Don’t be a passive witness

Tbirds lead campaign to help end violence against women

We’ve all overheard comments that make us cringe but few of us intervene.  That’s not good enough for a group of UBC football players.  This fall, they are not only planning to speak up, but the students-athletes are also asking others to do the same.

The UBC Thunderbird football team and the university’s Access and Diversity office have partnered with the BC Lions and the Ending Violence Association of BC (EVA) for their Be More Than A Bystander campaign—a campaign to end violence against women. The athletes have gone through training and instead of staying mute while they witness harmful conversations or acts, they’re prepared to speak up.

“All you have to do is say ‘this isn’t right,’” says second year TBird Andrew Darcovich, who went through the three-day training program with four of his teammates and a group of BC Lions.

When Darcovich, a receiver from White Rock, volunteered to take part in the program, he was excited to spend some time with the BC Lions. As he read up about violence against women, he was shocked to learn that men commit more than 60,000 assaults against women every year in B.C.

“That really hit home for me,” says the Sauder School of Business student. “Men have to be part of the solution because we are the problem.”

The football players are being asked to use their status as role models and leaders in the community to do something positive.

“You have to do more than say violence is wrong, you have to step in,” he said. “Think how hurt you would be if that was someone you loved—your mom, your sister or your friend. It’s closer than anyone thinks.”

In the training, Jackson Katz, a U.S. academic in the area of men’s roles in breaking the silence around violence against women, taught the athletes how to step in and speak up without shutting down the conversation.

Violence isn’t the only problem. Darcovich says sexist, racist or other jokes in the locker room can be just as toxic.

“Now that I’ve gone through this program, I think carefully before I speak or add anything to those conversations,” says Darcovich. “As a rookie, hearing one of the veterans speak out can really make an impression.”

By showing others on campus that it is acceptable to call out harassing or discriminatory behaviour, the TBirds and UBC’s Access and Diversity office hope others will follow suit.

“We want students to take the initiative in changing the culture,” says Janet Mee, the director of Access and Diversity. “By developing the capacity to speak out, students learn what it means to contribute to a civil and socially just society.”

Alongside the partnership with the BC Lions and EVA, Access and Diversity has expanded the really? campaign—a campaign that aims to prevent violence by giving bystanders a tool to speak out —to focus on all forms of discrimination.  Students are being invited to take part in bystander training and will then help educate their peers.

“History is filled with examples where people knew something was wrong and they were afraid to speak out because no one else was,” said C.J. Rowe, who is coordinating the really? campaign for Access and Diversity.

UBC recently recognized and honoured a group of Japanese Canadian students after failing to speak up for them in 1942, when they were forced to leave the West Coast and their studies.  Champions of UBC’s really? and Be More than a Bytstander campaigns never want to see this happen again.

“When students leave UBC, we want them to feel confident in speaking out against injustice,” said Rowe.

Related topics:

UBC Reports | Vol. 58 | No. 9 | Aug. 23, 2012

Second-year Tbird Andrew Darcovich was shocked to learn that men commit more than 60,000 assaults against women each year in B.C. Rich Lam Photograph

Second-year Tbird Andrew Darcovich was shocked to learn that men commit more than 60,000 assaults against women each year in B.C. Rich Lam Photograph

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