Bc Lions defensive back, Matt Bucknor takes question from his young audience during presentation of the Lions’ Be More Than A Bystander program, aimed at ending the silence on violence against women, at Vernon Secondary School on April 17. (Erin Christie/Morning Star)

B.C. Lions urge high school students to make a difference

Johnson, Bucknor urge students to be More than a Bystander when it comes to violence against women

As a runningback with the B.C. Lions, Jeremiah Johnson runs through and over 300-pound linebackers trying to knock him out with extreme force. Every play contains a touch of controlled violence and ends up a train wreck if you will.

As a speaker with the Lions’ Be More Than A Bystander program, Johnson urges young people to break the silence on violence against women. He finds that topic much tougher than avoiding tackles on the football field.

He opened the 45-minute presentation Tuesday morning at Vernon Secondary School by quietly revealing how his wife, Shanel, was a victim of rape by one of her family members.

“I get emotional and about this because it’s near and dear to my heart,” he said.

“I told my wife I would get nervous talking about this, but she said ‘I think you should do it.’ Her well-being is at the top of my list. If I reach one person in this audience, I’ve done my job. We’re not here to demonize you guys but the stats show that males are the main cause of these heinous crimes against women.”

Johnson, 31, is a marquee running back with the Canadian Football League team. The Oregon Ducks grad and Los Angeles product rang up a dozen touchdowns last season, including nine rushing scores on 913 yards. He has a young daughter, Jordan, and is more interested and troubled by the stats off the field.

Those stats show that one in three women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. The 15-24 age group lists the highest number of assaults.

Johnson and defensive back Matt Bucknor told students that violence against women can include dating wrongs, touching without consent, stalking, cyber bullying, catcalls, inappropriate or cruel jokes and texting. Any situation whereby the woman feels uncomfortable can be sexual harassment.

“We know you aren’t doing this, but maybe someone you know is,” said Johnson, “We want to give you a platform where you can say, ‘I learned something and what you’re doing is not right.’”

Johnson stressed how touching a female without consent is harassment.

“Consent is ongoing and it can be withdrawn at any time. Consent is not valid if the person is drunk, on drugs or unconscious. If that happens, the male should exit stage left. Being drunk is a not a defence.”

Tyler Gammon of the Lions Community Relations department showed some public service announcements and TV clips on the issue. He showed a light-hearted message featuring stick figures offering a cup of tea as a analogy to asking a female for sex.

“Unconscious people don’t want tea,” said the announcer, bringing light laughter from the students.

Students saw Lions head coach Wally Buono break down and cry as he spoke of having to deal with a violent incident on his mother’s behalf.

“Who here has three women they love in their lives?” asked Bucknor.

Most students raised their hands and Bucknor said he thinks about his mom, sister and two nieces when discussing the tough topic.

“We can do something about it,” said Bucknor, a 32-year-old out of Hamilton. “There are 1,000 assaults every week. We have to stand with women, not against them.”

The University of Windsor Lancers grad said it takes courage and smart decisions to help end the violence. He noted that 800,000 children in Canada witness violence against a woman.

“That’s a big number and they think it’s OK as they grow up.”

Bucknor also noted there are 1,100 Indigenous women in B.C. either missing or murdered and that 83 per cent of women living with disabilities have been victims of violence.

He said a bystander is a person who sees or knows someone who is acting abusively and doesn’t do anything. He noted that attitudes that women can’t be CEOs or presidents, but belong in the kitchen, only fuel the violence.

Grade 10 student Lexie Pearson, wearing an Oregon hoodie much to Johnson’s delight, joined the two Lions in a demonstration on what constitutes inappropriate touching.

The Lions urged students who know a male behaving in ways demeaning women to approach them and refer them to professionals for counselling.

Bucknor said the notion that “Oh, she deserved it because she was wearing a certain outfit” is way off base. He noted that just because a bank has zillions of dollars doesn’t mean it deserves to get robbed.

Be More Than A Bystander is one of five programs the Lions run as they seek to touch the lives of B.C. communities in a positive way. The Lions have won the Grey Cup six times, the last coming in 2011.


@VernonNews
newstips@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Vernon Secondary School students, Ryan Ponipal and Kate Holbrook, who are in Grade 10 and 9, respectively, were two of many students who lined up to shake hands with, or get their photo taken with visiting BC Lions team members, Matt Bucknor and Jeremiah Johnson following the Lions’ Be More Than a Bystander presentation Tuesday morning. From left, Ryan Ponipal, Jeremiah Johnson, Kate Holbrook and Matt Bucknor. (Erin Christie/Morning Star)

BC Lions running back, Jeremiah Johnson explains what it means, and doesn’t mean, when a person gives sexual consent, during presentation of the Lions’ Be More Than A Bystander program, aimed at ending the silence on violence against women, at Vernon Secondary School on April 17. (Erin Christie/Morning Star)

Just Posted

B.C. BUDGET: Surplus $374 million after bailouts of BC Hydro, ICBC

Growth projected stronger in 2020, Finance Minister Carole James says

First residents move into Nuxalk Nation’s tiny homes

Four of the tiny homes are now complete and residents have moved in

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 5: Recap

Highlights and results from day 5 at the All Native Tournament

Students give two thumbs up to no more B.C. student loan interest

Eliminating the loan interest charges could save the average graduate $2,300 over 10 years

Ontario man accused of killing 11-year-old daughter dies in hospital, police say

Roopesh Rajkumar had been hospitalized with what police described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound

Manitoba ‘pauses’ link with ex-B.C. premier Gordon Campbell after allegations

Campbell had been hired to review two major hydro projects

Heritage minute features Japanese-Canadian baseball team, internment

The Vancouver Asahi baseball team won various championships across the Pacific Northwest

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

$10-a-day child care not in 2019 budget, but advocate not irked

Sharon Gregson with the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of B.C. says NDP on track to deliver promise

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C. business groups worry about looming economic decline in wake of NDP budget

The party’s second government budget focused on plenty of spending, business advocates say

Man injured in police shooting near Nelson has died: B.C. police watchdog

The death follows an incident in Bonnington on Feb. 13

Most Read