Jun 24, 2016
NATA 2016: ATs and Sexual Assault

Check back here to read T&C Managing Editor Mary Kate Murphy’s insights from the floor of the NATA 67th Clinical Symposia & AT Expo in Baltimore. Mary Kate is armed with a pen, pad, and a list of educational seminars and will spend the rest of the week taking in the sights and sounds of the convention, sharing her observations in this blog.

Body 2:

Thursday, 3:55 p.m.

Just getting out of a moving, thought-provoking seminar called, “What Are the ATs Responsibilities When an Athlete is a Victim of Sexual Assault?” With the raised level of awareness nationwide surrounding campus sexual assault, particularly as it pertains to athletes, I thought this would be a poignant session to attend, and I was eager to learn more about the topic.

The panelists—Lori Dewald, EdD, ATC, MCHES, Instructor of Health Sciences in the American Public University System; Don McPherson, CEO, Don McPherson Enterprises, LLC; Connie Kirkland, MA, NCC, Special Assistant, Student Mental Health and Behavior at Northern Virginia Community College; Mary Wilfert, MEd, Associate Director at the NCAA Sport Science Institute; and Timothy Neal, MS, ATC, Assistant Professor for Health and Human Performance and Athletic Training at Concordia University Ann Arbor—first discussed the myriad issues associated with campus sexual assault. Topics included the policies and procedures of responding to campus sexual assault claims, impacts of trauma, coping methods, and suicide warning signs.

A panelist then recounted the moment when she was confronted with the issue of campus sexual assault head-on—a student confided in her that she had been raped. The panelist described her role in getting the student the medical, psychological, and emotional support that she needed. It was clear from the tone in the panelist’s voice that the experience had a significant impact on her, and I think the whole room could feel her emotion.

That brought us to a question that framed this whole seminar: What should athletic trainers know about campus sexual assault? The panelists provided a number of practical, easy-to-implement steps that could both raise awareness about the issue and better prepare athletic trainers for handling it. For instance, one suggested teaching athletic training students about sexual assault as part of their undergraduate curriculum. Another recommended adding questions about sexual assault to PPE forms to ensure athletes received whatever care they needed. And every panelist shared a number of resources athletic trainers could utilize to learn more. I’m including some of them below.

For me, the Q&A session at the end of the presentation was perhaps most significant. A number of attendees shared some of their experiences with treating victims of sexual assault, whether they were athletes or students. Their testimonies revealed the complexities of this difficult concept and that there aren’t always resources for what athletic trainers have to consider. For example, one athletic trainer shared that one of her athletes was allegedly assaulted by an athlete on a different team. One situation that the athletic trainer struggled with was how to manage her athletic training room when both the alleged victim and alleged perpetrator needed treatment. There was a spirited dialogue on the subject, but it didn’t appear that there was a clear solution. As informative and eye-opening as I’m sure this seminar was for many, it was also clear that we have more to learn about athletic trainers’ responsibilities when responding to campus sexual assault.

Resources to learn more:




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