YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee hosted the first-ever national conference on violence against women and healthy masculinity at the Music City Center in downtown Nashville on Sept. 9 and 10. The SHIFT – AMEND Together Conference was sponsored by Vanderbilt Sports and Society and Allstate Foundation. The two-day event kicked off with actor, activist and Time’s 2017 Person of the Year and Silence Breaker, Terry Crews.
“This is not a women’s issue,” Crews told the standing room only crowd. “This is a humanity issue—but it’s a new day.” The actor shared his personal story growing up in an abusive household in Michigan, the unhealthy lessons he learned about manhood, and his sexual assault at the hands of a Hollywood executive. Later that evening, former football great, actor, and entrepreneur Eddie George opened up to attendees about his own experience witnessing violence as a child and advocating for change.
More than 300 individuals representing over 100 nonprofit, business, faith, and educational organizations attended the SHIFT Conference. YWCA affiliates from across the country were well represented, with more than a dozen leaders traveling to Nashville from as far away as Hawaii, Ohio, and Maine. YWCA USA CEO Alejandra Castillo was the keynote speaker on day one of the conference, and survivor Rachel Baribeau told her story of empowerment. Activist and speaker Brenda Tracy wrapped up the conference on day two. Tracy travels the country sharing her story with athletes on college campuses to empower them to be agents of cultural change.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. One in four women and one in nine men will experience severe intimate partner physical violence. Historically, one in five women have been sexually assaulted on college campuses, and one in five children witness domestic violence each year in the U.S.
YWCA Nashville & Middle Tennessee launched the AMEND Together program at the end of 2013 to address the crisis of violence against women by educating boys and young men, challenging the culture that supports violence, and cultivating healthy masculinity. Today, AMEND Together works with hundreds of boys in 22 Metro Nashville Public Schools. YWCA VP of External Affairs and AMEND Together Shan Foster planned the national conference and speaks locally and across the nation about this innovative violence prevention initiative.
“The SHIFT Conference validates that there is an incredible need for this information and desire to change our culture as it relates to ending violence against women,” Foster said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the work we are doing in Nashville and am thrilled that it will now be spreading across the country.”
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PANAMA CITY – Inspirational speaker and sports broadcaster Rachel Baribeau stopped by Bay High School to remind students they are kings and queens.
Baribeau spoke to students Monday and used those terms to remind them of their self-worth. Baribeau encouraged students to be confident, help others and overcome obstacles. “You are not a victim,” Baribeau said. “You are a victor.” Baribeau shared elements of her life to connect with and motivate students, including how she worked for three years unpaid and survived suicidal thoughts and domestic abuse. After the speech, students came up to hug and talk to Baribeau.
Student Danielle Cade, 17, said the speech touched her because she has gone through things with Hurricane Michael and daily life. “I just have a new perspective on life, to talk to myself better in the mornings and try to bring up other people and spread her word to everyone,” Danielle said.
Baribeau promoted the Bay High appearance on social media, saying in one Twitter post she couldn’t “wait to touch this community.” Baribeau donated a virtual training program designed to help them through the challenges of life — it usually sells for $299 a person — to each of the students. Baribeau’s slogan is #changingthenarrative, evident on the website imchangingthenarrative.org. She looks back on her struggles as a foundation of what she does.
“Don’t curse your struggle,” Baribeau said. “Let your haters be your motivators.” Baribeau told the students life will come at them quick. “Are you a king or are you a follower?” Baribeau asked as students cheered. Baribeau encouraged students to stand out instead of wanting to fit in and said students can “keep walking” and “get to stepping” if other people don’t recognize their worth.
She also discussed mental health issues, saying a lot of students may smile to people but “die on the inside.” Baribeau related to that, mentioning her own struggles helping her mom, who died in May from cancer.
Ending on a positive note, Baribeau said she is there for the students. “I came out the fire and I got buckets of water for everybody that’s still burning,” Baribeau said.
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Rachel Baribeau stood in front of more than 100 Gophers football players in the program’s auditorium in early August and asked a big question: “Who wants to take the mask off and get real with this team?”
Baribeau — a speaker, sportscaster and non-profit founder — had broken the ice, opening up about her struggles with mental health after her mother, Georgia “GiGi” Kelley, died in May after metastatic breast cancer spread to her bones, brain and liver.
