I hope that you are well. I had the privilege to speak at a special event on Saturday. It was a “Walk for No More” event which is part of a national campaign to end domestic violence and sexual assault. I have a strong relationship with “Transitions” in Lewisburg and I thank Susan Mathias and Heather Shnyder for asking me to speak at the event.
I have always believed that everyone has a role in working to end domestic violence and sexual assault. I feel that events like this provide a means of education for all of us. We realize that it is an issue. Do we have the courage and conviction to take a stand to make a difference? I have always approached this topic with the teams that I have been privileged to coach. The head coaches I worked with were open about the fact that we all have a role in taking care of each other. It goes beyond what we all think of when we consider these issues. It is a matter of humans watching out for and taking care of other humans.
In my upbringing my Father and Mother used two terms as they taught me that continue to resound in my mind. The first was that I should always act like a “gentleman”. The second was I should always practice “Chivalry” in the way that I acted and the way that I treated people. At first these were just words to me. The more I learned the more I understood what they were teaching me was related to the Golden Rule. Treat people like you want to be treated. The term Chivalry always had a special meaning to me. At first I think it struck me as being special because it was related to Knights and there was a time as a child that I wanted to be a Knight. Cavalry (soldiers on horseback) and Chivalry have the same root: the Medieval Latin word ka bal lar ius meaning "horseman" or "knight."
Chivalry in its base definition: Is the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, especially courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak. There were times that I found it hard to treat my siblings the way I was taught. Over time I found that people responded to being treated the right way. This was reinforced by other people in my life. My Aunts and Uncles, my Teachers and Coaches and the people who I saw as role models were examples that I followed.
As I matured I worked to practice what I was taught. I also knew that I could be a role model for others by treating them with respect. I saw this as a concept that could be “paid forward”. As a young coach I made it a point to get to know everyone on the team. I also worked to get to know the other coaches in the building, athletes in other sports and people who I would interact with on campus on a daily basis. I made an effort to treat people the right way and was alert to their needs regardless of who they were or what role they played.
I feel that part of this concept is being able to put the needs of others ahead of yours. My wife and I have worked to instill these traits in the way we have raised our children and I am proud to say that it worked. My son and two daughters are responsible young adults who respect others and treat people the right way.
This is difficult to do on a consistent basis. At times the world sends us signals that tell us to keep to ourselves, to get whatever we can regardless of the impact it has on others. A football team is one of the biggest groups on a college campus. The young men on the team can have a major impact on any campus. They must share a vision that is well defined and realistic. This has to be reinforced by action and education.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.
We would bring in speakers who would reinforce our feelings about domestic violence and sexual assault. This was reinforced by the university and its approach to the same topic. This must carry over from class to class as there are many changes that place on a team from year to year. The approach is driven by the vision of the head coach and staff. It is reinforced by the leaders on the team. You do not have to be a senior to be a leader. You have to have the courage to set yourself apart by how you act and react.
When I worked as an assistant at Rutgers both of my daughters were students at the school. I knew that the players knew who they were and would watch over them. That feeling of security is a special thing. When I came to Bucknell I worked to bring the same approach. I was fortunate that the University provided the assistance in this philosophy. From the Dean of Students, University Physician, Chief of Police, Title IX Coordinator and many others the message was the same.
This philosophy must be accepted by the young men on your team in order to be effective. It starts with your leaders and upperclassmen. They convey the message to everyone else on the team. Their actions on campus reinforce this message and they act as role models for other people and other groups. The basis for creating a culture of awareness is the fact that domestic violence and sexual assault is real in our town and on our campus. Some may look around and say….never here. We all know better. That must be a part of the education.
There is one way to eliminate it. By understanding that we all play a role in this. It is one of the responsibilities that we have as humans. We must include ourselves in this. We owe it to those who are victims; that is obvious. Domestic violence and sexual assault needs to be humanized, it cannot be pushed into the background. This impacts many more families than we realize. It may have already impacted our own.
We all have a responsibility to help those in need. At some time we will need help as well. The effort to eliminate domestic violence and sexual assault is the goal and it is only something we can impact by being educated, by serving as role models for others and by acting when we need to. If you see something then say something. If you sense something trust what you feel in order to make sure that you can potentially help. There are times when we avoid taking action because “we just don’t want to take the risk of getting involved”.
The only way to get rid of something is to act against it. If you act as a role model for others then you can create a chain reaction that continues. Domestic violence and sexual assault are real, the way to eliminate them is by education, action and reaction. It takes courage to step in when you are needed. Once you take that step keep moving. You will make a difference.