'Beyond the Locker Room' program tackles gender-based violence in the arena and out
Players pledge to be positive role models, challenge troubling behaviours
A new program seeking to combat gender-based violence in sports has launched in Stratford, Ont., and surrounding areas, and is aimed toward young male athletes.
"Beyond the Locker Room" asks sports team leads to sign a pledge, which acts as a code of conduct in the locker room and out. There is an educational portion if teams ask for it, but it's informal versus following a set curriculum.
The project, which started on Nov. 25, is a collaboration between the Stratford Police Services, Ontario Provincial Police, and the Victim Services of Huron County. The key points of the pledge include:
"Be positive role models in the locker room and our community."
"Constantly educate ourselves and others on how to combat gender-based violence."
"Recognize our privilege in the roles we hold, and use our platform to promote the voices of others."
"To recognize, challenge, and correct behaviour we witness in our community that contributes to gender based violence."
Gender-based violence in sports has been under the spotlight since news of the Hockey Canada controversy broke this summer where a previously settled sexual assault case against some players from the Canadian 2018 world junior team was re-opened.
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"It is really necessary at this point for some of these groups to reflect and say, 'Well, what can I do to help resolve some of these issues that we're seeing in society?'" Dawson Currie, the lead crisis responder with Victim Services of Huron County, told CBC News.
"It is not gender-based solely. It is not for one specific group … nobody's in trouble, nobody's pointing fingers. Our goal is to really find these groups that need to have the conversation and encourage them to push themselves to be leaders, to push themselves to the forefront of our community."
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Empowers instead of shames
The program came about when Darren Fischer, a community resource officer with Stratford Police Service, approached Currie about creating a program that addresses gender-based violence.
Fischer, who works with high school students in the region, says he spends a lot of time specifically dealing with issues regarding conflict with students.
"I'm dealing with unhealthy relationships, the issues regarding sexual consent, and I'm there as a general support for students as well," he told CBC News.
"Through the years that I've been within this role, I've seen a real need to not only educate youth regarding some of these concerns, but to try to empower them in a sense of building up leaders and building mentorship so that they can self monitor their own actions and educate one another."
They wanted a program that approaches the topic by empowering athletes and encouraging leadership versus using guilt or shame.
Organizers don't approach sports teams about the program, but wait for teams to reach out. The Stratford Blackswans rugby team were the first ones to come on board, but they've been in discussions with other teams, including The Stratford Warriors.
"I think it's a massively needed program and I'm very glad that it is coming to the forefront at this point and people are running with it as much as they are because this is an issue that impacts everyone," Currie said.