“It’s hard to believe 14 years ago, I had a fully loaded gun in my mouth ready to pull the trigger.”
Theoren Fleury is many things: resilient, generous, fiery, grounded, humble… and blunt.
“This is where it all happened,” Fleury said Wednesday in Swift Current. He is referring to sexual abuse that happened to numerous young men at the hand of Graham James when they played for the Swift Current Broncos.
While Fleury never played with the Broncos, he did play with the Moose Jaw Warriors, a team James coached for one year, in the 1984-1985 season.
Fleury chronicled his abuse and subsequent path to accepting his trauma in a book called “Playing With Fire.”
Clad in a bright orange shirt and a black ball cap, he looks relaxed even though he recognizes the severity of what has happened to him, and others, playing the sport he loved so much.
Four years ago, Fleury started the Victor Walk to raise awareness for those affected by childhood sexual abuse and rape.
“I think it just goes to show how far you can come in your own personal healing journey,” Fleury said. He mentioned that despite the pain, he was looking forward to going to Moose Jaw.
This year the Victor Walk is making its way through Saskatchewan, and in Swift Current, they are celebrating the Safe Places program. People who sign up will get “Safe Places accredited”, which means they will be vulnerable sector checked and they will receive Respect in Sport training.
“We have over one thousand people that have signed up in the last 16 months,” Denis Perrault, Mayor of Swift Current, said.
The Mayor is hopeful that this program will help prevent future abuses in the community.
“It’s okay to talk about these things. We don’t want it to happen anymore, we don’t want to see people that target children have that opportunity. We want to see children live in a safe and caring community here in Swift,” Perrault said.
The Victor Walk was in Moose Jaw Thursday, Estevan Friday, and will be in Regina on Saturday.
As for Fleury, he looks at his past as a gift, and he loves giving back.
“I know what the bigger purpose is here. If I didn’t go through those experiences, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be this person that just wants to help people,” he said.
With the benefit of time and healing, Fleury is able to articulate what he thinks is important for survivors and their support systems to do.
“When you’re vulnerable, which is hard for men, to be vulnerable and talk about these things, but when you are vulnerable, that automatically creates safety,” Fleury said.
“And when you create safety, that’s when the magic happens.”