“I had a very dark summer,” she recalled telling the Gophers. “I was isolated, and I was depressed. I had a night where I contemplated suicide.”
Baribeau was in her third visit to Minnesota in three years, and with that familiarity, she felt comfortable in sharing that story. In turn, her relationship with the program grew deeper.
But at first, no Minnesota players were willing to reciprocate their struggles. “There was a moment when you’re frightened and you think nobody is going,” she said.
Then, one by one, players spoke about some of their personal issues in front of all their teammates. Approximately 10 Gophers shared.
“I’m talking about very vulnerable, real, raw things that totally inspired their teammates,” Baribeau said. “I was in tears.”
For more than three years, Baribeau has been invited to travel from her home in Nashville, Tenn., for paid speaking engagements with college football programs. She has addressed teams ranging from powerhouses Clemson and Alabama to smaller schools like Buffalo and Division II’s Southwest Minnesota State, where she will talk Sunday.
She was the first speaker to go to Washington State after quarterback Tyler Hilinski committed suicide last year, and she is willing to do the talks free, if resources are tight or special needs arise.
Baribeau has spoke more than 50 times at about 35 schools, with multiple visits at places like Louisiana State, but she has come to the University of Minnesota more than any other. Her first visit to Dinkytown in 2017 came with the theme “changing the narrative,” which P.J. Fleck was hired to do after the program was mired in a sexual misconduct case in 2016.
Baribeau’s message constantly evolves from how men and women should aspire to be “kings and queens” in how they act and inspire others, and has shifted to destroying society’s idea of being perfect, which can permeate social media.
“It’s one thing to have speakers every year,” Fleck said. “It’s another thing to have topics every single year come up but have the same speaker talk about them in a very different way. Where then I feel like our players have a relationship with that person. They can text that person, they can come to that person, they will open up more to that person when they are speaking to them. Rachel has done that. She has reached to the hearts of all our players.”
Fleck and the Gophers have extended the invitation for Baribeau to speak annually and are working on a bigger collaboration they’re not yet ready to share publicly.
Gophers sophomore offensive lineman Blaise Andries was one of the players to speak in front of the team during Baribeau’s visit.
Andries, a mathematics major from Marshall, Minn., has said he felt the need to be perfect earlier in his U career and when he fell short, it became “too much.” The 6-foot-6 and 325-pound guard missed a few practices in spring 2018 and has met to the U’s sports psychology staff about his mind-set and putting things into perspective. He also credits Amy Gunter, his academic adviser in the U’s College of Science and Engineering.
“I tell myself, ‘You’re playing football and hanging around your best friends. You’re doing just fine, trust me.’ ”
Andries could tell some of the freshmen were struggling during preseason camp — the rigors of college football and no longer being the star player, that kind of stuff. During some practices, he could see it on their faces in practice, and with fellow offensive linemen, he would help make calls at the line of scrimmage.
He used his talk to share his story and address them specifically.
“I can tell you are trying to be a big manly man, but it’s OK to go talk to someone,” he recalled telling the team. “It’s OK to go open up. I struggled with it the same as you guys, and I probably broke down a lot more than you guys. If you need someone to talk to, you can come talk to me.”
A few teammates have taken Andries up on his offer.
After Baribeau shared the story about losing her mom, she asked the Gophers, “Who here has lost somebody significant to them that rocked their world?”
“Nearly every hand shot up in the damn room,” she said. This was therapeutic for her.
“It’s not just me,” she told the Pioneer Press. “My loss was significant. She died in my arms, and I nursed her for 10 months through cancer. I put my life on hold to be there, but in asking everybody who had a significant loss — I can’t quantify if your aunt is just as special as my mom.”
Fleck, Andries and Baribeau each shared how the goal is to break stereotypes that men are not supposed to share their feelings.
“You are a man! Tough! You can’t have feelings; that is so not true,” Fleck said. “I think some of the best men I’ve ever met have the most feelings. They know how to direct them, how to channel them. They know how to go to somebody else for help when they need it. We are providing all those resources for our student athletes. That being a man is saying, ‘yes, I have an issue. Yes, I have a problem. Yes, I need help.’ ”
After Baribeau’s talk, more than 20 players stayed after to thank her, sharing more personal details or just stopping to give her a hug. This has become routine at Baribeau’s other stops.
