This is a long-overdue post, but I suppose being delayed makes for a better ICYMI.
On August 5th I went to Vancouver with my bosses to launch the CFL’s new violence against women policy. The policy was a long time coming, and had been in the works long before I got there, so it was merely good timing (and bosses who are great about giving ownership of projects) that had me involved.
I write now not as an employee of the CFL or as someone involved – however peripherally – in the creation of the policy, but as a woman who is a sports fan, who cares deeply about violence against women and is often furious about the way that rape culture is enabled within sporting culture. The policy is unique, I think – not just among sports organizations, but among large corporations and organizations in general. In the content (largely focused on proactive measures and unconditional support for the victims, with flexible punitive measures and built-in consideration for the wellbeing of the victim and any children involved), but also in the methodology. Football executives are rarely if ever experts in the field of violence against women and support for survivors – and the CFL recognized that if the policy were to be a good one and truly address such a complex and important issue, it would have to be written by experts. To that end, they enlisted the Ending Violence Association of Canada to help them write the policy, which was written largely by women who had been working with women on this issue for decades.
I’m wary of tooting my own horn or lauding incomplete works – to the CFL’s credit, that it is a first step is admitted within the policy. The truth will be in the implementation and in the amelioration in years to come.
What I really look forward to is other organizations – in the sports world and otherwise – following suit and taking proactive steps to protect the women that work in their organizations and the partners of their employees. Leaving domestic violence and sexual assault to the courts is too easy (especially when most perpetrators aren’t charged, let alone punished; and when a punitive justice system does little to prevent or fix the problem in the first place). I look forward to every employee of the CFL taking mandatory yearly training on preventing violence against women, supporting victims, and addressing the damaging sexist attitudes and culture that promote and enable violence against women.
I’m excited to work more on this, and proud to have been a small part of the announcement.
Recommended reading on the topic (TW for discussion of sexual assault in all of them):
- A brief of the policy
- For battered NFL wives, a message from the cops and the league: keep quiet, by Simone Sebastian and Ines Bebea for the Washington Post
- Silence at Baylor, by Jessica Luther and Dan Solomon
- NHL’s rape education flunks the test, by Kavitha Davidson for Bloomberg View
- How to report on sexual assault, by Jessica Luther for Sports on Earth, and Reporting on Rape and Sexual Violence, a resource from the Chicago Task Force on Violence Against Girls & Young Women