Program to educate junior hockey players about sexual violence could be improved, expert says

In 2016, the Ontario Hockey League announced a plan to team up with sexual assault centers across the province to create a program that would educate players on ways to prevent violence. male sexuality towards women.

Called OHL Onside, the program required players and a coach from all 20 teams to participate in a two-hour training session led by someone from the local sexual assault center in their city.

In London, Anna Lise Trudell of Anova – an organization that helps and shelters abused women – led the sessions with London Knights players.

Trudell said that at the time of its inception, the Onside program was seen as proactive, a way to get players talking about topics like toxic male masculinity, consent and the origins of gender-based sexual violence. .

« We know from research that athletic membership and fraternity membership are where the incidence of sexual assault is highest, » Trudell said. « And it’s not because hockey causes rape, but it’s because there are these subcultures in these spaces that don’t call out when there’s bad behavior. »

The overriding idea was not to defame male hockey players by calling them predators or aggressors, but rather to bring to the table some of the issues surrounding men’s sexual violence against women early in their careers. at hockey. Some OHL players are only 16 when they enter the league.

The issue of sexual violence against women in hockey has been in the headlines for the past few weeks. Last month, it was revealed that Hockey Canada had paid an out-of-court settlement to a woman who claimed she was assaulted by eight members of Canada’s world junior hockey team following an event in London, Ontario.

The players involved in the London incident have not been identified. Worried about the way the situation was handled and a lack of structural change in the organization, the federal government withdrew its financial support to Hockey Canada. Since then, Hockey Canada’s corporate partners, including Tim Hortons and Scotiabank, have ceased their support.

As for the OHL Onside program, some OHL teams were unable to hold sessions during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last winter. Other teams picked it up this spring.

The London Knights contacted Anova last fall about resuming the program, but Trudell said he received a message from the team before Christmas. At the time, there was a spike in COVID-19 cases and the team said its schedule was changing. There was a promise to return with possible dates once the team’s schedule resumes, but Trudell says that didn’t happen.

CBC News emails to the Knights’ media relations department for clarification were not returned.

OHL will resume its program on the sidelines

In an email to CBC News, an OHL spokesperson said the Onside program has « resumed in the OHL this season » and teams are talking with hosts about expanding it into the 2022-23 season. .

Improving the program is a necessary next step, Trudell said. While the program was quite innovative when it was introduced, but since 2016, other institutions have gone further with similar programs by running them more frequently and organizing training sessions for staff.

« We’re now at the point where on campuses we’re doing multiple hours of training with students over many, many months, » she said. « So having this one-off approach…it’s not good enough anymore. One-off training isn’t going to change behaviors. »

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