The Center for Violence Prevention at the University of Northern Iowa has been selected to receive a grant of nearly $47,000 from a fund provided by the National Football League for a program that has a goal of ending sexual violence.
Center director, Alan Heisterkamp, says the grant will go toward providing Coaching Boys into Men (CBIM) training to coaches and educators across the state.
“To raise awareness about what constitutes healthy relationships, and also what we can do as a community and a society to reduce incidences of sexual harassment and sexual assault in our schools, in our communities and in our country,” Heisterkamp says.
He says they are in the planning process and will be looking for communities in six regions of the state for the program. “Where currently there are prevention specialists working in the community, working within school districts and partnering with the Iowa High School Athletic Association to really encourage and support these efforts within the context of high school and middle school athletics,” according to Heisterkamp.
Heisterkamp says they are focusing on sports because of the NFL’s connection to the funding the NFL’s efforts among its own players on the issue. Plus, he says sports provides a unique leadership avenue. “Athletics really gives a positive platform of leadership and health masculinity to be demonstrated and reinforced through the efforts a coach can an instill in his athletes,” Heisterkamp says. “That’s a really powerful connection.”
He says football is just one example of how boys can be taught to be aggressive on the field and not off. “There are boundaries even in our organized sports about how that egression can go before a person is penalized, suspended what have you. Well, what we really haven’t done a very good job culturally is to really helping young men draw the line between that which is to be egression on the field but it doesn’t really have a place in relationships and here’s why and let’s talk about that,” Heisterkamp says.
He says it is likely a coach will get the attention of his players on the issue when others may not. “To really have that athletic coach really reinforce those messages, it will really resonate with some young men,” he says. The program also teaches young men how to intervene or disrupt a teammate’s unhealthy or abusive behavior directed at women and girls by recognizing the behaviors when they occur and utilizing a bystander approach to effectively challenge and/or stop it.
“We want to reach 5,000 young men in this state through their coaches, through the platform of athletics to really reinforce those positive messages of healthy relationships and really giving them the tools and the strategies to really check themselves, but also really help their teammates and themselves to make better choices,” according to Heisterkamp. He says they hope to have the program up and running in the next 12 months.