Arrest of Winnipeg coach on sexual assault charges sends shockwaves through local football community
Bystander intervention critical to preventing similar situations: Respect Group co-founder
Some members of Winnipeg's football community say they are in shock after a longtime high school coach was charged with multiple counts of sexual assault.
Kelsey Albert Dana McKay, 51, was arrested this week by Winnipeg police and charged with five counts of sexual assault, four counts of sexual exploitation, four counts of luring and one count of sexual interference. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Police say the sex crimes unit was contacted this month by five adults who alleged McKay sexually assaulted them between 2004 and 2011, while they were students and played football for Churchill High School and Vincent Massey Collegiate.
Brad Black, who coaches for the football program Recruit Ready, says McKay was his coach when he was younger.
"He's coached a lot of my friends in the past. He's coached a lot of athletes that we have in our program currently, as well as players that we've had in our program in the past. So I guess the first thing obviously was the shock of it all," he said.
"But then, you know, after you kind of get past the shock of it all, I guess anger, disappointment, a lot of empathy for the kids that were were victim to this, obviously. So there's a whole wide range of different emotions kind of going through my mind right now."
Black, who is a parent himself, says he doesn't think football programs should be viewed in a negative light because of the allegations against McKay, but says he understands parents will likely have concerns.
"Any time something like this happens, it's going to make people reflect on what's going on with their kids or what happened to their kids in the past," he said.
"And it brings up … a level of concern."
Football Manitoba executive director Bill Johnson said Wednesday his thoughts were with the survivors, adding that members of the football community are still processing the news.
"It's just a terrible, terrible thing when when when children especially are victimized. So that's that's where my thoughts go immediately."
Important to speak up
During a news conference Wednesday, Winnipeg Police Service Const. Dani McKinnon said police believe McKay forged relationships beyond what is typically expected of coaches and teachers.
"He's a person in position of trust and then this relationship begins in that fashion and, unfortunately, it breaches those lines," she said.
That is a common theme in these types of situations, and something parents and bystanders should watch out for, said Wayne McNeil, co-founder and president of Respect Group Inc., an organization he started with his best friend and sexual abuse survivor Sheldon Kennedy to fight abuse, harassment and discrimination in sport.
"Because in most of these cases, and I'm sure in this one, there will be people that surrounded the environment where the perpetrator was. And they're going to say, I had a gut feeling about that," he said.
At the end of the day, when it comes to these types of issues, you've got to take the high road and report.- Wayne McNeil, co-founder, Respect Group Inc.
Part of the work the Respect Group does focuses on educating and empowering bystanders, McNeil said.
If you find yourself in this situation, McNeil suggested talking about your concerns with someone you trust and asking if they will observe what's going on as well.
"What they need to do is go and validate their observations and their feelings with a trusted friend or a colleague, another coach, depending on what the environment is and if they're not feeling comfortable on their own, seek advice from others," he said.
"At the end of the day, when it comes to these types of issues, you've got to take the high road and report."
Police are asking anyone with information that could help them in this investigation to reach out to them.
But McNeil said survivors have to come forward in their own time.
"People need to feel ready. And there's no doubt that when victims do come forward, it's a great day," he said.
"But at the same time, they still have to deal with the aftermath of coming forward.… It's not over for victims when they come forward. It's the first step and one in a long process that they're going to have to go through."
With files from Andrew Wildes