Education and Prevention

With the common use of social media, articles can be easily republished, reposted online, and referenced, which allows us to read about a disturbing number of current and past sexual abuse, sexual assaults, and rape. Hockey parents pay particular attention when it involves junior hockey players.

One of the most prominent writers on this subject is Laura Robinson, author of Crossing the Line: Violence and Sexual Assault in Canada’s National Sport. In September 2012, Robinson wrote an article titled Sex assaults remain hockey’s little secret for the Winnipeg Free Press.

As a former competitive skier, Robinson has written on the subject of abuse in sport before, and told MHL, “Please know it is not just hockey. I raced for many years in cycling and cross-country skiing. Both sports had seemingly endless amounts of coaches and sponsors who believed they could help themselves to teen-age girls and young women.”

The problem, Robinson says, is systematic to the culture of junior hockey,

“After five more years of investigation, it was clear that junior hockey had what sport sociologists call a ‘rape culture.’ It wasn’t difficult to find more junior hockey teams that had been charged with sexual assault. In all but one case, gang rape was alleged. What was difficult was getting anyone in the hockey establishment to talk about this phenomena, or any convictions.”

Twitter’s @NHLHistorygirl Jennifer Conway also wrote on this important topic in an article titled “It’s time for hockey’s culture of sexual assault to change” for The Score’s website, in September 2012, in which she points out that teams have to follow the

“example of other teams who have already taken proactive steps that encompass the whole team, including coaches. The Ottawa 67s have invited a police officer to speak to the team every year regarding substance and sexual abuse. Since 1992, the University of Minnesota has held a once a year meeting for student athletes on sexual assault, myths about assault, and sexism.”

The time for change is a recurring theme in online articles.

In an online article for The Hockey News (March 2012), Ryan Kennedy wrote of about “Hockey’s Troubling Relationship with Women,” in which he makes a number of important points including these:

“Changing a culture is difficult, but not impossible. I find it amazing that hockey has embraced the gay rights advocacy group You Can Play, taping scores of public service announcements for the very worthwhile cause of smashing homophobia in the dressing room, yet no players stand up for the rights of women. You know, the group that represents half the population and has its own professional hockey league unto itself.”

Why Ask Women When You Can Just Mansplain? Comments on Kennedy’s article. Please read the entire article.

On Lloyd Duhaime concludes,

“It may be the lack of leadership shown by the ownership group of North American junior hockey in not accepting and taking responsibility for breaking the misogynous culture embedded in many of their players; in educating these young men against the perspective so deadly to their young female fans that many of them bring to training camp, not to mention the attraction of healthy and respectful sexual relationships.”

A commenting reader suggests that these teams offer annual intervention seminars.

Reading this material made me wonder if major junior hockey leagues in Canada would be willing to create a task force like the one commissioned by Boston University president after two hockey players were charged with sexual assault in the space of three months. According to Boston University’s website, the task force listed several findings including “a culture of sexual entitlement exists among some players, and that this, combined with the absence of sexual assault prevention training and education, led to risky behaviors.”

Sexual assault prevention training may be the way to change the culture. Former NHL players Sheldon Kennedy and Theo Fleury have taken to educating the public, policy makers, and making legal and legislative change.

What are hockey organizations doing to educate players to help prevent sexual assault?


—Editorial Staff
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