Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Hockey NL Launches Compulsory Sexual Violence Prevention Pilot Program CBC News

When hockey players in Newfoundland and Labrador hit the ice this season, they won’t be the only ones working on the new skill: so will some of their coaches—who will have to take sexual violence prevention training earlier this season.

Hockey NL this week announced a pilot program that will provide free and compulsory training for all coaching staff training involving the under-15, under-18 AAA, women’s and junior teams.

“It teaches them about some of the realities of sexual violence in sport and some of the tools that are available to help them and reduce that risk,” said Hockey NL interim president Jared Butler.

Butler said coaches from teams with young players are also encouraged to participate.

He said Hockey NL developed the curriculum with two medical students — Amy Graham and Patricia Tracy — who created a similar program for the university’s sports departments while studying at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.

Dr. Jared Butler, Vice President and Medical Director of Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador, says sexual violence is prevalent in the sport. (Katie Breen/CBC)

The program has an online module that takes approximately one hour to complete and participants are quizzed on the material to obtain a certificate of completion.

Butler cited statistics that show that between two and eight percent of minor athletes experience sexual violence, with that number rising to a quarter of athletes at the university level.

“The rationale behind our approach is that if we do education first, as these athletes are progressing through the levels…” Butler said.

Meanwhile, according to the Newfoundland and Labrador Sexual Harassment Crisis and Prevention Center, one in two women experience sexual assault.

“I think it’s the behavior of every person in any organization, community, to do what they can to improve the very dire statistics,” he said, adding that he wants hockey to be in the NL game. Became a leader in reducing sexual violence.

Training not reacting to Hockey Canada scandal

Hockey NL is implementing training months after Hockey Canada, the national governing body for ice hockey in the country, has been embroiled in scandal.

Reports surfaced this summer that Hockey Canada settled claims from sexual assault victims, using a pot of money funded by a modest hockey registration fee.

The scandal rocked the game after eight members of Canada’s world junior team accused a woman of sexual assault in London, Ont., in 2018. Hockey Canada settled a lawsuit with a woman for $3.5 million.

More allegations of sexual harassment involving the 2003 world junior team emerged in July.

Michael Doyle trains under-13 and under-15 players during practice at DF Barnes Arena on Tuesday afternoon. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

However, Butler said that work on the Hockey NL schedule began before the scandal broke and has been in the works for the past 18 months.

“I am hoping that people will understand that this is not a reaction. It is a natural evolution of Hockey NL to maintain its leadership in providing this important education to all of our coaches and members,” he said.

Good first step, says sexual assault prevention advocate

Sandra McKellar, executive director of the NL Sexual Assault Crisis and Prevention Center, says the program is a good initial step.

“I think it’s because of a long time ago,” she said.

McKellar said sexual violence is often underestimated and is more prevalent than many people realize. She says it can deeply affect a victim and lead to self-blame and shame.

“The impact is felt everywhere and it’s not something that goes away,” she said.

The training, says Butler, has been going on for a year and a half. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

McKellar also warns that sexual violence training can also come with disclosures from victims who need support afterward.

“This should also include organizations like ours,” she said. “We provide service, we provide support.”

She wants to see the training refresher given to coaches over and over again, and to see it extended to an appropriate age for all coaches and players – even the younger ones.

In the meantime, Butler said, after this hockey season, the medical students making the program will evaluate the pilot. He hopes to expand training to more coaches next year, and eventually to players, he also wants to add mental health training to the mix.

“I think the more people who can complete this course, the better I think our program will be,” he said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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