Earlier this summer, the Center for Violence Prevention at the University of Northern Iowa received a grant of more than 46,000 dollars for a program called Coaching Boys Into Men. Over the course of this year, the program will help educators and coaches in the state teach young men how to intervene when they see a teammate behave abusively towards women and girls. In the wake of another alleged sexual assault perpetrated by a high school athlete, the director of the center, Alan Heisterkamp, says the influence of educators and coaches is more important than ever. In this interview with guest host Emily Woodbury, Heisterkamp breaks down what needs to happen to prevent sexual assault.
On whether athletic young men get a pass from the media
"How the public is introduced to these parties, particularly the Stanford swimmer and the young man from West Des Moines, the athletic background and prowess really serve to distract. What we should be doing is looking at the behaviors and looking at the crime that was committed or alleged to have been committed, and ask ourselves, what could we have done in front of that or before that to increase the likelihood that that didn't take place."
On the justice system's reluctance to dole out punishment for sexual assault
"As a society we really don't see ourselves in the practice of wanting to slap federal charges or assign prison time to adolescents--because I believe that at the time that the alleged crime took place, the young man was 17 years of age--but we also as a society are not really committed to education and prevention programming in our schools or in our communities and getting training and education to young men or young women about healthy relationships and how to prevent these types of situations from happening. We're not there yet as a society."
On educating athletes to prevent of sexual assault
"[Coaching Boys to Men] really has the targeted focus on using our young men in those positions, oftentimes positions of leadership and status within a school culture or community, and really engaging their influence, their leadership in helping raise awareness about sexual assault and helping hold each other accountable to really maximizing and keeping relationships of a positive nature."
On when we should start this type of education
"If we want college campuses to be safe, we need to reach and partner with our colleagues in the secondary school level--middle school and high school--and start having these conversations earlier."
Also on this News Buzz edition of River to River:
- Kathie Obradovich, political columnist for the Des Moines Register
- Peter Fisher, Iowa Policy Project’s research director
- Jay Urdahl, Cerro Gordo County Supervisor
- Luke Benson, director of the Iowa Music Project