When USF junior Nick Hicks, a cross country and track and field athlete, opened the box that was sitting in his locker, he found a single role of athletic tape and a pen. These two items did not appear too notable on the surface, but they held a powerful, relevant significance. Inside this box was Hicks’ chance to join an effort to raise awareness of sexual assault against women, and this was not an opportunity he was going to pass up.
“I’ve always been raised just to treat women with respect and to be really kind and nice to everyone,” Hicks said. “When I hear about stuff like [sexual assault], it really upsets me.”
Hicks had been nominated to participate in the #iAspire for Her campaign, a movement geared towards bringing attention to the issue of sexual assault on college campuses through involvement from male athletes. The campaign, which was started through a partnership between When Georgia Smiled: The Robin McGraw Revelation Foundation, Pivot TV, and Students of the World, is predicated on a simple yet effective process. Participants write the names of important women in their life on a band of tape, wrap the tape around their wrist, and then post a picture to Instagram that shows them with their hand held over their heart, displaying their dedication.
USF athletes from sports such as cross country, track and field, men’s basketball and men’s soccer have already become involved in the project. Adam Smith, who ran cross country and track at USF before graduating last May, was one of the first people at USF to use the campaign to take a stand against sexual assault. The women that Smith chose to represent on his wrist were his friend Sydnie Telson, who is a midfielder on the USF women’s soccer team, and Chelsea King, a friend of his who was a victim of rape and murder.
“It’s something that I don’t usually publicize that much, but I thought this was a pretty good and tasteful avenue to do that,” Smith said.
Throughout the four years that Smith attended USF, he became concerned by the role that sexual assault plays in everyday conversations.
“I think one of the biggest things is making it a trivialized issue, and making it a joking kind of issue,” Smith said. “Especially in the terminology that we use. It takes the serious edge off of it, and it kind of makes it a normalized issue.”Robert Parker, a teammate of Hicks’ and senior javelin thrower on the USF track and field team, also participated. He elected to make his picture a tribute to his girlfriend, whom he has been dating for three years.
Parker stresses the importance of two people considering what each other want and coming to a mutual understanding before engaging in sexual activity.
“It’s just the importance of treating people like human beings, and to talk and not just assume that you can do stuff like that,” Parker said. It’s important to pick people’s brains before you just throw yourself on them.”
Matt Glover, a senior point guard on the USF men’s basketball team, was nominated by Smith to contribute to the #iAspire for Her campaign. Glover, who is the youngest of nine children and has three sisters, had no trouble identifying women who have had a profound impact on his life. He put two different bands on his wrists, with one reading “Mom,” and the other one “Sisters.”
“Growing up, seeing [my sister’s] boyfriends – I don’t think it was anything bad or anything, just seeing how they were treated in a good relationship or bad relationship – knowing their stories, they taught me, as well as my Mom, how to treat a lady,” Glover said.
According to the #iAspire for Her campaign’s website, one in five college women “experience attempted or completed sexual assault during their undergraduate years.” The lack of serious, engaging discussion surrounding the topic of sexual assault on college campuses has allowed this staggering statistic to go unchallenged, and Glover emphasizes the need to create a culture that encourages people to open up.
“I think it’s like the elephant in the room that people don’t want to address,” Glover said. “So that’s the tough part, having the courage to speak up, and really bringing it out in the open so others are aware of it. Not just for yourself; there might be somebody else in that classroom that had the same situation, and if you don’t bring it up, they don’t know how to handle it.”
In Hicks’s eyes, it is particularly critical for athletes to position themselves at the front of the #iAspire for Her Campaign due to their ability to influence and involve others.
“Some people consider [athletes] idols or role models, and because we’re put [in] the spotlight, it’s very important that we help fight against [sexual assault], so that maybe we start a snowball effect and other non-athletes can join the cause,” Hicks said.
To Smith, the campaign reflects and promotes the values of USF as a university.
“If you think about what the Don really is, it stands for someone of a noble cause,” Smith said. “So I think that us as a university, we can really push for that through this campaign, and show people that the types of athletes that USF has [are playing] that role right there.”