also moved to decertify USA Gymnastics as the sport’s governing body.
About Global Sports Development & Sidewinder Films
Working closely with international sports federations, generous donors and committed athletes, The Foundation for Global Sports Development promotes sportsmanship, education, fair play and ethics among the world’s youth. The Foundation gives special emphasis to groups and communities that are most in need or most underserved by current programs, including women, minorities and youth in areas where the risk of delinquency is particularly high. Sidewinder Films, a 501(c)3 film production company founded by FGSD, uses the medium of film to convey its mission to a broader audience.. Visit www.globalsportsdevelopment.org and www.sidewinderfilms.org to learn more.