Many in Winnipeg’s football community are feeling a range of emotions after a high school gym teacher and football coach was charged with sexual assault this week.
Kelsey Albert Dana McKay, 51, of Winnipeg was arrested Tuesday and charged with five counts of sexual assault, four counts of sexual exploitation, one count of sexual interference and four counts of luring.
He was arrested after five of his former students came forward with allegations of sexual assault that happened between 2004 and 2011, while they were students at Churchill High School and Vincent Massey Collegiate.
“Like anybody, I was shocked when you hear something like that, you can’t believe it,” Bradley Black told Global News. Black currently runs Recruit Ready, a high-performance football program that works with young athletes.
Black went to Oak Park High School, but was on a provincial football team coached by the accused in the late 1990s.
“Once the shock of it all kind of wears off you have some anger, disappointment, a lot of empathy for the victims in this obviously,” Black said, adding that there’s a similar sentiment among many in Winnipeg’s football community.
Black says while the incident is not isolated to football or athletics in general, it’s important for parents to be involved with their kids activities and pay attention to who their child trusts.
“Be involved in your kids sports as much as you possible can – Ask the right questions, know what’s going on, understand the dynamics between your son or daughter and their coaches,” he said.
“If your son or daughter is really close with the coach and they’re spending time outside of practices and events together, make sure that relationship with you as a parent and the coach is as strong as your child or athlete’s relationship is with that coach.”
“Really put a premium on being involved. And if there’s anything that kind of doesn’t seem right or doesn’t really add up to you, ask questions, talk to other coaches on the team, talk to other parents on the team,” Black added.
Registered psychologist Julia Riddell says there is a myriad of reasons why victims take years to come forward, and in some cases they never do.
“One of them is as a society we ask a lot of questions and make statements to survivors that indicate they did something wrong or should have done something differently,” Riddell told Global News.
“So whether it’s friends and family or through the criminal justice system during the persecution process, often survivors will asked things like, ‘Why were you at their house alone, what were you wearing, or how much did you have to drink’,” Riddell explained.
“Or (they) make statements like, ‘You shouldn’t have been drinking at all or you shouldn’t have been walking alone at night’. (Those) sort of things place the blame on survivors, when we really should be placing the blame on people who are engaging in those assault behaviours.”
She also says it’s important for parents to have conversations with their children about consent, even from a young age.
“We can start talking about kids when they’re three or four or five years about consent to our bodies, so the difference between healthy touch and non-healthy touch.”