Campus Hero Stops a Terrible Crime

Football player's rescue of young woman demonstrates respect, courage

by Beka Hale | Updated 28 Jul 2016 at 8:52 AM

All too often, full-time college athletes are looked upon as little more than thugs in pads and uniforms — or, at the very least, grown-up kids who haven’t been properly socialized.

Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to the heroic actions of a member of the University of Florida’s football team.

Cristian Garcia, a linebacker for the University of Florida, stopped a man from raping an unconscious woman when he saw the crime in action. In his spare time, Garcia works in security for a local Gainesville watering hole, 101 Cantina — and he was taking out the garbage from that establishment early in the morning after his shift when he and another bouncer, Leroyea Simmons, realized a woman they spotted in the alley with a man was not a willing partner at all.

She was actually unconscious — and they promptly intervened.

The 34-year-old suspect, who was intoxicated, attempted to fight back, throwing some punches at the two young men and missing — but fled the scene. Police later arrested the perpetrator, Christopher Shaw, for sexual battery of the 19-year-old victim.

Garcia and Simmons demonstrated the power of intervention — unlike the perpetrator’s friends, who had been watching the entire scene. They did nothing to stop it.

Educating children about respect for themselves and others, plus what constitutes proper physical and sexual behavior, is critical from a young age. Psychotherapist Kelley Kitley, who works with victims of sexual assault in the Chicago area, believes in talking to children about respect of all kinds for themselves and for others.

"Parents need to educate their children, both male and female, about the types of precautions [they need to take], and it's obviously important to focus on the sexual component of it, too," said Kitley.

Cristian-Garcia (1)

Cristian Garcia, a heroic football player at the University of Florida

Tracy Cutchlow, a Seattle-based parenting expert and author of "Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science," agreed. "Many small conversations [are necessary] over the years, not a couple big conversations — age four is a good time to start," said Cutchlow. "Little kids are curious about their bodies and are likely noticing differences and talking about differences."

The conversations should also cover guarding against undesirable situations, including crime. "Help your child stay in touch with his or her intuition and to trust himself," Cutchlow said.

The relationships children witness between their parents and other caregivers at home, of course, forms the basis for their own relationships and the treatment of others.

"Certainly we have our faults, but by my husband's and my modeling of our relationship, our children see the mutual respect between us. There is no hierarchy," said Kitley.

"Show your child that it's safe to talk with you, that you can handle both the conversation and the emotions," added Cutchlow. "That will seriously pay off when they're older."

Related: For Dads, It's Nature and Nurture

Both boys and girls need to be taught to respect others.

"It's just as important for fathers to teach their sons to grow into men who respect women," said Cutchlow. "Remember that boys are victims of sexual abuse as well, so we also need to teach them to protect themselves."

Also, "we send the strongest messages by our own actions," Cutchlow said. "Respecting our children's bodies, in small and big ways, is what teaches them that bodies should be respected."

All of this is why Cristan Garcia's intervention in the rape in Gainesville — after a recent series of of sexual assault cases nationally involving student athletes — sends such a powerful message. Said Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio in an Instagram post, "Hopefully the media will talk about the good and not just the bad. Proud to be a teammate of Cristian Garcia," as CBS News and others reported.

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