“For so many of these athletes, they have been told their only worth is how good they are on a field,” Baribeau said. “So their identity is so closely tied to that, and it’s really sad. I can’t tell you how many have hugged and cried and they’ve told me, ‘Ms. Rachel, you are the first person to tell me I have worth outside of football.’ That will break your heart and make your heart at the same time.”
Baribeau said it’s important for fans to remember players are people, too, when Saturdays come and the focus goes to a quarterback’s interception or a linebacker’s missed tackle.
Gophers senior defensive end Winston DeLattiboudere spoke in front of the team at previous meetings with Baribeau. He has since grown close with Baribeau, texting her and appearing on her Sirius XM radio show.
“I just felt like it was really cool to have her back a third time because it felt like she was family,” he said.
DeLattiboudere knows more about his fellow upperclassmen’s stories, but in Baribeau’s latest visit, he learned about what some of his younger teammates have been dealing with.
“I was like I need to try to make sure I can lead them in this way, let me make sure I can check on him when he goes through this,” DeLattiboudere said. “That was the clicking point for me when I was like my leadership style has to turn more empathetic.
“When you have a connection where you know a guy’s story, that’s way different than just lining up next to a guy and playing.”
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September 2, 2019
Rachel Baribeau was standing in front of dozens of Maryland football players who were all eager to speak with her. She had done her talking; it was now time to listen.
It’s a normal occurrence for the SiriusXM College host and assault survivor to have as many as 50 players talk to her personally about what they’re doing to become better people, or kings, as Baribeau likes to put it, after she speaks with them about a wide range of topics ranging from sexual assault to domestic violence.
That was the same case when she visited the Terps.
“[Head coach] Mike Locksley called me … and he said we want to get you here, let’s figure it out, we must do this,” Baribeau said on Glenn Clark Radio
In the wake of the Baylor University sexual assault scandal in 2016, Baribeau revealed in an essay about a broken culture in college football that she was an assault survivor. She has told of an instance when she and several other couples were together when the man she was dating became angry.
“He dragged me from one end of the house to the other by my hair,” she said to a team last year
. “I screamed bloody murder and no one came to help. Three men, and none of them [helped].”
Since then, she has visited campuses as an advocate for assault survivors and spoken to college football players about how they can become better people.
“It really is so much more than domestic violence,” Baribeau said on GCR. “My message is a holistic approach to the whole man or woman. We talk about purpose, passion, platform, how we view and treat women.”
Like much of the sports world, Baribeau is all too familiar with the hardships Maryland players have experienced the past 18 months with the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who died two weeks after suffering heatstroke during a team workout last spring. She normally talks with head coaches beforehand to make the conversation a little more personal for each team, and while she didn’t touch on the McNair tragedy much, she still did so in a way that seemed appropriate to her.
“There was one particular moment where I said to them the world was watching, and they watched how you conducted your business,” Baribeau said. “They watched what you endured. They watched you come together. They watched you play in his honor. They watched you. I said I and the rest of the world watched you come together as a team, and it was beautiful.”
There are usually a few different types of players when Baribeau comes to speak to a team. There are the players who are tired or the ones who say they have heard her story before. But by the time she is finished, they are all captivated by what she has to say.
That isn’t what keeps her going, though. Rather, it’s the moments after when the players speak to her that make it truly worthwhile.
“They tell me about their life, they tell me about their heartbreak,” Baribeau said. “They tell me about the things they’re going to do with their lives and … how they were going to be a king. If the after-effect and relationships and connection wasn’t there, I would have quit a long time ago.”
Baribeau encourages having a safe space for players to talk about anything; she puts up her Twitter handle after every visit and usually “about 50 to 60” players follow her right after she’s done. But more importantly, she and the coaches understand these players need an open line of communication in order to be better people, both on and off the field.
“A guy like Coach Locksley gets it,” Baribeau said. “If you’ve got a guy who’s not carrying burdens while he’s playing football and practicing, then he going to be a better football player. Period. End of story. The whole aspect of mental health is so, so big and something I’ve been really focusing on for the last year and a half when I recognized how broken these young men are.”