Aiding Victims of Abuse
by Megan Kernan, Account Director
There are few organizations out there like The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. NYSPCC is one of the oldest organizations in the world dedicated to protecting kids from abuse and helping child victims of it on the long road to recovery. It’s an honor to help the foundation get the word out about their crucially important mission.
In spring 2019, NYSPCC was brought on board to support the Athlete Assistance Fund, an NGO that makes counseling services available to any current or former USAG member gymnast who’s suffered sexual abuse within the sport.
In the wake of Larry Nassar’s systematic abuse of gymnasts, the AAF turned to NYSPCC as an impartial, expert third party to perform a full-program needs assessment. AAF also wanted to provide sexual abuse prevention training to athletes, coaches, and parents to ensure that teen and child athletes know how to protect themselves.
NYSPCC’s announcement of the partnership was to be made during a time of extraordinary mistrust of the sport of gymnastics. Accusations of corruption at USAG were rampant. There was a lot of anger that this could go on for so long without official action.
In this context, our challenge was significant. We wanted to ensure NYSPCC had the right platform to start a conversation about how its expertise in child protection and sex abuse prevention could bring real and much needed change. But we also had to make sure that the AAF and NYSPCC were viewed as the independent parties they are. We had to make sure their reputations were protected as they set out to help correct a deep injustice.
We knew that achieving this mission would depend on doing great prep work. In fact, we started prepping two months out, navigating the issues and coordinating with comms teams from multiple organizations, each of which had a significant stake in the announcement. For NYSPCC, this moment was akin to a national debut, so we focused intensely on preparation for national media and the interview requests we expected to come.
At the same time, we worked alongside Board members from both NYSPCC and AAF to get announcement materials completed and interviews booked, including with Alicia Sacramone Quinn, one of the most decorated Olympic gymnasts of all time.
Making sure our press lists were accurate, inclusive and robust was also key, so we included reporters covering the USAG scandal and sex abuse, along with culture reporters, philanthropy publications, and of course, sports reporters. While the coverage of the scandal allowed for us to communicate with many reporters that were already aware of the climate, we needed to make sure NYSPCC’s long-time expertise was rightly communicated.
Given that this was only an announcement of the actual work (which was yet to come), the response was considerable. People.com, Reuters, ESPN.com, Bustle and IndyStar (hugely important given that Indianapolis is a major center for the sport), all covered the partnerships. Crucially, the partnership and the work it aimed to produced was received in a positive light.
Just as importantly, we had a chance to introduce NYSPCC to media outlets and reporters as a true expert. That positioning, which reflects the very core of what NYSPCC is all about, would be significant to the success of this effort. NYSPCC was seen an authority stepping in to promote healing after a major scandal. The organization became a national expert source on these topics and will continue to do the work that made it such an essential partner for New York communities.