Two things recently led us to take up the issue of sexual violence with our student athletes. The first was the highly-publicized recent events at another local university. The second was recent changes in Title IX. We are now required to report any suspicion of harassment or abuse. While this is wonderful in theory, administrators have had many discussions on whether this allows students to feel safe or shuts people down, knowing anything they insinuate must be reported and they may face social backlash.
Around the same time this was implemented, Hope Clinic’s therapist, Terry Cheatham, spoke at my church, and I was introduced to the clinic and their prevention program. Soon after, we welcomed Terry and the clinic’s CEO Renée Rizzo to speak to our athletes. We could not have asked for two more perfect people to lead these trainings. Terry is extremely passionate and educated, and Renée instantly connected with the females given her history as a student athlete.
For the males, they took a different approach by dealing with the over-sexualization of young men and women, learning to be positive bystanders, making healthy choices with alcohol and pornography, and addressing rape culture. We’ve hosted similar seminars with other organizations, but the males said Terry was able to keep their attention and they felt comfortable talking about these sensitive subjects.
Since our session, we know students have sought counseling individually. While we offer counseling on campus, not everyone feels comfortable walking through those doors, so we’re glad this provided an alternative for someone to get the help they need in a place where they feel safe and anonymous.
– Heather Copeland, Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance, Belmont University