The Duty to Act | Event Recording & Resources


On Thursday, February 18th, 2021 we hosted our third event in our Critical Issues in Women’s Sport series. Prof. Guiora joined ShePower Sport to discuss the role enablement plays in sexual abuse in sport, the relationship between enabler, perpetrator, and survivor, why enablement must be addressed, what is the duty to act, and the related regulatory and legislative changes he suggests for sport and society globally.

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Watch Our Discussion Here

In his new book, ‘Armies of Enablers: Survivor Stories of Complicity and Betrayal in Sexual Assaults’, Prof. Amos Guiora assembled the stories of sexual assault survivors from USA Gymnastics and Michigan State, among others, with a focus on how institutions and individuals enabled the abuse to continue for years.

In this webinar, Prof. Guiora shares his learnings from personal interviews with survivors to discuss power imbalances between athletes and those in a position to protect them, institutionalized ignorance, and how power structures protect themselves.

“Behind every high-profile sexual assault scandal, there’s an army of people whose decisions helped perpetuate the abuse,” he notes.

Key Learnings from the discussion

  • The impact of the second assault by enablers on survivors’ lives cannot be overestimated. The abandonment by the people and institutions they turned to and in whom they trusted to protect often weighs more heavily on them than the abuse by the perpetrator.
  • A bystander is physically present during the abuse and knows the person is in peril. They have the capability to act. However, they are in this position entirely by chance and have no prior relationship with the victim.
  • An enabler knows the victim and has a prior relationship with them. They are in a position to protect and prevent future assaults.
  • Prof. Guiora says: None of the survivors with whom I engaged heard the simple words, “ I believe you. Tell me what I can do.”
  • There are different types of enablers: dismissive, discouraging, deceitful, and punitive.
  • Enablers decide not to act. Prof. Guiora suggests to criminalize this failure to act. Examples of crimes of omission that we accept as normal in daily life are not stopping at a red traffic light or not filing taxes.
  • When faced with the decision to protect the institution or the survivor, enablers make the decision to protect the brand.
  • Institutions engage in denial and believing that their regulations and rules are sufficient, whereas the same pattern of enablement repeats itself again and again.
  • Deterrence is one of the intended goals of legislation that criminalizes conduct.

Questions and Answers

Can an enabler be prosecuted? Is there a legal precedent for such prosecutions in any jurisdiction you are aware of? 

  1. Statutes criminalising the bystander exist in 10 US states and 26–28 countries worldwide.

  2. Similar statutes for the enabler will require a concerted effort moving forward.

  3. The enabler is distinct from an accomplice,  co-conspirator, and someone who is aiding and abetting. 

What legislative changes does Prof. Guiora suggest to protect athletes from abuse in sport?

  1. Criminalise the bystander and enabler
  2. Financial penalties
  3. Permanent banning from sports
  4. In the US: stricter enforcement of Title IX.

What can international sports federations do to protect athletes?

  1. Recognise the vulnerability of athletes
  2. Establish reporting mechanisms predicated on believing the athlete who reports/complains
  3. Develop institutionalised paper trails documenting complaints and steps taken
  4. Act aggressively against perpetrators, bystanders, and enablers alike
  5. Hold federation/ organisational leaders directly accountable for the misbehaviour of coaches and trainers 
  6. Impose financial penalties on organisations (in addition to sanctions against individuals)
  7. Avoid engaging in self-congratulatory behaviour.

Are these guidelines applicable to women in sport only or also to women in other settings?

It is important to realise that survivors are by no means female athletes only. Males athletes can be and are victims of abuse, too. Furthermore, the legislation applies to various settings across society and is not limited to sports.

What percentage of bystanders and enablers are also survivors?

We do not know this beyond anecdotal evidence. Overall, the data on abuse in sports that we have is extremely limited.

How can we shift the enablement culture, particularly in patriarchal societies?

It is important to recall that the enablers, just as perpetrators, are not necessarily male. Female coaches, trainers, and administrators enabled Larry Nasser’s decade-long abuse of athletes.

About Professor Amos Guiora

Amos N. Guiora is Professor of Law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah. He is actively involved in bystander legislation efforts in Utah and other states. He is a world-renowned expert and has published extensively both in the United States and Europe on issues related to the bystander effect, limits of interrogation, complicity, the limits of power, multiculturalism, and human rights. Before ‘Armies of Enablers,’ he wrote, ‘The Crime of Complicity. The bystander in the Holocaust,’ and was the first to research this specific aspect.

Prof. Guiora requested that we share his email address for everyone who wishes to contact him privately: 


‘Armies of Enablers: Survivor Stories of Complicity and Betrayal in Sexual Assaults’ is available at bookstores and on:
Amazon (paperback)
Blackwell’s (paperback)
Shop ABA (paperback and e-book)
To understand enablement and the role of leadership better, read How Psychology can help leaders avoid malpractice and the crime of complicity here .
To learn more about abuse in sport and being able to advocate for that topic and for victims:


  • Behind ShePower Sport are two sport medical professionals, Yoko Dozono and Katharina Grimm. With their combined global sporting background, some of which include Director of Medical affairs at Aspetar, member of Medicine & Science at World Anti-Doping Agency, heading the FIFA medical office, and an international level athlete, they are strong advocates for clean sports and female athletes’ health and rights.