By Rob Okun
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Allegations of child sex abuse at Penn State provide a teachable moment for male sports culture--and the rest of us: Being silent can now get you in trouble. Rob Okun says the NCAA should start running teach-ins about the new game rules straight away.
(WOMENSENEWS)--It's Thanksgiving. Time to gather, feast and maybe check out the big game.
Along with all that, let's not miss the chance to digest the cultural role sports play in our lives--and in our male silences--in the wake of the multiple charges of child rape reverberating throughout Penn State and beyond.
The message on a popular New England sports talk radio station recently was that this isn't a sports scandal but a men's scandal. It's about time the language was accurate. Time, also, for us as men to stop watching from the sidelines. Listen up. There's the whistle.
And here's the game changer: Because of how Penn State trustees have dealt with the powerful and beloved coach Joe Paterno a precedent is set: Going forward, a bystander who doesn't intervene and do enough to stop an act of abuse can expect to be harshly punished.
Right now groups like Coaching Boys into Men, Mentors in Violence Prevention and the Waitt Institute, among others, are poised to lead re-trainings on this lesson. They have long led workshops for students and staff on bystander intervention, learning the how and why of speaking up.
With the end of the college football season at hand, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) should announce it will finance not just a one-shot teach-in next semester at Penn State, but an ongoing training program at colleges and universities across the country. What's needed is a sustained, national educational campaign addressing sexual assault, male socialization and the silence surrounding the masculine culture of violence. The NCAA certainly has the money to underwrite such an effort, having turned college sports into a mega business.
In every state, sexual and domestic violence prevention coalitions are working night and day to stop the violence; they can and should also be tapped. And men's antiviolence organizations, including Men Can Stop Rape, A Call to Men and Men Stopping Violence, among others, can play a role in an all out effort.
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