When I started Halftime Magazine 11 years ago, I never thought I’d be writing about sexual assault or active shooters. Yet these topics have come up more and more in the world lately. Sadly our activity is not immune to these atrocities.
In this issue, we recap some of the news occurring with The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps since the resignation of former executive director George Hopkins following several sexual assault allegations. In the next issue, we plan to bring you some of the best practices that other corps have either implemented or look to implement. Beyond that, we will look at successes among other youth organizations and provide advice from experts.
In my opinion, a more proactive approach needs to occur among all organizations, especially in youth education, to prevent abuse of power. Here, I share my ideas based on my years as a parent, Girl Scouts leader, and robotics coach.
First, safety starts with setting clear boundaries for interaction. One way that predators engage their victims is through grooming, or slowly gaining their trust and making them feel special. Because grooming can be extremely subtle and take place over a period of time, parents and other adults may not even notice that it is occurring. To prevent the process of grooming, organizations need to form stricter rules, so that educators and leaders are never allowed to engage in private social relationships with individual students. Private texting should also be barred. Can a Little League coach take his or her team out for celebratory ice cream? Of course, especially if parents and other coaches are invited. But a coach definitely should not be allowed to take the Most Valuable Player, for example, out for a special treat on their own.
Second, we need to be willing to listen—to ourselves, to our bodies, to our friends and colleagues, and to our kids. We should not dismiss our sixth sense or someone else’s story of hurt—no matter how small the infraction. The phrase “boys will be boys” should be eradicated from our vocabulary. And “mean girls” are not OK.
Third, we need more training for leaders and youth, fostering inclusion and a team atmosphere while teaching problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills.
And finally, we need to be empowered to stand up for ourselves. While we do need to listen to people in authority, we shouldn’t do so blindly. We need to be willing to say, “No,” or, “Stop,” if someone wants us to hurt property, ourselves, or others. Empowerment starts when kids are young, when someone gets pushed on the playground or has their hair pulled. Instead of just comforting the hurt child, a parent or teacher needs to help that child confront his or her aggressor and say that the behavior is not acceptable.
While these ideas seem simple, not enough organizations are implementing them. Take the first step toward prevention.
Christine Ngeo Katzman
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief