Football Manitoba Partners with Online Harassment and Abuse Reporting Platform

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Football players, coaches, parents and volunteers now have a platform to keep safe in Manitoba.

A new partnership between Football Manitoba and REES (Respect, Educate, Empower Survivors) was announced Wednesday to provide online reports of harassment and abuse to the sports community across Manitoba.

“It’s very difficult for people to come forward when they’ve been the victim of assault or harassment,” said Bill Johnson, executive director of Football Manitoba, the province’s sports governing body. “This is an opportunity for us to break down some barriers and make it easier for people to get in touch.”

REES is a 24/7 online information platform that offers enhanced ways to report bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination.

A key feature of REES is what is known as “repeat offender identification”, which aims to identify people who have caused harm at an early stage. If the same person is reported multiple times, Football Manitoba will be notified immediately.

“It seemed like a way for us to offer our members a platform where they can access resources to report incidents that might occur so we can stop these things before they become 10, 15, 20 year ordeals like the situation at Kelsey McKay,” Johnson said.

McKay, a former Winnipeg high school football coach, was charged in April with sexual assault, exploitation and baiting. The allegations concern students and former players of teams he coached.

As a football mom, REES Founder and Chief Executive Officer Mary Lobson turned to Football Manitoba to join forces.

“We’ve come to a point where sport has to settle accounts with a long-established culture that relies on this culture of silence. This is an opportunity for a provincial sports organization to really step up and take a leadership role in letting their community know that they want people to speak up and that they want to hear about issues,” she said Wednesday.

“I think it’s a really important, meaningful step in changing this culture by creating spaces and creating clear pathways for people to move forward, because often people don’t know where to go.”

REES includes multiple reporting options, including anonymous, and information about resources and support available in the community, while also collecting important data and insights that can be used by Football Manitoba to inform prevention and awareness strategies.

Football Manitoba is the first sports organization in Canada to implement the platform. Lobson and Johnson hope other organizations will adopt it in the future.

“The platform can be customized for any sports organization and is used outside of sports. We want to work with sports organizations that are interested in driving change and improving safety,” said Lobson.

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