"See It, Stop It: Tackling Abuse in Amateur Sports" Symposium
On June 16-17, 2021 we hosted our first-ever virtual symposium: See It, Stop It: Tackling Abuse in Amateur Sports. After conducting dozens of virtual and in-person events to raise awareness around abuse in sport, we have identified some key components in addressing this issue: basic prevention best practices, institutional accountability, positive team and coaching culture, and access to resources. With our “See It, Stop It” symposium, we faced these issues head on thanks to the incredible wisdom and experience of our featured speakers.
Watch the entire captioned recording of the “Resources Recap” session.
– Hey there everyone. Welcome back to See it, Stop It: Tackling Abuse in Amateur Sports, presented by The Foundation for Global Sports Development and Sidewinder Films. This event is designed to empower coaches, parents athletes and administrators to recognize and prevent abuse. As we know, sports should be safe and secure, and every little person that wants to make a contribution all the way up through amateur athletics and possibly your future Olympic career should be stepping stones of security all the way up the ladder. If you weren’t able to attend our previous session “From Prevention to Solutions,” the recording will be available for viewing on globalsportsdevelopment.org. So we had a panel discussion that I thought was really robust, our final panel resources and Q and A will summarize resources mentioned throughout the event and allow you to ask any pressing questions you may have that have come up within the last two days. So for those of you that have been with us the whole time I think this will be a great opportunity to summarize and walk away even with some action items. Remember that like any of our discussions, there’s a chance for some triggering, even in our questioning. So we encourage you to practice some self-care, feel free to anonymously call or text Childhelp’s hotline at 1-800-422-4453, if you need any immediate help. Childhelp has been working with Global Sports for close to eight years, reached over 160,000 kids, coaches and parents with Childhelp’s Speak Up Be Safe for Athletes underwritten by Foundation for Global Sports Development. And I’ve really seen it practiced in a classroom, in a sports camp where children have come forward right in the middle of receiving these life-saving tools. So that’s the hope in prevention that we create safer space and we also give children an opportunity to find their voice all the way up from the littlest athlete again, to that collegiate athlete, that high school athlete to that potential former NFL player like Jonathan Vaughn, or like the gymnast that we saw. So if you have any questions, please enter them using the Q and A feature at the bottom of your screen. And we’ll be happy to answer. I’m Daphne Young, I’ve worked as an investigative journalist department head in at-risk education, and I’ve been at Childhelp for 11 years. And I work on our senior leadership team as Chief Communications Officer to help set strategy and vision for the work that we do nationwide. Joining me today is Tracy Leonard. Tracy owns Safe Spaces, which is a consulting firm that helps create safe spaces for everyone through workshops, through trainings and through environmental and policy scans. She is also a Darkness to Light Authorized Facilitator. I’ve taken this training and it’s so great. And she’s a Certified Instructor. She’s trained over 1,500 adults in child sexual abuse prevention and over 200 new facilitators and was recently named Darkness to Light 2021 instructor of the year. So congratulations for that, Tracy, and I would love to hear just, start our discussion with a little background on your work and your organization.
– Thank you, yeah, it was quite an honor at the Ignite Conference this year to receive that. And especially after the year we’ve had trying to continue prevention efforts virtually, and trying to deliver training virtually in a way that still maintains the fidelity of the Darkness to Light Program and the Stewards of Children curriculum because it is so it’s just it’s demonstrated to show behavior changes and action that that people take. So that is part of what I do with my Safe Spaces is really delivering that training and other training related to family dynamics, positive parenting, ACEs trauma resiliency is another big area. I know it was talked a lot about yesterday. And so that is a way that I am able to reach even wider audiences, especially educators. I find myself as a former teacher and school principal kind of continuing to go back to that education world where I feel that I can continue to make an impact even though I’m not directly in the classroom or in the building. The other thing that I do and we’ll have some questions I can talk about it too is environmental scans and policy stands to really take a look at your organization, whatever it is, and changes that you can begin to make to become not only trauma-informed coaching which again was one of the discussions yesterday, but like how your environment can be trauma informed, and physically impactful and help your athletes and any of the kids that you’re working with or any of the adults and survivors who might be still an active part of the work that you’re doing.
