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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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.”