By Leah Coppella
Photos by Rob Lloyd

Carleton University has launched a unique sexual consent training program for varsity athletes and coaches – Champions for Change – which considers them leaders and an important part of the solution to sexual harassment and violence.

Bailey Reid, Carleton’s sexual assault support coordinator, co-created the innovative program with JR LaRose, a retired CFL champion.

The two conducted workshops for 11 athletes from various sports teams on Aug. 7 to 9, 2019, which ignited conversations about intersectionality, rape mythology, masculinity, victim blaming, and alcohol and consent.

Champions for Change Tackle Sexual Violence

Bailey Reid

The training is providing athletes with tools to develop intervention strategies in cases of sexual harassment and violence.

Reid says she and LaRose partner every year to provide sexual consent training for the Ottawa RedBlacks. This year, Kwesi Loney, Raven’s men’s soccer coach, suggested they take it to the next level at Carleton.

“After one of the training sessions, LaRose suggested creating a space where the athletes could actually talk, have a conversation and ask questions,” Reid says.

“I’ve dedicated the rest of my life to speaking about gender-based violence and sexual violence,” LaRose says.

“For me, being a former athlete, I understand the importance of a student athlete being involved in creating that culture shift, especially here at Carleton.”

Champions for Change Tackle Sexual Violence

Champions for Change Aims to Shift Cultural Norms

LaRose says that student athletes have a lot of power and with that comes the ability to change cultural norms.

“The solutions that the students are coming up with are a breath of fresh air and (it’s great) knowing that there are people out there who want to be part of the solution.”

Loney, who played a major role in developing the program, says that he is very proud of Carleton’s support of such a critical topic.

Champions for Change Tackle Sexual Violence

JR LaRose

Champions for Change is providing a forum for our students to not only express themselves openly and honestly, but also empowering them to become the catalyst for real change within our student body and outside communities.”

Tawnya Guindon, an alumna and former women’s hockey captain who is joining the hockey team as assistant coach for the 2019-2020 season, joined the workshop to learn more.

“Knowing what to do when sexual violence happens will really help the victim pull through,” she says. “It’s not something we like to talk about, but it’s something that we absolutely have to.”

Cedric Theriault is a second-year student on the football team who believes in the ability of athletes to challenge sexual violence on campus.

“I believe the football team is a big piece of campus and I think we can really change the culture among varsity athletes,” Theriault says.

“We need to be aware of issues outside the field and now we know how to intervene when we are at the bar, around campus, or when we hear bad locker room talk.”

Elevating Conversations About Sexual Violence

Maz Atta, a recent Journalism graduate, was on the water polo team for three years.

“From my own experiences, I have seen others refer to women in vulgar terms and talk about sexual assault as a joke. I thought it was a big problem,” he says.

“I used to be the person who just ignored it, but then I realized I can’t be quiet anymore.”

In April, Carleton’s Board of Governors passed a revised Sexual Violence Policy which commits to a “positive learning, working and living environment where sexual violence will not be tolerated and is treated with the seriousness it deserves.”

The revised policy is intended to provide information about support and services at Carleton and ensure followups after a report is made. You can read the policy here.

Champions for Change fits right into Carleton’s sexual assault prevention strategy, says Reid, and it has the potential to grow.

“We knew that we wanted to do prevention work with varsity athletes who have so much social capital at Carleton as our pilot group to see if this model works.”

The program could also be a template for other Canadian universities and colleges looking to elevate conversations about sexual violence.

“I’m so glad that we asked the students what they need to know and where the gaps are,” Reid says. “That is what has been the most exciting thing.”

Champions for Change Tackle Sexual Violence

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Monday, August 12, 2019 in ,
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