– And I don’t think people realize how important just an environmental scan can be in preventative factors. I worked with the woman who worked with the diocese, and she was really working actively on child sexual abuse and creating environments where it is virtually impossible for anybody to be in a location alone with a child without checks and balances. And she would go in, and it was things that you wouldn’t think about as you just walk in an environment like, hey this has blinds that you can close. This window should be open here. This door should be open. These eaves are hanging a little low. Somebody could take a child behind this and hide. They started opening up all the spaces and started seeing the numbers go down in terms of what was being reported because that environmental scan like you saying, the policy scan creates less opportunity for those that are predatory. And sometimes predatory folks move on to other places where they have greater opportunity or option because they’re seeing somebody so actively like I’m watching your space, I’m watching your paperwork. Everything is being looked at. People often mock I have noticed when I talk about, creating a safer environment because people often mock Safe Spaces as if it’s some kind of like everyone gets a trophy philosophy. And so when you talked about trauma-informed safe spaces, I wonder if you can just to impress upon people the great urgency of creating that trauma-informed space. Why is it so important?
– Yeah, well, you want even your athletes or anybody coming into your space, right when they pull into the parking lot to feel safe, not to let their guard down, but to feel safe. So you want to make sure you have well lit areas and the parking as well lit, you want to make sure that there are policies in place for entry into the building. If it is key card or access code, or it’s locked during certain hours, if the front office isn’t, the front reception area isn’t maintained and then you want simple things like light, sunlight as much as you can. And there are some tricks and you can certainly Google, making trauma informed spaces, but you can add mirrors as a way to kind of reflect the light and to provide more light, simply adding plants the way you have your furniture situated or the kinds of furniture that you have. Do you have, as you mentioned, I recently did an environmental scan at Woodward West here in California and they had a little room in one of their, and well, it wasn’t a room, it was in their gigantic skateboard indoor hangar that they call it. And there was an office space and it had windows which is great, but then they have blinds. It was like, well you shouldn’t need to have those blinds there, just get rid of them. That shouldn’t even be a concern. So that openness is such an important part of having a trauma-informed space. The colors you choose, there’s little things. It’s not an end all be all and it should never replace, that you check these things off and okay, now, we’re not going to have any abuse because that’s not going to happen, but those are just some little things that people can continue to do to make their athletes safer, their visitors safer, their coaching staff safer, anybody who is a part of these buildings that are coming into you. You want that feeling. And those are just a few things that you can do.
– I think that’s great. And when you make it an intention for your organization, I think people feel it and it’s survivors who may be working for you who’ve maybe never even come forward when you create that more soothing environment. When you create that more collaborative feel when you are protective, I think there’s a lot of healing that can happen in those spaces. So not only are you just preventing problems but you’re also creating places where people feel like they can bring more of their best, because they’re not feeling all of the kind of aggression that certain kinds of spaces can stir up some of the anxiety.
– That’s right, even one thing that I found on a scan I did recently in a gymnastics gym was all of the apparatus and all of the mats and the big foam pieces that they had when they were not in use on the floor, they were stacked against the wall. And there was a picture, there was a photograph of what it should look like. So if anybody was taking things out and putting them back in, it needed to be in this specific way so that there weren’t hiding spots, kids weren’t able to make a fort or a tunnel, like the younger students, it was safe. It was against the wall. There was just no way to get around it. And I think thinking about those things too, those visual images that you can have within your spaces make a big difference, just to have that visual cue and reminder of what it looks like when it’s not in use, when we’re not using the equipment and put it back.
– And a child who just see it as an organizational tool may never know that this has done for my protection, but it’s a great way to just make those spaces better for the little ones and And we have that in our doctor’s offices. From when I was a child to now, we’ve changed those spaces. Now you do have that nurse. You do have that second person, no one just shuts the door and does an exam, or shouldn’t in our modern time. Let’s look at how we can share a local and national resources because you have, I love Darkness to Light training. I love Stewards of Children. How can the audience get trained or certified even if they want to take it a step further?
