Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dad Thirty-six - Similarities are harrowing

I received this article from a former ASIJ classmate and facebook friend. It's amazing how similar the feelings, fears and realities are from one story to the next. Again, this is why it's so important to talk about it. I don't know much about hockey and so am not familiar with this person or his abuser but plan on researching some more. Hope you are able to read the article. Janet

Here is an article that may interest you.
Fleury faces a difficult journey
By John Mackinnon, Calgary HeraldOctober 10, 2009
StoryPhotos ( 1 )
Theo Fleury has a new book, titled Playing With FirePhotograph by: Calgary Herald, ArchiveInformation is light, Tom Stoppard once wrote, but if you're Theoren Fleury, bringing some facts to light has been a painful, harrowing process.

His admission in an about-to-be-released book that he suffered chronic sexual abuse at the hands of Graham James, his junior coach, comes as long-awaited confirmation of a ghastly, open secret to many people in hockey.

For Fleury, the abuse began when he was an adolescent star, playing for James in Winnipeg in the early 1980s.

Fleury also played under James in Moose Jaw, where he was a teammate of Sheldon Kennedy, another victim of abuse, and James's accuser in an infamous criminal trial at which James pleaded guilty in January 1997.

James was sentenced to 42 months in jail for abusing Kennedy and a second, unnamed player (not Fleury) who both played under James with the Swift Current Broncos, though not at the same time.

So, now Fleury has confirmed James's trail of abuse stretched at least from Winnipeg to Moose Jaw to Swift Current. Now, it is publicly confirmed James had at least three victims, a pattern of abuse that occurred at least throughout the '80s and into the '90s.

Now, knowing what we know about Fleury's well-documented battles with alcohol, drug addiction and other demons, it is possible to at least guess at how excruciatingly difficult it is to bring such a brutal history to light, to talk about being victimized, to publicly share your darkest secrets.

Fleury, keep in mind, refused to talk about these issues when the focus turned on him owing to revelations from that trial back in '97. He referred to this dark period only obliquely in his first biography, published that same year.

The predator counts on the victim's sense of guilt, uses those overpowering feelings of shame to manipulate the ones who are culled from teams precisely because they are vulnerable, in desperate need of direction.

Fleury acknowledges his own family support was problematic in his formative years.

His father was an alcoholic, his mother dependent on medication.

Kennedy, raised by a single mother, had no male role model at home.

Both Kennedy and Fleury, like many Canadian teenage hockey stars, were playing for junior teams hundreds of miles from home.

Any junior coach has God-like power over his teenage charges. In the hands of a predator like James, that power becomes diabolical.

Society and the justice system can be terribly unkind to victims, whether they are abused wives, rape victims or targets of molestation.

As Fleury writes in his book: "I could see how it would play. I would have been stigmatized forever as the kid who was molested by his coach. The victim."

Indeed, when Kennedy accused James, many hockey people dismissed him as a troubled player, a vindictive person, not a credible witness.

Many of those people now live with demons of their own, knowing they could have been more vigilant, knowing that Kennedy, Fleury and others were victimized on their watch.

But many influential people in the game refused to believe that James, who led Swift Current to the Memorial Cup, who had been named coach of the year, was the monster Kennedy claimed.

After all, some reasoned, why would upstanding people like Bret Hart, Joe Sakic (who played for James in Swift Current), and Fleury, as co-owners of the Calgary Hitmen, hire James to be that club's GM and head coach if he was guilty of the crimes Kennedy accused him of?

Which is where Fleury's story becomes even more complicated, more troubling.

It is one thing, given the potential social and professional cost, to want to lock those dirty secrets in a vault and get on with life.

But to be part of a group that hired James and put him in charge of yet another hockey team? That is harder to understand; hard, if not impossible to justify.

It will be interesting to see whether Fleury addresses that in his book.

Kennedy, playing for the NHL's Flames when his victimizer, James, was coaching the Hitmen, chose to open the vault and let the light in and deal with the consequences. Those consequences proved painful, indeed.

"I couldn't handle the fact that I would come out of the locker-room and see Graham with these kids," Kennedy said. "I had to do something."

Fleury, finally, has chosen to do something as well.

It is facile, perhaps, to wonder why Fleury didn't publicly support Kennedy back then, as good teammates are supposed to do.

But there has been nothing easy about the road Fleury has had to take as a result of his unfortunate involvement with Graham James.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

1 comment:

  1. An interesting website about Abuse & Sexual Harassment in the Skating World detailing the Graham James Sheldon Kennedy Story:


    An more news about the difficulties Theo Fleury faced/faces: