Expert urges not to judge Fleury, and others like him

March 30, 2012 - 4:23pm
Former NHL star Theo Fleury speaks to media. Photo by Canadian Press
Former NHL star Theo Fleury speaks to media. Photo by Canadian Press

Theo Fleury has a request when it comes to further discussion about his abuse by former coach Graham James.

"All I want to do is elevate the conversation," Fleury said.

"This is about never, ever, ever, never, ever, never ever again do I want one child in the world to have to go through this same thing that I had to go through."

This comes after a letter to the editor of the StarPhoenix in Thursday's paper that asked why Fleury didn't just walk away from the sexual abuse.

In the letter the writers accuses Fleury of being responsible for not just his own abuse, but the abuse of others.

"Fleury could have walked away and in doing so may have prevented it from happening to someone else," reads the letter.

However, according to Rick Goodwin, executive director and co-founder of The Men's Project, walking away often isn't a possibility.

Goodwin said it's a mental disconnect to think that children are "mini-adults" that have the same sense of responsibility.

"We're talking about a victim who does not have an adult sense of the world, who does not have the autonomy of an adult, and is vulnerable," he said.

"It really can smack of blaming the victim when we quickly or arbitrarily apply judgement to their situation."

Fleury's experience with his abuser is common, Goodwin said.

"The relationship is very complex, it's a groomed relationship. The assaults don't just occur one day out of the blue," he said.

With the Men's project, Goodwin wanted to have a place for education around the abuse of men and boys.

"Boys spend an inordinate amount of time trying to become men. One of the codes, if you want to call it, of masculinity is that we're tough, and we're invulnerable," he said.

"For a boy to admit that they've been victimized is also admitting that they have also not followed up on the code of becoming a man."

Goodwin said all these factors are just the tip of the iceberg when considering abuse cases, because each individual situation can be completely unique with its own set of issues and circumstances.

The StarPhoenix issued an apology in today's paper and filled their editorial pages with letters of support for Fleury from across the country.

See related: Letter to the editor says Fleury could have stopped the sexual abuse

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