– Sure, yeah, I encourage anybody. It’s two hours. I mean, there’s no reason to not give two hours of your time to learn practical tips and tricks to prevent child sexual abuse from happening. So going to the d2l.org website, you can look up and see if anybody locally is having an in-person training with everything coming out of the pandemic. A lot of people are going back to in-person trainings and having it, be appropriate for their county or their jurisdiction and health guidelines. But you can also take it online. You can either take it virtually with a facilitator or you can take it in an online format and kind of watch the video, answer some questions as you go through and kind of check for understanding. But again, two hours is nothing to give up to prevent a lifetime of trauma for the children in our lives, whoever they are. And the great thing too with Darkness to Light in the curriculum is then there are some little sub-modules that you can take. So if you really liked the Stewards of Children but you want to know more as a coach about healthy touch for children and youth, there’s a small module that you can take, it’s a little shorter. It’s about 35 minutes, watches a little bit of a video but it really delves into how to have healthy touch interactions and what that looks like. And also what is not healthy. And it also talks a little bit too about normal sexual development which is a really important thing to consider in all of this and can certainly raise some flags, if you’ve noticed a child under your tutelage was saying things or doing things that were not developmentally appropriate sexually for their age. So it’s great and I really encourage anybody to take the training
– And I would say absolutely it’s a very easy, very engaging training and you don’t have to be in this field. I’ve told people, even if you’re not a mandated reporter, become one of the heart, like become somebody that cares about your community, that says, I have two hours to go online or show up at a train. I like the live because you get that interaction with the facilitator, you get someone like Tracy you’re going to get your questions answered, but you know to springboard on something, you were just talking about Tracy, we did get an audience question in and it relates to, when you were discussing the mats and all the little games that people could put together to create a little fort in a very short amount of time, there could be an incident of peer-to-peer abuse. So the oddest audience question was can you address sports and peer athlete abuse and how we make those situations, how we address them.
– Yeah, I mean, we estimate and by we Darkness to Light and well and more than that any of the data and research that’s out there that have 40% of sexual abuse is happening between, is peer-to-peer. So when older, more powerful youth to younger in particular so you really do need to set up particular policies and within your organizations for showering, know if there’s a locker room at the end and you’ve got a wide a– age range that you have the older children and the younger children, they’re separate, you do need to make sure, a rule of three is a great role to have that. It’s never one-on-one, because that’s another statistic is we know more than 80% of sexual abuse happens in a one-on-one isolated incident. And whether that is with an adult or a peer, you have to eliminate those one-on-one instances. So, having that rule of three whether it’s two adults and a child or three children, that needs to just be something that is, that’s what we do here. That’s what we do at this gym. That’s what we do at this practice. And we need adults to really be looking and monitoring if it is a kind of a free gym time or studio or everybody’s doing their own thing, the coaches and the staff needs to not be, talking off to the side, they need to actively be checking the bathrooms, the locker rooms, all of the physical environment, both inside and outside, just to do, kind of these continual checks and to make sure that they’re making it as safe as it possibly can.
– It’s such an interesting point you bring up because we were kind of having this battle legislatively in residential care, where we were trying to explain in our little cottages, for example, you have several kids in a very large room, but it is precisely because we are getting severely abused children, sexually abused children coming in. And if you put two children who have been harmed in this way together, some of the acting out some of the aggressions that are possible, that we’re trying to create that safety, so that there’s a constant monitoring, there’s camera monitoring. There’s walking around, but also the children being together not giving them those isolated opportunities to be behind someone’s back. I think that’s so essential and people don’t realize the importance of, when I tell people signing up for summer sports camps, I always say, make sure there is more than one counselor to a bunk don’t trust the one bunk one K, and let’s look at what makes a safer camp, make sure there’s a buddy system where kids are paired up. Ideally, as you say, in rules of threes, make sure that there is a prevention program at the camp, that they’re teaching the kids body safety and the instructors body safety, so that the environment itself says this is something we care about. And I find that such a challenge because a lot of people and I’m sure as a facilitator and as as a trainer, you know that it’s almost like people want to say, ooh, this is this topic. And we don’t want to say it happen. We have a good club here, Tracy. I appreciate what you do is probably great for other at-risk areas. How do you break through that wall and say, no, everyone, you need it.
