Today, the Montreal Gazette posted a column by resident sports writer, Pat Hickey. I like Mr. Hickey, I think his analysis of hockey (which is the sport I follow) is very keen and he knows what he is talking about.
But today’s column, about NHL’er Theo Fleury, goes beyond the pale. Mr. Hickey has crossed the line by blaming the victim of sexual assault (Mr. Fleury) and he says some inflammatory, ugly and accusatory things.
I have emailed Pat Hickey (whose email can be found in the above link) and will post the letter here. I urge readers to follow my lead, and the lead of others who have already done so, and write Mr. Hickey asking for a retraction and an apology. We have to stand up for those brave victims of ANY abuse, or we will see fewer and fewer come forth. Praise them, don’t criticize them.
I am dismayed and disappointed by your column of December 12, 2011, entitled Theo Fleury hypocritcal for blasting justice system’s handling of Graham James case. You display an utter lack of sensitivity and knowledge on the topic of sexual assault victims that not only shows a deep insensitivity but criticizes a man we should be lauding as a hero.
You claim that Theo Fleury has no right to be angry that James is free on bail because he, Fleury, did not report the coach’s crimes of sexual assault. You claim that Fleury remained silent because of his status as a hockey celebrity, and that he didn’t show courage. Mr. Hickey, do YOU know that this is the exact reason Theo Fleury remained silent? Do YOU know his state of mind, heart, emotions, or thoughts when it came to speaking up?
You say that “nobody should question Fleury’s decision to remain silent” and yet, you criticize him for doing so. A double standard? A dangerous one, in my opinion.
Yes, if he had come forth sooner, James might have received a harsher sentence. But the fact is, sir, he did NOT. For his own reasons. And yet, instead of applauding him for speaking up at all, you denigrate him for not doing so in a timely manner.
As anyone who has been the victim of any assault will tell you, there is a sense of shame, of stigma, of guilt, confusion and terror that are all wrapped up in the aftermath of being victimized. Victims sometimes feel they may have done something to encourage, or deserve the assault and nothing could be further from the truth.
And yet, you purport to know why Mr. Fleury remained silent. Unless he has stated those reasons himself, unless he told you personally, how can we even know? And no matter the reasons, can anyone on this side of the fence blame him??
So often, victims remain in the realm of their abusers; there is a fear that cannot be defined. No one has the right to state that there is a prescribed reaction time or fashion; every victim is different, every victim suffers in his/her own way and no one can be faulted for reacting differently from another in the same situation. Yet, you blatantly compare Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Fleury, stating one is the hero and the other, the enabler. THAT, Mr. Hickey, is the most appalling of all. You have, in effect, blamed the victim here. Has Theo Fleury not suffered enough? Now he has to absorb your accusations and perhaps struggle with another form of guilt? Do you not think he has already questioned having stayed silent for so long?
You write as though you know Fleury’s state of mind. You state he must know the meaning of the word “enabler” – how can you put yourself in his shoes unless you, yourself, have walked his path? How can any of us?
Furthermore, you state “…if we have to find a poster boy for abuse, we can do better than Theoren Fleury.” Let me counter: we need no “poster boy” for abuse. Your flippancy astounded me.
But I will counter with more: Theo Fleury, on Twitter and in the public eye, has brought awareness to the topic of sexual abuse (not only in sports but everywhere) in ways that others cannot. He has used his celebrity and his ability to interact with social media to make sure the world knows how insidious a practice sexual assault is, how it must be stopped, and how to help recognize victims. I say, if we DID need a poster boy for abuse, give me Theoren Fleury any day! At least he is using his celebrity for some good, instead of slamming others who are not yet strong enough to come forth!
Mr. Hickey, in my opinion, you must retract your column. You must not only apologize to Theoren Fleury, but to victims of assault and abuse everywhere. To let this column stand would be a travesty of journalism, of decency, and of humanity.