Teaching high school athletes about abuse, consent and communication in relationships significantly improves a range of behaviours relating to sexual violence and abuse. This project uses coaches to talk to their teams about what constitutes a healthy relationship. Coaching Boys Into Men (CBIM) has been deemed effective by various rigorous evaluations, and is now spreading across the world.
Results & Impact
A randomised controlled trial, conducted in 2012, demonstrated that CBIM made students understand abusive behaviour better, improved their intention to intervene when they saw abuse taking place, and it increased the number of times they actually intervened three months after the course concluded. After a one year follow-up, those improvements held steady.
Futures without Violence, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local schools.
CBIM is a series of discussions, led by a sports coach, that teaches athletes to build healthier, less abusive relationships. It takes place over 12 weeks in 15-minute long sessions, usually held just before or after sports practice. Topics include recognising abusive behaviour, consent and communication, cyberviolence and how to intervene when you see abuse taking place.
United States, India and Australia
Young people, men and boys
Cost & Value
CBIM materials are all open source and can be downloaded free of charge online.
Running since 2008
Some coaches felt that relationships coaching was outside of their remit. Some school principles refused to allocate the time or resources required to make the program a success. Most challenging, however, is the resistance that talking about sexual violence often triggers. Some communities felt that using CBIM was an implicit admission their schools were sexually violent.
CBIM is being replicated in countless schools across the US, and in areas of India and Australia. The exact number of replications is unknown, as all documents are open source and can be used without notifying the CBIM administrative team.
Sporting prowess translates to social capital for many teens; in every high school drama, it’s the jocks that rule the roost. Now, a violence prevention program is using their power for good.
Coaching Boys Into Men (CBIM) uses sports coaches to teach young athletes about violence in relationships — and how to prevent it. The aim is to leverage the unique coach-athlete bond to nip abusive behaviour in the bud.
The need is pressing. Every year, around 1.5 million high school students experience physical abuse from an intimate partner. And girls and women between the age of 16 and 24 experience intimate partner violence at a rate around triple the national average. Intervening in adolescence can change the life trajectory of young people, preventing abuse and trauma before they can ruin lives.
CBIM takes place over 12 weeks. Each week, coaches talk to their teams for 15 minutes about a new topic relating to abuse and healthy relationships. The course starts with the basics: understanding and recognising abusive behaviours is first on the list. Then, conversations broaden to online abuse, understanding consent, and setting boundaries. Each session starts with a brief speech by the coach which sets the tone for a discussion between the team.
“Athletes are looking to coaches as role models and mentors — not just in terms of their athletic performance, but their experiences in adolescence and life too,” said Yesenia Gorbea, senior program administrator at Future Without Violence, the non-profit which designed the program. That influence is key to changing behaviours.
In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a rigorous evaluation of the program across 16 schools. Half received CBIM training, half didn’t. The results were unequivocal: three months after the course, CBIM made students understand abusive behaviour better, it improved their intention to intervene when they saw abuse taking place, and it increased the number of times they intervened. After a one year follow-up, the results held strong.
According to Gorbea, however, the program isn’t just about changing athletes’ own behaviour. It’s about turning them into advocates within their schools, and spreading a culture of non-violence. “They have a huge amount of social capital,” she said, which means that when they’re on board, “it transforms the culture of a school”. Rather than being the source of machismo and inequitable gender attitudes, CBIM hopes to turn young athletes into changemakers.
CBIM has gone international, though the exact number of replications is unknown. Futures Without Violence make all their materials open-source and free of charge, so tracking new programs isn’t always possible. (“We didn’t want there to be any barriers to using these materials,” said Gorbea.) India and Australia are just two countries where CBIM has shown results, and there are tens if not hundreds of replications taking place across the US today.
The program, which has been running in its current form since 2008, has not been without hiccups, however. Even broaching the topic of sexual violence engenders resistance.
“As soon as you talk about prevention, the reaction is always, ‘that doesn’t happen here,’” said Gorbea. “People think they’re admitting some kind of liability that sexual violence happens where they work. But the point is that this is everywhere.”
A second challenge comes in getting the buy-in of coaches. Some think that relationship coaching is outside their remit. Others complain of time restraints. According to Gorbea, encouragement from advocates in the community is key to overcoming coaches’ and principles’ concerns.
Engaging men in violence prevention is a growing — and controversial — field. But teen boys are still largely sidelined. Programs like CBIM are among the first to recognise the potential of reaching male adolescents, building non-violent futures both on and off the sports field.
(Picture credit: Flickr/Johann Schwarz)