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A Difficult And Uncomfortable Opportunity For Discussion

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A spirit circle. Photo: Kevin Leclaire – UltiPhotos.com[/caption]

This post was written by guest author Mike Lovinguth.

A Letter to the Readers of Ultiworld:

I opened my phone on the plane after Regionals this weekend to a text with some very disturbing news. A member of the ultimate community had been charged with videotaping women nude and engaged in sex without their permission. My response for the victims probably echoes yours: disgusting, horrifying, heart breaking.

Recognizing, discussing, and making visible the reality of sexual violence in our community is one component of treating vulnerable members of our community better. It is one piece of finding ways to make lives safer from this threat, in particular youth and women.

Ultimate is not immune from sexual violence. Sexual abuse studies suggest 1 in 6 women have been abused. These studies are, understandably, difficult to perform, and so may even under-report the frequency and severity of abuse. From conferences I’ve attended through my work in youth sport, I’ve heard estimates that can rise significantly. Men are certainly not immune either. Again, statistics range from 1 in 10 to 1 in 6. There’s a website for men detailing this statistic: 1in6.org.

The avenues for exposing threats like this are complicated, murky, and often penalize victims at the expense of safeguarding due process to the accused. As such, issues around sex and sexual violence often get neglected or discarded when it comes to sports.

Ultimate is no different and the issue of sexual violence has been ignored by the ultimate community. Not entirely, mind you, as there are a few safeguards in place (background checking, coaching code of conduct) with USA Ultimate and education in place within the coaching development program – but it’s never going to be enough. We can’t rely on others to protect our friends and children. It is not pleasant to talk about. But ignoring the issue is not any sort of solution. It means we’re not willing to address it as a community in an open way. This secrecy harms victims and protects perpetrators of abuse.

What I’ve reflected on during the 36 hours since that text, speaking with many friends, is that knowledge of the acts in Cambridge present a difficult and uncomfortable challenge for us to cover and discuss in a public way. The story sat out there mainly in texts until Ultiworld published on Tuesday. One victim’s story was posted on Facebook late Monday night. That story became very public, very quickly. When I read her story, I was saddened, horrified, depressed, awed, humbled, and hit by thousands of other emotions. I am amazed and again, humbled, at her strength and courage.

While I am happy that Ultiworld reported on it on Tuesday, I wish it would’ve been reported on September 9th, as soon as the Boston Herald announced the arraignment of Teddy Browar-Jarus. And while I respect that moderators of /r/ultimate wanted to discuss the posting internally, I wish they either were strong enough or had enough agency to publish the original threads in their entirety, and instead moderate out victim-shaming, identifiable information, and other damaging comments. I don’t work in the media, so I don’t know how hard those decisions are. But I wish they were faster.

Why? Because while I’m awed at the public statement from the woman who came forward, it should never have come to that. We should have stood up for the women in ultimate and anyone else affected by these actions prior to anyone having to bare this pain publicly. Even as our community presses for additional gender equity in the media sphere, when confronted with the very serious issue of sexual violence, how can our most public forums for discussion suppress comment and stay silent for so long?

I’m the father of two boys. I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by amazing women in the ultimate community from the first day I stepped on the field at Truman State, and of course outside of the ultimate community in my family and places of work. I want my boys to have amazing and safe experiences with coaches, teammates, and future partners, and hopefully to play some ultimate. I want the women who I’ve met through ultimate to have amazing and safe experiences with coaches, teammates, and their current and future partners. That’s why I write this.

I don’t know Browar-Jarus and while I don’t know any of the victims, I wouldn’t write about knowing one if I did – that’s clearly a choice they have to make. That makes writing this letter very easy for me – I can stand on the outside and comment. I do know victims of sexual assault, and readers of this letter do too, even if you don’t know it yet – that makes writing this letter very hard. My heart hurts when I think about their path to healing through the world, the fear and violation they may have to face alone, and I hope they have access to support.

I write because this is an opportunity to discuss sexual violence and sports and one we can’t shy away from. If we sweep the issue aside, we miss the opportunity to stand up for the innumerable victims who can’t speak up.

