Graham James, a junior hockey coach, was convicted of abusing former NHL stars in their early years. But they weren’t the only ones.
Greg Gilhooly told Global News Morning on Monday that James stole his sense of self.
The book “I am Nobody: Confronting the Sexually Abusive Coach Who Stole My Life” was written by Gilhooly to share his story of abuse.
Abused as a young hockey player, the author went on to become a lawyer and father, and said there a couple of major things he hopes to achieve through the book.
“Hockey was just the background for a story that unfortunately happens too often in our society,” he said.
First — sexual abuse is about far more than sex itself.
“More damaging is the mental carnage that is left in the wake of a sexual abuser, effectively killing the soul, especially of a child when it comes to child sexual assault.”
Gilhooly said the six years it took him to write the memoir was a traumatic experience.
“When the sexual abuse was happening, I could let my mind drift off to any number of places and I could hide from it. I could, in the aftermath, try to run away from my past. But when I turned my mind to writing a book, I had to go back and immerse myself in the moment. So, in many ways, writing the book was more difficult than experiencing the abuse.”
Second — the Canadian legal system doesn’t acknowledge sexual assault for what it is, Gilhooly said.
“Canada has incarcerated bank robbers for more time than it has for those who have preyed upon children”.
Gilhooly pointed to recent high-profile sexual assault cases in the United States, including Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State football coach, and Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics doctor. Nassar was sentenced to 40-to-175-years in prison in Michigan county, as well as a 60-year federal term for child pornography convictions.
“When they are found to have assaulted any number of children, they go to jail for the rest of their life. It’s not seen as vengeance, its seen as proper retribution. Graham James walks freely amongst us.”
“There is no justice in our legal system when it comes to dealing with those who abuse children,” Gilhooly said, adding that the law needs to take a more human approach to these types of cases.
The author hopes his book will help others, urging survivors of sexual abuse to trust people and to find the courage to deal with their situation.
“What I would like to say to any victims out there who have yet to deal with this — because it is a lifelong thing to have to cope with — every victim is going to be different. For me coming forward, and seeking help obviously was important, but coming forward and telling my story and giving myself a voice gave me a sense of power that my life was definitely lacking.”
Gilhooly acknowledged mental health is major challenge for sexual abuse survivors.
“Your sense of self goes away. Your ability to trust others who you should be able to trust in our society evaporates. You believe that you are a fraud, you have not trust in anything around you. It is very difficult to lead a life when that is your perspective on things”.
Gilhooly said the vast majority of people out there want to help.
He said the number one way for anyone to make things better is to listen and show compassion.
“If you encounter someone who has been abused, don’t just suggest that they get over it and move on with their life”, he said.
Gilhooly said without a doubt, victims want nothing more than to get on with their lives.
“These mental health issues are complex, they take a long time to deal with and they are more involved than anyone can ever imagine”.
Gilhooly will be speaking at the University of Manitoba law school Tuesday at noon.
His book is available in book stores, as well as online at Amazon and Indigo.
If you or someone you know has suffered sexual abuse and you need immediate help, call 9-1-1.
If you are a young person struggling with a problem big or small, please call Kids Help Phone anytime at 1-800-668-6868. You can also text “CONNECT” to 6-8-6-8-6-8 to work with a crisis responder that can help with any issues in Manitoba.
Contact the Canadian Centre for Child Protection for help finding the proper support services in your area.
If you think a child is being harmed or neglected, contact Child and Family Services at 1-866-345-9241.
-with files from Shannon Cuciz