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Meet the star athlete getting fellow players to take a stand against sexual assault.

Shocked by the Steubenville assaults, Jerome Baker decided that it's time for athletes to publicly commit to ending gender-based violence.

Meet the star athlete getting fellow players to take a stand against sexual assault.

In December 2012, when the sexual assaults in Steubenville, Ohio, made national headlines, the impact hit high schooler Jerome Baker close to home.

As a star football player in his hometown of Cleveland — just two hours away from Steubenville — he noticed people started to act differently around him. And not in a good way.


"Not sure if I should back away slowly or run..." GIF via "Futurama."

When he'd tell people that he was a football player (just like the young men who assaulted the young woman in Steubenville), he felt like they immediately saw him as a perpetrator. He didn't like it, and he wanted to do something about it.

And it wasn't just that he wanted to set himself apart. (There's a reason the #NotAllMen meme isn't useful when it comes to conversations about sexism. They derail the conversation by taking the focus off the prejudice the women experience and onto men.) Baker wanted to take responsibility and do something bigger to address the issue of gender-based violence.

What he did is an amazing example of how a single person can spark a meaningful cultural shift to help end sexual violence.

After Baker talked with his neighbor and mentor Tyrone White (lovingly called "Coach Ty" by his students), founder of anti-sexual violence group Whoaman, the two decided to reached out to the top 31 high school football players in the area, asking them to take a public pledge to end violence against women and girls. Part of the invitation read:

"In the pledge we will promise to treat women and girls with respect and speak up if we witness or hear of assaults — to stand as a protector and speak out against perpetrators.

Let's be the voice that prevents assaults like what happened two years ago involving members of Steubenville's football team. Let's use our status as athletes to encourage change and promote behavior that respects women and girls and does not bring harm to them."

Here's the awesome part: Almost all the top players agreed to take the pledge. Better yet, when the day came for the group to take the pledge on camera, Baker was surprised to see that 50 athletes had come to participate.

Just a fraction of the athletes in attendance. Image via Tyrone White/YouTube.

Turns out that they'd heard about it from their friends and decided to join. Baker didn't stop there. He knew that how we talk about women, girls, and sex matters. And as one of the top high school players in the country, he decided to use his platform to influence other male student athletes.

He urged them to speak up when a teammate says something that contributes to a culture of disrespecting women, like slut-shaming or making rape jokes. No easy task in the face of high school machoism and peer pressure. And yet — Baker made an impact. A student from a different high school came to him, discouraged by the taunting he'd get when he spoke out again sexist speech. Baker was able to lift his spirits enough to keep on.

Now a player at Ohio State University, Baker is continuing his anti-violence work on his college campus.

Baker, giving a post-game interview about going to Ohio State. Image via cleveland.com/YouTube.

He recently asked the head coach Urban Meyer to allow team members to take the pledge. While the coach has declined for now (for unknown reasons), Baker's still hopeful for change.

An initiative like this is more important than ever.

A recent survey of college campuses found that over 27% of women and more than 30% of transgender and gender-nonconforming folk reported being sexually assaulted at school. We have a long way to go — and we need to start doing the work before people take a step on campus.

Work like Baker's is part of a winning movement to end sexual violence by attacking it at its roots. It's time to put a stop to rape ... before it happens.

Photo by Richard Potts/Flickr.

Baker's high school had little to no sex or anti-sexual assault education. With 40% of women reporting victimization before the age of 18, Baker's pre-college efforts show how it's better to start anti-rape training sooner rather than later.

Sexual assault is not an individual issue. Almost 47% of rapes and 82% of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. This is something that communities have to address collectively. That's why Baker's leadership is so important. In the wise words of Coach Ty, that Baker shared in an interview with SB Nation:

"People are going to follow you no matter what. If you're doing the right thing, they're going to follow you. If you're doing the wrong thing, they're going to follow you, too. It's just a matter of which one you want to do."
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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