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Empowering Change: Panel Discussion Tackles Consent and Post-Secondary Athletics

On September 18, Action Now Atlantic organized a panel discussion titled ‘Consent and Post-Secondary Athletics,’ featuring student-athletes from the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) and Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA). The panelists engaged in a conversation about power dynamics, toxic locker room cultures, sexual violence, and related topics.

This event was a vital component of Consent Awareness Week 2023, an initiative launched by Possibility Seeds and High School Too in 2022. The aim is to draw attention to the concerning rise in sexual violence during the first six weeks of the academic year.

Julia Campbell, a student-athlete on the St. Thomas University women’s volleyball team and one of the panelists, stressed the importance of open discussions about consent in post-secondary athletics. She emphasized the need to normalize consent conversations, making it a topic that isn’t considered taboo but rather a part of the regular discourse. According to Campbell, teaching athletes that consent is a clear-cut issue is essential. She also expressed her commitment to taking on a leadership role among her peers, holding herself and her athletics department accountable.

For Campbell, there is always room for improvement in implementing programs and discussions about consent in the athletic world. She articulated her desire to ensure that the youth she mentors and volunteers with don’t have to face issues related to consent.

Sophie Landry, a recent graduate of Mount Allison University (Mt. A) and a former volleyball player, moderated the panel and is a prominent advocate for consent awareness. She shared her motivation to drive change after a significant protest against sexual violence at the Mt. A campus. Landry emphasized the responsibility of departments in creating a safe environment for athletes.

Landry discussed the challenges posed by power dynamics in the athletic environment, which can deter athletes from reporting consent-related issues. Athletes may fear the consequences of speaking out against a department, coach, or another athlete. She underscored the need for cultural change, acknowledging that this transformation requires substantial effort.

Sophie Landry plans to continue her work with Action Now Atlantic and her research on post-secondary athletics while pursuing her MA in social psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University. Her research will focus on intergroup relations and social inequalities, particularly in the context of gender and sexuality. During her time at Mt. A, Landry led the Student-Athlete Mental Health Initiative (SAMHI) on campus and played a role in implementing mandatory sexual violence prevention training for all varsity student-athletes.

Landry concluded by emphasizing the necessity of a cultural shift, recognizing that it demands sustained effort and commitment.

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