– Yeah, that’s so funny, because I am also an instructor and train facilitators. That’s one of the questions that we tackle in our training, that kind of that resistance, like what do you say if somebody says it’s not a problem here, we don’t need your training. And we always say to come back to them with some of the statistics that 90% of children are sexually abused by their 18th birthday, the one-on-one statistic the youth statistic, all of those numbers, you can not repudiate that. You can also say, we’re not saying, anything bad is happening, but wouldn’t you rather be proactive, wouldn’t you rather have an environment that has a seal of approval. So to speak that the whole staff here is trained in Stewards of Children or whatever curriculum it might be and parents want their kids to come there. And that you have that continual, source to set your summer camp or whatever up for success. We need to help people reframe their thinking and think of it in that light and what the impact could be if something happened. And it might not be also that it happened at your facility or your camp. It could have happened to a child at home, but if your campers, your camping staff, or your coaches and staff are able to responsibly react, if a child discloses to them, that’s part of that training too. So a child might not feel that they can say anything at home or even to a teacher but they might have that relationship with their coach and they’re ready to open up. But if the coach or staff doesn’t know how to respond and what to do with that information, that can be just as harmful as the abuse that had happened, the child could be traumatized. They could never say anything again, because nobody believes them. So that’s part of what a good abuse prevention curriculum will do is prepare you to respond wherever it might happen to a child, not just at your site.
– A 100%, that’s such a great point. And also that I think a lot of people through the training process have the opening of eyes. I run a group called the Arizona Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Coalition. It’s a mouthful, but it’s a group of agencies that all kind of come together and try to strategize for our state. And one of the colleagues I have does nurse’s training. So he goes in any trains nurses and doctors and hospital facilities about sex trafficking and what that looks like. And he said, almost always, they say, we’re so glad we’re going to learn more about this. We don’t really see this in our hospital but we’ll keep our eyes open for any, we definitely want this information and I think it’s great you’re doing this, by the end of the training, he’s like they’re dropping jaws picking jaws off the floor, ’cause suddenly they realized, so that’s what that tattoo meant. So that’s what that interaction could have been. They reflect on things that maybe hit their gut in a funny way, that now are hitting their brain in a trained way to understand that, I think I have seen it. I think I’ve been around sex trafficking and just not understood what I saw. So even if you’re out there and you have an institution that you feel is pretty darn solid, once you’re trained your eyes were opened in a new way. And it also helps you to be that person, even as Tracy was saying, that recognizes that child with their head down, hey, how are you doing? Fine, I’m okay. And to be that person that asks one or two more questions, it’s like you’re having a tough day and doesn’t just let it go because you’ve got 20 other kids to worry about and you take those extra steps that give a child a chance to disclose to come forward.
– That’s amazing, so definitely get this training if you haven’t been trained. And before we answer a few more questions I do want to make sure we get some of these resources out so that people can get the training that they need. So The Foundation for Global Sports Development is partnered with a bunch of organizations, including ours and most of which have been mentioned during the symposium, we’re going to put up a slide, I believe that will give you some of the resources and they’ll also be in the chat moving forward. So Avalon Healing Center @avalonhealing.org, Army of Survivors, we talked about the armies of enablers in one of our panels. And boy, nobody wants to be part of that army but we definitely want to be part of Army of Survivors. And that’s thearmyofsurvivors.org, Childhelp, my org is childhelp.org. Childhelp you at Child USA, childusa.org Darkness to Light, Stewards of Children. I like this one because it’s easy. d2l.org, a backslash get slash trained. And again, that’ll be in the chat as well. And so I wanted to look at some of the other questions that folks are having specific to the topics that we’ve been going over for the last two days. You mentioned a little bit about how coaches could create safer environments. What are some safety tips for traveling sports teams, when you’re on the road? Jonathan Vaughn talked about how his mother would always ask, like where are you staying? What you eat and what you’re doing? She didn’t even ask about the game first. She wanted to know, where my son, where is this? Where’s this guy going to be? I want my boy taken care of. And so what are some safety tips for traveling sport teams?
