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.
3 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Pat Hickey”
I think you missed the fact, that starting in 1994, when Theo became one of the founding part owner of the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey Leauge, a team founded by one Mr. Graham James, the one and the same that abused Mr. Theo Fleury, Theo did nothing to prevent Mr. James from having access to more victims, having been a "victim" of Mr. James himself.
Not only did Theo not seem concerned then with the history of what Mr. James was capable of, he helped him get a junior hockey team started, giving him access to more victims, and to think, Mr. Fleury has chastised organizations like Penn State, and Scouts Canada, for not doing more to protect youth from sexual predators.
Do you not see the Hypocrisy in that? Why did Mr. Fleury all of a sudden become so concerned with Graham James' actions after 1997 when the Calgary Hitmen Junior Hockey team were sold to the Calgary Flames hockey club? Why was Mr. Fleury not concerned then for the safety of the young people on the hockey team he partly owned? Can you give me a reasonable answer to that question?
I doubt even Theo Fleury could give a reasonable answer to that himself.
There is one point here: Mr. Hickey cannot speak to the topic of sexual assault unless he has been there. Theo's actions were from a place none of us should EVER have to know, and he should never have to justify them. He HAS responded to that question, if you've paid attention. He has advised his detractors to google Stockholm Syndrome.
Frankly, your putting the word victim in quotation marks shows me that you have no compassion for the man anyway, and nothing he'd say would have satisfied you. So as I said, until you have walked a mile in that pair of shoes, you – like Mr. Hickey – cannot criticize those who have.
How do you know that Theo Fleury didn't do all he could to prevent Mr. James from getting to possible victims?
And as far as not speaking out — the damage caused by this kind of abuse is terrible. Why are you not jumping on all the kids attacked by priests, who kept their silence despite the continuing presence of those priests in their parishes? Or the children allegedly victimized by Jerry Sandusky who didn't speak up even though he continued to run youth camps with access to more alleged victims?
Absent having been a victim of sexual abuse, I don't think you can appreciate the pain and shame. You can't understand where Theo Fleury and all the others like him are coming from, much less be in a position to pass judgment.