VCU Athletics last week shined a spotlight on its sexual assault protocol in wake of the ongoing Larry Nassar trial.
Myriad universities across the country have looked inward in response to this national crisis. The entire Michigan State University athletic department — where Nassar was employed — is under NCAA investigation.
VCU Athletics stated the program works closely with the University to maintain a culture conducive to reporting instances of sexual assault or misconduct, raising awareness of the prevalence of these instances, and eradicating such behavior altogether from the community. The Athletic program conducts annual programming that includes education, training, workshops and guest speakers.
“We take pride in working with our Office of Equity and Access Services and VCU Police to create a culture that does not tolerate sexual assault, harassment or gender discrimination,” said VCU VP and Director of Athletics Ed McLaughlin. “We are fortunate to have such wonderful resources on our campus to educate our student-athletes.”
The department has actively participated in the “It’s On Us” movement, a national campaign against sexual assault on college campuses. As part of this initiative, the VCU Athletics has held an assortment of events aimed at educating students and staff on the correct protocol for handling instances of sexual misconduct.
Scott Lewis of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management spent a day with VCU Athletics during the Fall semester. Lewis provided sexual assault and education training for all staff and student athletes.
The department has also collaborated with The Well to provide two training workshops for VCU student-athletes — the One Love Escalation workshop, which aims to educate athletes on the signs of relationship abuse, as well as a consent workshop.
“Having nationally renowned expert Scott Lewis visit with our entire department, as well as our SAAC initiative, the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign, are two examples of proactive programming we have done annually over the last five years,” McLaughlin said. “We take pride in knowing that we are leaders on our campus in creating a safe and supportive culture for all students.”
All VCU students and employees are required to complete Not Anymore Training, which includes real stories told by survivors and VCU’s policy, reporting options and resources.
Officials from the VCU Title IX office said the number of reports they recieve has grown significantly over the last two years, signalling greater awareness of the university’s resources.
“Units such as Athletics and the Office of the Provost conduct additional education for faculty and staff in these key areas,” the Title IX office said in a statement. “We are a bystander-engaged community where we care and look out for one another and a broad culture of reporting where people who see something say something.”
Nassar, a former sports physician at Michigan State and for USA Gymnastics, is facing up to 175 years in federal prison after decades of sexual abuse. Nassar’s trial has prompted widespread questioning of university protocol surrounding sexual assault, as the country seeks answers for how such habitual, heinous behavior went repeatedly unchecked and unchallenged.
Additional information and resources can be found at http://equity.vcu.edu/titleix/.
Zach Joachim, Sports Editor