– Yeah, oh, I think that’s a great point that he made as well. And we do need to bring the parents into this conversation and even make them a part of the training, whatever we might be doing institutionally, parents can be great allies. They can do some of that groundwork so to speak, because with traveling teams, one of the things I really think you need to know is you may have created a safe environment where your team is now, but where they’re going might not be that way. So ask those questions, coach to coach, staff to staff or parents. That’s a great, you’ve got that go-getter parent who’s looking for something to do, put them on that task, let them call and figure out what the safety situations are, what the locker room looks like. Send me pictures. What is the, the hotel are we staying at? What kind of accommodations are? whatever it might be, know where you’re going. So you can do a little groundwork, not groundwork but you can do a little prep work before you get there. So you can anticipate potential situations that might happen that you think you’ve got a good handle on but you just don’t know, because you don’t know the staff necessarily on the other end, who it’s going to be. So, and then you need to have really concrete policies and codes of conduct. That rule of three, making sure the students realize and your your kids realize it. It’s not just at our place, it’s anywhere we go. If you’re traveling by bus or by plane that you have adults kind of smattered throughout, no adults like to sit in the back of the bus with the kids, let’s face it but you need to stagger them throughout so that they’ve got eyes and they can see. Again, that the point with peer to peer, you really need to be aware of that. And so if it is a travel, and it’s long distance traveling, you are staying the night, and you need to have really clear guidelines and policies about who’s in the hotel rooms. How many numbers, what are we locking the doors and locking them in and putting tape over it at the end of the night? So we see that, do we have a parent positioned or a staff member positioned in the lobby, the hallway? All of those things you do, you really just need to put some effort into thinking how can we make this as safe as we possibly can. And I think doing all of that, especially for the other group that you may not be as familiar with, that and you had mentioned it before. It raises the awareness that you’re a group. We care about our kids. We are watching. We have eagle eyes on everything and don’t mess with us. Don’t try ’cause it’s not going to work. We’re going to be watching.
– I like that. When predators are prowling around, don’t mess with us. ‘Cause the predators, the anti enablers, the anti bystanders are going to let you know ahead of time that we’ve got eyes on you. It’s that old move from, meet the parents, watching you. And I think when you consider all of the different places, all the areas of potential risks, everyone from the bus driver to the helping parent every single to somebody working at the hotel. And there’s so many places that there can be risk. And I think one of the most essential things we try to get across when we’re going into schools and doing our Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe work is trying to give children also such a sense of what body safety is, how to come forward when someone’s hurt you, how nothing that a person does is your fault, but here’s how you can get somebody to help you. Everything from describing the icky feeling in your stomach all the way through to ways to come forward and role playing some of that. And I think when you’re a parent having that tough conversation and saying, so many people in this world love you, but there are people that are not good people, that don’t love you, that they don’t know you, and could do bad things. And that this is how it could be. And when you role play a little bit with your kid, when you try out, we’ve seen some of those hidden tape shows that have stopped our hearts where Chris Hansen will have kids on a playground that have been trained and then somebody will go and say exactly the line. Can you help me find my puppy? And watch their child go into a van. So it’s reinforcement as well as just that initial training in the same way that people who are trained in Darkness to Light do need that reinforcement of regular boosters in a sense to be ready for what’s going on. I have another audience question, oh this is a good one. Because as those of us that are parents, you want to give your child a little more freedom as they become teens. And the question is, are prevention strategies different for teenage athletes and child athletes?
– Yes, well, I think at the heart of it, they are the same. And I know we like to think of prevention and in a couple of ways that there’s primary prevention and secondary prevention, you think about kids in a river, and they’re drowning. They’re having trouble swimming, while your instinct is to go into pull them out and to help rescue them. But we want that primary prevention where we go to where they’re jumping in, in the first place and figure out why they’re doing it, what’s happening, how do we stop it? So I think all along, you want that. And if you are instilling those prevention strategies with your younger ones, you are setting up an environment. Even if a student moves, across town or goes through it, they’re at a different club or whatever it might be. You’ve already instilled in them some ground rules, and they’re going to start asking, well, why don’t you do this? Why doesn’t this door lock? Or how come you only have to have two people? And they start becoming advocates for themselves. I think it definitely needs to be developmentally appropriate to depending on whatever it might be. You get to those preteens and teens and the conversations are going to be a little different. You’ve got hormones, you’ve got other things going on. And so you do need to think about that. But I think the underlying prevention no really is the same. It’s that trauma informed coaching. It’s the trauma informed space. It’s the continual training of staff, volunteers, refreshers, environmental scans, all of that is prevention training that does need to happen across, but where those little nuances come in is exactly that role-playing thing. But what if, when you can ask your team, well, what if we get here and this is happened? Or what if this happens to you? And to get them to think through that, on their own and come up with the language on their own, then they are more likely to react the way you want them to if they’re ever put into the position. So I think some things like that might be a little more nuanced. And then I really do think at some point, 15, 16 years old, you let them take the Darkness to Light, Stewards of Children training. You let them in on the prevention curriculum. I always say whenever I’ve done it for camp counselors who are high school students or first-year college if they’re a certain age, I like to get parent permission to let them know what they’re going to be watching, but otherwise it can be part of that, just that culture of your team, where they, again, they reach a certain age and they’re kind of let, I don’t want to say let into the secret, but where they’re able to digest that information more. And so I think that is another place where we would see prevention efforts being a little bit different between the two age groups.
