Coach Petersen makes sexual assault prevention a priority

The NCAA has announced a new policy requiring sexual violence prevention training for college athletes, but a local coach has been quietly providing that training to his football players for years.

Rocked by sex assault scandals, this month the NCAA announced a new policy requiring sexual violence prevention training for college athletes.

But UW Husky football coach Chris Petersen has been quietly providing that training to his football players for years.

Petersen is known for caring equally about the person as much as the player.

"Life is about finding passion about what you do and we're passionate about football," Petersen said. "But that's only half of what we're passionate about. We're passionate about raising good people."

We asked him if there is something about athletes that make them more vulnerable to making these types of mistakes.

"Yeah," he said. "What I think is they might have more access, and they have more people around them that want to be around them. But yet, I always tell these guys the rules are very much different for you in this room than they are your normal college kid on campus."

Petersen believes the microscope athletes live under is justified. So to help them succeed, he makes teaching respect a priority.

"Maybe your folks had a sex ed talk with you back in the day. Maybe," he said. "And then you heard some stuff maybe in school, in the classroom, and then everything else you learn on the internet and on the streets and all that stuff. And then you get in [college] and nobody talks about that stuff in meaningful ways. It's just whatever. And we're just like, 'No. We're going back to basics.'"

The basics include giving them lectures throughout the year. Petersen has even put together a power point demonstration.

"Yeah, I got tricks," he said with a smile. "I  got lots of tricks."

He's also brought in rape survivors, like activist Brenda Tracy, to share their stories with the team.

"We've had people come in here that have said every word in the book telling their story," Petersen said. "Those are the good speakers. Those are the ones, that's real life. That's the ones where our guys are locked in and they're learning."

King County senior deputy prosecutors David Martin and Lisa Johnson, who oversee domestic violence and sexual assault cases, remember getting the invitation.

"I was amazed," said Johnson. "In my time I don't think we were ever invited to come and talk to the athletic department."

The two prosecutors gave the players different scenarios, like seeing a woman had too much to drink, and asked them questions.

"Would they step in? Would they go to protect that person? Or if it's their buddy, would they pull their buddy away?" Johnson asked.

"So many of these players got the message when they were growing up that they shouldn't drink and drive," said Martin. "Those messages haven't been as consistent in sexual assault and domestic violence."

"We call it 'Built for Life,'" said Petersen. "These are life topics. These are life skills. You know, specifically, when we go into the area of women, we talk about our 'real man' program. What a real man looks like, how a real man conducts himself."

Peterson says the training is part of the program just like memorizing plays, or strength and conditioning.
He tells his players to set an example. Be part of the solution.

"It's about doing the right thing, changing culture, changing how men need to conduct themselves," he said. "I think sexual assault and those type of issues, those are much more male problems than female problems. The males are the ones that can solve this."

Coach Petersen says the NCAA policy mandating sexual violence training for coaches and athletes is a good step forward. But he feels strongly that doing it once a year to check a box and satisfy a requirement isn’t enough.

For more information on prevention methods to engage kids, parents and coaches, prosecutors recommend ThatsNotCool.com and another program called Coaching Boys into Men.

 

© 2017 KING-TV


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