BOSTON — Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) announced that the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation on Thursday aimed at strengthening protections against sexual abuse within the equestrian community. The bill, filed by Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport) and co-sponsored by Sen. Moore, requires Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) checks for equestrian instructors, stable and barn owners who work with children.
Equestrians have cited the need for expanding the CORI requirements as a result of incidents of sexual abuse in the horseback riding community. Riding lessons are often conducted in secluded settings without adult supervision other than a lone instructor. Victims of sexual abuse, many of whom are now adults, have come forward to share their stories about inappropriate sexual conduct committed by barn and stable owners or riding instructors.
“This legislation will help ensure that our Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents are safeguarded from sexual abuse,” said Sen. Moore. “No child should fall victim to a predator who has a track record of sexual abuse. I am proud to have co-sponsored this bill and appreciate the hard work and dedication of those who have advocated for its passage.”
“The passage of this bill by the Senate today is an important step forward to better protecting our most vulnerable children,” said Sen. Rodrigues. “We should never turn a blind eye to the fact that children of all ages are our most precious resource. Because of the hard work and advocacy of the horseback riding community and victim advocates, this bill closes a current loophole in the law and enhances public safety by requiring CORI checks for horse riding instructors, and stable and barn owners who work directly with children.”
New Hope, Inc., a nonprofit organization committed to ending domestic and sexual violence, has actively supported the legislation. Earlier this week, the organization submitted a letter to members of the Senate highlighting that “there is currently no way to assure that stable employee or riding instructor does not have a history of sexual offenses.”
The bill would close the existing gap by requiring licensed barns and stable owners to conduct CORI checks prior to accepting any person as an employee, volunteer, vendor or contractor who is working with children. During the debate, the Senate also adopted an amendment to the bill filed by Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) which ensures that the CORI requirement includes freelance riding instructors who are not associated with a licensed barn or stable.
“Those in our riding community know all too well that this problem exists in our state and across the country,” said Faith Muello who, as a survivor of sexual abuse by a barn owner, attended the Senate session to advocate for the bill. “I am glad the Senate has taken action to protect young riders from these monsters. The equestrian sport should be a child’s sweetest dream—not a nightmare.”
The bill will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.