‘Beyond the Locker Room’ program addresses gender-based violence in and out of the arena

A new program aimed at combating gender-based violence in sport, Stratford, Ont. and surrounding areas, targeting young male athletes.

“Beyond the Locker Room” asks sports team leaders to sign a commitment that serves as a code of conduct in and out of the locker room. There is a training section if teams want it, but this is informal rather than following a specific curriculum.

The project, which began on November 25, is a collaboration between the Stratford Police Services, the Ontario Provincial Police, and the Huron County Victim Service. Key points of commitment include:

  • “Be positive role models in the locker room and in our community.”

  • “Continually educate ourselves and others on how to combat gender-based violence.”

  • “Recognize our privilege in our roles and use our platform to make the voices of others heard.”

  • “Recognizing, challenging and correcting the behaviors we witness in our community that contribute to gender-based violence.”

Gender-based violence in sports has been in the limelight since the Canadian Hockey controversy erupted this summer, when a previously adjudicated sexual assault case against some players from the Canada 2018 world youth team was reopened.

“At this point, some of these groups are asking, ‘What can I do to solve some of these problems we’re seeing in society?’ It’s really necessary to think about it.” Huron County Sacrificial Services told CBC News.

“It’s not just gender-based. It’s not for a particular group… no one is in trouble, no one is pointing fingers. Our goal is to truly find these groups that need to chat and encourage them to be leaders. push themselves to the forefront of our community.”

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Empowers rather than embarrasses

The program came about when Darren Fischer, a community resources officer with the Stratford Police Department, approached Currie to create a program that addresses gender-based violence.

Fischer, who works with high school students in the area, says he spends a lot of time dealing with issues, especially conflicts with students.

“I deal with unhealthy relationships, issues with sexual consent, and I’m there as a general support for students,” he told CBC News.

“Through my years in this role, I have seen a real need to not only educate young people on some of these concerns, but also try to empower them in terms of creating leaders and mentoring who can self-monitor their own actions and educate each other.”

Instead of using guilt or shame, they wanted a program that approached the issue by empowering athletes and encouraging leadership.

Organizers do not approach sports teams about the schedule, but expect teams to arrive. The Stratford Blackswans rugby team were the first to join, but have been in talks with other teams, including the Stratford Warriors.

“I think it’s a much needed program and I’m so glad it’s coming to the fore at this point, and people are embracing this program as much as it is because it’s a problem that affects everyone,” Currie said.

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