Courage and strength were on display in a Palo Alto courtroom this week as two former athletes – past Stanford University lacrosse player (Judge Aaron Persky) and Stanford University swimmer (Brock Turner) – were among those present. However, they were not the people showing either courage or strength. No, the courageous person was the 23-year-old survivor of the sexual assault Turner was convicted of perpetrating, whose 7,244-word impact statement brought to chilling light the devastating effects of gender-based violence, and the all-too-common signs of indifference to it by college administrations and the judicial system.
It is not an exaggeration to say that what the Ray Rice video did to put a face to domestic violence, the survivor’s powerful words have done to give a voice to victims of sexual assault.
"We are witnessing and living through a historic shift in the national conversation about sexual assault," said Kirby Dick, "The Hunting Ground" director in an email to ESPN.
Hopefully we have reached a tipping point in changing the culture on college campuses. But what can be done? Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) has partnered with Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR), an organization working to redefine masculinity and strength, to create a curriculum designed to empower male college athletes to become positive contributors to a safer and healthier campus for all students.
As part of the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women Healthy Masculinity Campus Athletics Project, we are working with 13 colleges and universities around the country to instill a stronger sense of the characteristics most important to what it means to be an athlete.
At the crux of the initiative are:
PCA believes that by assuming the identity of a Triple-Impact Competitor® (making oneself, ones teammates/classmates and the game/community better), male college athletes have the opportunity to be leaders in upholding a culture free from gender-based violence.
Too often the privilege and prestige of athletes on campus has been used in a negative way. PCA and MCSR are working to leverage this power for the positive; and in so doing, create a better, safer and more enriching college experience for everyone. Hopefully this dialogue will redefine for athletes what it truly means to be “strong,” “powerful” and “courageous.”