-Mike Lovinguth

I’ve spent a lot of time on this letter last night and today. It was helpful to have several friends read it over and provide tweaks and advice. They’ve helped me to come up with a short list of resources available to victims of sexual violence, along with organizations that have been involved through my work in youth sports. This list is far from comprehensive:

RAINN - Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network
-Hotline: 800.656.4673
-Chat, and Local service provider locator at: https://hotline.rainn.org/online/terms-of-service.jsp

National Sexual Violence Resource Center
List of local anti-sextual assault coalitions

Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline
1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453)
(staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with professional crisis counselors)

Darkness to Light: End Child Sexual Abuse

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Child Welfare Information Gateway


Stop It Now!

Originally published at: http://ultiworld.com/2016/09/14/difficult-uncomfortable-opportunity-discussion/

I have often asked myself and other people in the ultimate community this question:

Is ultimate a sport like no other or a sport like every other?

There is certainly a case to be made for either answer, but I have always been in the second camp and this event pushes me even further in that direction.

There is no denying that Teddy Browar-Jarus was an icon in the ultimate community. He is a legend in the northeast, from New Jersey where he got his start with Pike, up through Roger Williams where he gave a college team an identity and onto Boston where he played an enormous role in the success of Slow White, Boston Ultimate/Ironside, and later with professional teams in both the AUDL and MLU. And it didn’t stop there; he was on Worlds teams in 2006 (Slow White), 2010 (Ironside) and 2014 (Ironside) and he represented the USA not once but twice at Beach Worlds, winning gold in the open division both times. Bottom line, Teddy was what every young ultimate player wants to be, he was a hero in his community, which stretched to every corner of the ultimate universe.

Why do I spend so much ink celebrating his accolades? Because his story aligns with so many flawed sports heroes of our time. Ryan Lochte is one of the more recent examples, but there was once a time when Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, committed a sin or two. The NFL carries the biggest limelight today and players like Aaron Hernandez, O.J. Simpson, Darren Sharper, Jameis Winston, Adrian Peterson are just a few who had private indiscretions come to the forefront. The same could be said for college football with Penn State and Baylor exhibiting some of the poorest institutional judgement of our time. Kobe Bryant had his transgression in 2003, Mike Tyson had his in 1991. And it isn’t just men. Hope Solo, Marion Jones, Tanya Harding. These are women who failed to exhibit the character we all expected based on their talents, but in hindsight, why were we so surprised? They are human, just like everyone else and are thus subject to temptation, greed, fear, hate, jealousy, anger…every emotion we feel, but keep hidden as best we can.

My point in all of this is that the ultimate community cannot (and should never have) claim innocence. We focus on youth development, character building and competitive spirit and Teddy was a product and champion of each of these, while simultaneously committing these horrendous acts. How is this possible? He is human, just like the rest of us. Within his mind was a rationalization for abhorrent behavior and somewhere someone in the ultimate community is flirting with the same thoughts. Maybe the specifics, the circumstances, the location, the actions, the individuals are different, but there is no doubt in my mind that the darkness that lives inside Teddy will be alive and well in the ultimate community long after he is banished.

With greater numbers, comes greater risks and we cannot be surprised and shocked when things like this happen because it means we thought we were safe in the first place. We aren’t and never were. As long as there are people in our sport, there will be sin. Hell, there is even a podcast on this website called “Sin the Fields”, which I DO NOT object too. What I object too is the notion that we are somehow above these types of acts. This happened and something similar will likely happen again, in all likelihood, it may already be happening now. Teddy’s transgressions spanned years and it is more than possible that another narrative is maturing as I type this, whether or not it is ever exposed is another matter.

So what is the take home? The message for the masses to restore piece of mind? Expect ugliness. Expect gruesome and gut wrenching details. Expect hostility, fear and shame. Expect innocence to be lost. With these expectations in place, we can look past the shock and meaningless knee jerk reactions and be adults who can think 1 day, 1 week, 1 year down the road. We know these things will happen, it is just a question of when and how to respond. If we know that darkness is out there, we can have the emotional and cognitive presence to deal with it…through listening, telling, reporting, confirming, spreading, teaching. Ignorance just makes us spectators who long for the moment before we knew what we know now.

Consider yourself informed.

what about the presumption of innocence? the man has only been accused, not convicted, right?

Male family members and friends have found this video helpful to frame discussions about sexual violence:

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