SCREAM Program Goes National

By Staff

Coaching Management, 14.3, March 2006, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/cm/cm1403/bbscream.htm

At Rutgers University, an educational program called “SCREAM Athletes” has been successfully preparing athletes to resist the pressures they face when their varsity status turns into celebrity access—to drugs, alcohol, or risky sexual interactions.

The acronym stands for Students Challenging Realities and Educating Against Myths, and every sports team on the Rutgers campus attends at least one performance of the SCREAM Athletes theater program, where they see student-athletes acting in skits that portray real-life situations. The performances are followed by discussions about the realities of student-athlete life. A video version of the program has recently become available to campuses nationwide.

This summer, the Rutgers Department of Sexual Assault Services and Crime Victim Assistance (SAS/CVA) collaborated with the athletic department to produce a 25-minute video version of the program that focuses on sexual assault. According to Ruth Anne Koenick, Director of SAS/CVA at Rutgers, research shows that some aspects of college athletics culture make violence against women a particular problem—language, traditions, and practices that create an atmosphere she describes as “rape-supportive,” where violence against women is tolerated or even promoted. What makes SCREAM Athletes special is that it focuses not on problems within athletics, but on how athletes can be agents for change.

“Is there a difference between athletics culture and the rest of campus on this issue? Absolutely,” Koenick says. “But we don’t approach this as, ‘Student-athletes are more prone to being sexually violent.’ Our stance has always been that student-athletes have a unique opportunity to take leadership roles on this issue. Let’s find a way to help them step up and say, ‘This is not behavior that I will tolerate in myself or in my teammates.’”

Both the on-campus program and the video take an unblinking approach to depicting realities that aren’t often discussed openly. “After a live presentation, there is usually dead silence in the audience,” says Ryan Westman, a senior on the Rutgers Men’s Track and Field team and the program’s coordinator. “People are in shock at how realistic the skits are. The theater productions create a very real experience that leaves an impact. And that is something we strive for.”

The video program is appropriate for both college and high school audiences, Koenick says, although she cautions that some high school administrators may have concerns about language used in the film. For either audience, she strongly suggests involving an expert in the field of sexual assault when presenting the video. The program also includes a packet of instructions for facilitating the post-video discussion.

The video is available for purchase on the Web. Click on “SCREAM Athletes video” at http://sexualassault.rutgers.edu.