In the wake of the chaos involving the hearings on now Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh who was accused of sexual assault by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, this is a time for a call to action on the part of all social workers, especially sports social workers. The hearings demonstrated that victims and survivors of sexual assault are still not believed and their stories are not seen as valid even in the #MeToo era. The cruelty towards Dr. Ford and other survivors these past few weeks has engaged us into action and motivated us to fight for change. This is an opportunity for us in the sports world to take it upon ourselves to be part of the struggle and to fight for the Dr. Fords of the world and to ensure that their stories are validated and their dignity is preserved. After all, we in the sports world have a pretty shameful history when it comes to sexual violence that we must be honest about. We can go back in history and we will see the names of Brock Turner, Darren Sharper, Jameis Winston, Jerry Sandusky, Kobe Bryant, Mike Tyson, Marv Albert, and Larry Nassir and institutions such as the NFL, Penn State University, Michigan State University, Baylor University, Duke University as well as towns like Steubenville, Ohio. We can look at how sports culture has been used to make excuses for and to justify sexually violent behavior such as the so called President of the United States using the phrase “Locker Room Talk” in reference to his misogyny.
While sports has certainly created an environment where sexual assault is tolerated and ignored, there has been bright spots in the #MeToo era where survivors are being heard and perpetrators are held accountable. The best and most recent example is the conviction of the Dr. Larry Nassir who was sentenced to 145 years for sexually abusing many members of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team. It was the vibrancy and the urgency of the #MeToo movement that allowed for justice to prevail. The survivors were given the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the Espy’s this past year for their true courage in speaking their truth. Jerry Sandusky was convicted in 2012 for his sex crimes against young boys at a football camp through Penn State University. WNBA superstar Breanna Stewart also spoke publicly about being a victim of sexual abuse as a child and has been outspoken on a variety of social issues including #MeToo. The time for us to act is now and we must continue to use our platforms to stand up for survivors, to believe survivors, to validate survivors, and to seek justice for survivors. We will not let this travesty of selecting a Supreme Court justice with credible accusations stop us from seeking truth and justice. Here are a few things we can do:
1. We must hold perpetrators accountable.
2. We must believe survivors.
3. We must support survivors.
4. We must seek justice for survivors.
5. We must support anti-sexual assault organizations in the community, on college campuses, and elsewhere.
6. Encourage athletic teams and departments to organize Sexual Assault Awareness events.
7. We must support the #MeToo Movement.
8. We must change hearts and minds.
9. We must fight for legislation that empowers victims and survivors such as the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
10. We must work with men and boys to redefine masculinity and become allies to women and girls.
11. Vote in the midterm elections on Nov. 6th 2018.
If you need someone to talk to you if you have been a victim of sexual assault call the National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673.