Mar 13, 2017Uniting Against Domestic Violence
This article first appeared in the March 2017 issue of Training & Conditioning.
When former professional football player Ray Rice was caught on video assaulting his then-fiancée (now wife) in 2014, it sparked a nationwide conversation about domestic violence awareness. Following the incident, several male athletes at Saint Martin’s University expressed their desire to take a stand against domestic violence to Head Athletic Trainer Alice Loebsack, MA, ATC, LAT, CSCS. Inspired by their response, she started a new, all-male student club on campus called Saints Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE).
The goal of SAVE is to educate Saint Martin’s male athletes about preventing abuse and provide them with opportunities to speak out against all forms of violence. “Men are frequently told that they’re the problem,” says Loebsack, who is also the Senior Woman Administrator at Saint Martin’s. “Instead, I want to help them become agents of positive change.”
To attract members, Loebsack reached out to the men’s sports coaches and asked if any of their athletes would like to volunteer. Now, SAVE has 10 representatives. “I told the coaches not to force athletes to participate because I was looking for guys that really wanted to be there and push for positive change by being vocal about nonviolence,” she says.
Currently in its third year, SAVE meets once every three weeks, usually during the evening after sports practices. Meetings usually consist of a group discussion and a speaker from the Saint Martin’s community. Loebsack moderates the dialogue but encourages the athletes to drive the conversation. For instance, one member recently brought up an idea for an initiative against bullying, so the club is now putting together an anti-bullying program for the local Boys and Girls Club.
“I often let the athletes guide the concepts, while making sure they are geared toward anti-violence and creating positive change,” Loebsack says. “We talk a lot about bystander intervention and speaking up when you see something wrong.
“We also look at examples in the media of male athletes who speak out against violence,” she continues. “Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson is one of the SAVE members’ favorite positive role models for his ‘Why Not You’ and ‘Pass the Peace’ initiatives aimed at domestic violence awareness.”
One of the first speakers Loebsack brought to the club was Mollie Monahan-Kreishman, a consultant for the American College Personnel Association and an expert on addressing sexual violence in higher education. Since then, Loebsack has also brought in the university’s Director of Public Safety, the Assistant Dean of Students, and the Assistant Dean of the school’s Diversity Initiative. Their topics covered different areas of violence prevention, including how to be a leader of change and how to handle dangerous or violent scenarios.
Because it is only open to males, SAVE is not an official club at Saint Martin’s. Yet, the athletic administration supports its efforts and has provided funding for events.
Several of SAVE’s events fall in October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. SAVE presents talks on campus and invites speakers to address all students and staff about ways to combat violence and sexual harassment. In addition, the group holds fundraisers for SafePlace, a local advocacy center and shelter.
Although SAVE is still new, its future looks bright, and Loebsack remains committed to the group. She admits that it’s not always easy to balance her many responsibilities with those of the club, but says it all comes down to helping the student-athletes.
“Athletic training is very much about looking out for the well-being of our student-athletes and our school,” she explains. “My work with SAVE naturally ties to what I do as an athletic trainer. I’m someone students come to frequently with conversations and concerns. That has really pushed me to be part of the solution and empower male athletes instead of telling them they’re part of the problem.”