Global Sports Development and Sidewinder Films Partner with UC Speaks Up to Prevent Campus Sexual Assault

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The collaboration will offer University of California students, faculty, and staff virtual screenings of Emmy-nominated "At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal" combined with discussion panels tailored to college communities.

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“By working with Courage First and accessing our ready-made resources, student groups, athletic teams, and professors can gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics around sexual abuse and assault.” - David Ulich

At the end of October, President Trump signed into law the “Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020,” which strengthens athlete safety standards and increases Congressional oversight of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. The legislation passed unanimously in both chambers of Congress. Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) sponsored the bill, which was co-sponsored by 16 senators including Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (D-CA).

The newly passed legislation coincided with the formation of a new partnership between Courage First and UC Speaks Up. This joint venture intends to raise awareness about sexual violence prevention and resources available to survivors by giving University of California (UC) students the opportunity to participate in virtual screenings and panel discussions of "At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal (ATHOG)."

The first virtual discussion took place on October 14th, and follow-up survey results demonstrated the event had a significant impact on the audience. One hundred percent of respondents said that after attending the panel they feel more prepared to help someone who discloses abuse, and 100% said the panel discussion enriched their understanding of topics addressed in the film.

On December 2nd the organizations will host another virtual event for the UC Davis community, with a third event scheduled on December 9th for the UC Merced and UC Irvine communities.

Developed in response to the systemic problems in elite gymnastics that allowed a predator to abuse hundreds of athletes over decades, Courage First is an abuse education initiative from ATHOG producers Global Sports Development and Sidewinder Films. The program and the film have been part of a nationwide educational screening tour aimed at sparking meaningful conversations about abuse in sport.

Dr. Jennifer Wagman, professor at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health and Principal Investigator of UC Speaks Up – a campus-based violence prevention initiative of the UC Global Health Institute’s Center of Expertise on Women’s Health, Gender and Empowerment – hosted an ATHOG screening panel for her graduate class in May 2020.

With UC Speaks Up, Wagman and her team lead an ongoing research project to explore UC student attitudes and awareness around sexual violence, including within the NCAA sports system. “Many of the issues addressed in ATHOG came up in our research with UC student-athletes. For instance, most student-athletes, particularly women, who experienced sexual abuse told us they decided against reporting the violence because their abuser held more power than they did and/or they feared retaliation – either through loss of playtime/ability to compete, or loss of scholarship funding. Partnering with Courage First offers a perfect opportunity to raise awareness about these important issues and think critically about solutions.”

Dr. Steven Ungerleider, producer of ATHOG and board member for Global Sports Development and Sidewinder Films, addressed the need for campus education. “At the Heart of Gold highlights very serious issues in the way institutions handle abuse prevention and response, particularly in athletics. We are pleased to see our government stepping in to ensure athlete safety.”

“Our partnership with UC Speaks Up is a tremendous opportunity to engage with thousands of students across the UC system,” said David Ulich, producer of ATHOG and Global Sports Development and Sidewinder Films board member. “By working with Courage First and accessing our ready-made resources, student groups, athletic teams, and professors can gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics around sexual abuse and assault.”

Any student group, class, department, team, or organization in the UC system can request a screening and discussion through this Courage First and UC Speaks Up initiative. Please visit http://www.CourageFirst.org/uc-speaks-up to learn more.

About Global Sports Development and Sidewinder Films
The Foundation for Global Sports Development, established in 1996, was born out of a desire to promote and protect the best parts of sport. Guided by its original mission, the foundation delivers and supports initiatives that promote accessible, fair, and abuse-free sport for youth. The foundation achieves this objective through grants, awards, educational projects, and filmmaking. In 2015, the foundation launched its media company, Sidewinder Films, to inspire and educate audiences through films that shed light on the remarkable, untold stories that celebrate the sport of life. Visit http://www.globalsportsdevelopment.org and http://www.sidewinderfilms.org to learn more.

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