Western Oregon University Athletics to Play Leadership Role in Fostering Healthier, Safer Campus

Western Oregon University Athletics to Play Leadership Role in Fostering Healthier, Safer Campus

Posted on July 21, 2015

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Western Oregon University selected to participate in Healthy Masculinity Initiative

"Every day we hear news stories about violence but rarely, if ever, are they linked to masculinity. It’s time to make the connection between the epidemic of men’s violence in our country and what society is teaching boys about masculinity. The traditional 'boys will be boys' mentality is beginning to change."

This is the opening statement on the Men Can Stop Rape web page describing the Healthy Masculinity Action Project - a national grassroots movement that began in 2012 to "eradicate the harmful expectations and stereotypes our society teaches boys about what it means to be a man."

Healthy Masculinity Campus Athletics Project 

The newest phase of this work is the Healthy Masculinity Campus Athletics Project (HMCAP), a year-long initiative funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women Campus Technical Assistance and Resource Project.

WOU among a small number of campuses selected to participate

Western Oregon University is excited to have been selected to join 12 other campuses across the country to participate in this pilot program.

HMCAP will positively engage male college athletes, coaches, and athletic administrators as influential leaders in the prevention of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking on college campuses and in their surrounding communities. Men Can Stop Rape, in partnership with the Positive Coaching Alliance, will facilitate the project.


An extension of the current WOU-CASA grant

This kind of work is not new to the students, faculty, and staff at Western, as a recipient of a Campus Against Sexual Assault (CASA) grant for the past 5 years. The CASA grants (at WOU, administered through The Research Institute at Western Oregon University) are campus grants from the US Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, awarded for the purpose of addressing sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking on college campuses.

Through this grant, WOU has implemented a focused effort to raise awareness around the issue of sexual assault, including the deep understanding of the significant role that men can play in preventing violence.

WOU staff and students created Students Advocating for Healthy Masculinity

As part of this work, and inspired by the work of the original Healthy Masculinity Action Project, John Wilkins (WOU Coordinator for Campus Life and Student Activities) and several student leaders at WOU's Abby's House created a related program on the Western campus called Students Advocating for Healthy Masculinity.

"We were very excited to be invited to apply to be a part of this new project," says Mary Ellen Dello Stritto, Director of Abby's House and administrator of the WOU CASA grant. "Our understanding of the influence WOU athletes can bring to this conversation dates back a few years. This is the first time we've been able to formally delve into this work, with the kind of technical assistance and resources it deserves."

Athletes as role models

Football player catching a ball

Sports have long played a historical role in advancing social justice and cultural change – from racial integration to the Special Olympics to the advancement of female athletes. It is this spirit of leadership, advocacy, and activism to reduce sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking that Western Oregon University is working to cultivate within its athletics. 

In a recent publication by the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) – “Addressing Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence: Athletics’ Role in Support of Healthy and Safe Campuses” – the authors assert that college coaches, student-athletes, athletic administrators, and athletic staff are uniquely positioned to play a key role in creating a safer campus climate. Their influence and leadership offer them the opportunity to play a visible role for the entire campus that promotes healthy pro-social norms tied to fostering healthy and safe colleges.

Intensive three-day training

Western Oregon University representatives will attend an intensive three-day training emphasizing athletics’ leadership on social justice issues and how male athletes, coaches, and athletic administrators can role model the pro-social norms of healthy masculinity to foster healthier and safer campuses.

The representatives will return to implement the Healthy Masculinity curriculum as well as an action plan developed during the three day training that addresses both prevention and response strategies. Throughout the length of the project, Western Oregon University will receive technical assistance and support in developing these strategies.

Other campuses participating

Along side Western Oregon University, the 12 colleges participating in HMCAP include: Bowie State University, Joliet Junior College, New Mexico Highlands University, Northern Kentucky University, Occidental College, University of California-Santa Barbara, University of Delaware, University of Maryland – College Park, University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University, West Virginia University, and Winona State University. 

It's time

At a time when headlines are filled with stories of assault and violence perpetrated by professional and college athletes, this initiative has a real chance of changing the story about what it means to be a strong, successful, and caring man.

Abby's House Logo

For more information, contact Abby's House.

The United States Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women Campus Technical Assistance and Resource Project encourages institutions of higher education to adopt comprehensive, coordinated responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. As the mechanism for effectively carrying out the Mission of the OVW Technical Assistance and Resource Project, technical assistance is designed to provide campus program grantees with information, training, and resources to enhance their capacity to address violence against women while effectively implementing grant goals, objectives, and requirements.


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