– I think that’s great. And I like the way that actually our agencies work together in many ways because I think we both share a philosophy that, hey it is not that child’s job to stick up for themselves. And so what you described from the child to the teen is really the growth of empowerment to where you can give your team that next launching step to adulthood. That is that empowerment. And I agree fully, we’re very careful about, pre-K through the early years having just age appropriate conversations, but always keeping it as part of their curriculum. So that by the time they do have that chance to be a teen and have a little more freedom, they are more empowered to be careful and to be safe. And to at least have those lines of communication open with parents to be able to come forward if something happens. Well we are almost coming to, unfortunately the end of this discussion. but I wonder if you had any kind of last words you’d like to leave with our the folks that have been listening in?
– Yeah, I would just say whether you know you’re a mandated reporter or not, and if you don’t you can certainly find out on any of the websites and the resources that have been provided. We all have a moral obligation to protect children. And if we don’t take that seriously, we’re not going to make change. We’re going to see more institutional abuse, more family abuse. It’s not going to end. We need to take risks. We need to put ourselves out there. We need to speak up as adults. We are the ones who can change policy. We are the ones, as Amos said, we can go and we can testify before governments all over the world, it’s not the children. So we need to do that. And we also need to model that behavior for our kids too to speak up, to say something, when it happens, after it happens, we as adults need to be prepared to handle that as well. And we need to be able to react responsibly, get that child help, let them know it’s not their fault. And if we as adults or coaching staff can learn from those mistakes, maybe have to change a policy, but we need to have that growth mindset and that as well, so that we are always adapting. You do read up on being trauma-informed, read up on adverse childhood experiences. Know that just because a child is acting out or is bad, or is defiant, there’s probably a reasoning for that. And so try to figure that out, ask some open-ended questions, get to know the child a little bit and kind of get to the heart of what that behavior is. And it might be nothing, but it could be something and our kids deserve it.
– A 100% and the power of one voice. And you brought up the greatest piece of this that I hadn’t considered until I’m sitting here right now. Not only does that one voice take advocacy on behalf of a potential victim, but that little person watching you from across the room has now learned that not only do I know what to do when I see something like this in the future, but I’m safe with this person like my mom or dad calls when they see another little kid that’s hurt, I’m going to be a safe little kid. And when I grow up, or even when I’m a peer to another little kid who’s hurt, I’m going to come over and I’m going to say, hey, my friend is hurting. And that’s what creates cultural shifts and changes as one household to one household and then the community envelops it and it keeps going. And then you start getting better people getting into these institutions who are raised in trauma-informed environments and create trauma-informed institutions, where guys like Jonathan and our brave gymnast and many of the folks who spoke during this two day, can feel safe and feel heard and heard. So, thank you, Tracy, for making the world a little safer. It is a great value to communities that you serve and check out what they do. It’s really wonderful. Thank you to our heroes, at a Foundation for Global Sports Development and Sidewinder Films for all their award-winning work. We hope that you all feel equipped with the knowledge to ask questions, to prevent abuse to continue exploring resources. We appreciate you taking the time over the last couple of days to learn more about these important topics. And together, I believe we can create spaces that help athletes feel safer and let’s be bold, and even take it a step further and say and with that stop abuse in sports, thank you to all.
In our final session of the symposium, we hear from Daphne Young of Childhelp and Tracy Leonard with Darkness to Light. They review key points from the symposium and provide additional resources.
Daphne Young, Chief Communications Officer at Childhelp
Tracy Leonard, Darkness to Light’s 2021 Certified Instructor of the Year