CCAFC join fight against rape and sexual abuse

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CCAFC deserve a lot of praise for their charitable efforts in recent years. Following successful fundraisers for CALM and The Sir Stanley Matthews Foundation, this year the club have opted to pair up with RSACC (Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre), a charity dedicated to stamping out sexual violence in Darlington and County Durham.

With teams stretching from A to N, many will know that Collingwood are the largest football club in Durham and the biggest association of their kind in the country. It is for this very reason, their sheer size and potential reach, that they feel a moral duty to make a difference and help eradicate societal evils.

“The platform we have at CCAFC and the potential impact we can have comes with it certain responsibilities,” charity secretary Dan Aichen tells Palatinate. “Firstly, to make sure we don’t add to the problem, and also to actively try to improve things for all our members as well as others in the wider Durham community.

“I chose RSACC firstly because as a local charity the support and money we hopefully raise will have a genuinely big impact, through offering essential services to many survivors of sexual violence within the local community, as well as offer support for students at Durham.

“The pandemic and the resulting national lockdown only increased the demand for these services, and with a waiting list of between six to 12 months any help we can provide will go a long way to helping RSACC reach many more that desperately need it. Given the platform we have, supporting RSACC will hopefully also help make Durham a safer environment through our push on awareness.”

This partnership is pertinent amid a time when the university has once again under the microscope for sexual misconduct among its student population, with Vice-Chancellor Stuart Corbridge making a rallying call to end ‘toxic’ behaviours.

It is also refreshing to see the executive of such an influential, predominantly male institution not shying away from the hard truth on such a pressing topic. Aichen is acutely aware that sport can breed a toxic environment, and that Durham generally has a horrendous track record with sexual violence. For these reasons, he implores all sports and society officers from every college to follow suit.

“Absolutely they should follow in our footsteps. Sports especially can create a toxic culture that may make many feel unsafe or lead to sexual violence, and the only way to improve things is to have an open conversation about the problem and consider what can be done to improve things. Stating clearly that we do not tolerate any form of sexual violence is the first step to making Durham a safer environment.

“It’s hard to know exactly why Durham is so bad, but the sense of entitlement many seem to have, whether that be a feeling of entitlement to women’s bodies or just in general life, must play a role. This, combined with a deep lack of awareness regarding not just consent, and also lower level issues like rape jokes or catcalling creates an environment that makes sexual violence and rape acceptable for some people.”

Supporting RSACC will hopefully also help make Durham a safer environment.

Aichen was keen to stress that education is the first vital step in the club’s mission to stamp out sexual abuse. Focus groups have already taken place with club members, as well as serious discussions with executive members who, with the help of RSACC executives, have shared educational materials tailored to student experiences. The charity’s logo will also feature on the club’s strip this season.

“Awareness of these issues and the very real experiences many women face is the first step to try to improve things and create a safer environment for all. Education has got to be where to start, with an acceptance that we all have more to learn.

“Take catcalling as an example, so many of the lads I know just didn’t realise it happened so often. At least with the knowledge it does happen, we can all be more switched on so, when it does happen, we can call it out. Hopefully by supporting RSACC and making a genuine attempt to educate our members we can at the very least improve people’s understanding of all these issues.”

Awareness will also be boosted by a string of initiatives and fundraising events, with all money raised going towards RSACC’s counselling and telephone service for those who desperately need help.

Covid restrictions have unfortunately delayed their annual 24-hour football match – which they are hoping to arrange in third term – but the club are looking for alternatives in the meantime such as a charity formal in Epiphany term. Last weekend, however, the club were able to embark on a 24-hour continuous run around Durham in fancy dress, and managed to smash their donations target by raising over £3,000.

Isabel Owens, Deputy CEO of RSACC, is delighted with the partnership, as in the midst of a global pandemic she worries about the danger of charities such as hers being overlooked.

“Few families and institutions are untouched by sexual violence, including Durham University, so it’s fantastic that CCAFC has decided to fundraise for RSACC.

“It is essential that we are able to maintain our outreach work and campaigning. Raising vital issues such as consent, as well as ensuring that our young people understand the seriousness of rape and sexual violence and the devastating impact it has on survivors’ lives.”

If anyone has experienced sexual violence, they can contact RSACC’s free, anonymous and confidential Helpline for emotional support and advice on 0300 222 5730 (Monday – Thursday 10am to 2pm). 

Image: CCAFC

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