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The 2008 Archives: Respect In Sport Promotion / USA Site

2008 is the year that the "Respect In Sport" project for Sheldon and his associates continues to make a name for itself.

From the Respect In Sport Website:

"Co-Founder - Sheldon Kennedy

Sheldon Kennedy skated for three teams in his eight-year NHL career and played for Canada's gold-medal-winning team in the 1988 World Junior Hockey Championships. He is best known for his courageous decision to charge his minor-league hockey coach, Graham James, with sexual assault for the abuse he suffered over a five-year period while a teenager under Graham James' care. Sheldon's subsequent decision to go public with the charges rocked the hockey world and thrust him into the media spotlight, where he became an unofficial spokesperson for millions of sexual abuse survivors in North America. His life story was made into an award-winning television movie, and he has appeared on Oprah, ABC's Nightline, W5 and The Fifth Estate. Through his work with Hockey Canada, the Canadian Red Cross and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Sheldon has converted his tragic personal circumstance into positive social change. Through Respect in Sport, Sheldon continues his crusade."

Below are the archives for 2008.

Tories Won't Support Sport Program

Courts get it wrong on victimized children

Hockey groups must do all they can to keep players safe

Sports coaches aren't life coaches

Former NHL star bares soul for others

Tories won't support sport program
Youth abuse and harassment targeted
MIKE DE SOUZA, Canwest News Service
Published: Saturday, May 17

The Harper government says it does not want to support a national program for protecting young athletes, spearheaded by former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy, to help coaches identify and address issues of abuse and harassment in sports teams across the country.

"I think local amateur sporting organizations can take care of some of these things," said James Moore, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Public Works and also for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, in the House of Commons.

"I think local solutions to some of these local problems are where these solutions are best handled and we saw that, in fact, in the Quebec junior hockey league when there was that violent incident that we all remember and saw on television."

Kennedy, who played for three NHL teams from 1989 to 1997, was thrown into the media spotlight in the late 1990s when he decided to go public about being sexually abused by his junior hockey coach in Canada.

He later co-founded a program that trains and guides 15,000 coaches nationwide and is now a mandatory requirement for all coaches in Manitoba and Gymnastics Canada. He said the federal government could extend the program to about 300,000 coaches by investing $500,000 per year in partnership with the provinces and the private sector to build up a database and provide the required training and guidance.

With support on Parliament Hill by NDP MPs Pat Martin and Paul Dewar, Kennedy said he was puzzled by the government's reluctance to back the initiative. He said he met with federal government officials last year who told him they agreed with his plan but urged him to get support from the provinces and territories.

"We've been told that they're going to give us their support for two years now, and it hasn't happened," said Kennedy. "So some times we just feel that we're being blown off."

Kennedy said he is hoping the issue will be addressed at a meeting of Canadian sports ministers in Victoria next week.

"We look at this like the seatbelt," he said. "Not only does your car beep if you don't have your seatbelt on, the coolest part about it is that your kid is saying 'Hey, we need to get that seatbelt on.' right? That's where we want to get to, and it's going to be change over time."

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008

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Courts get it wrong on victimized children
The Gazette
Published: Sunday, November 02

Martin Kruze killed himself four days after the man found guilty of sexually abusing him was sentenced. Gordon Stuckless, ultimately convicted of abusing 26 boys at Maple Leaf Gardens, was sentenced to two years less a day. Now he's teaching hockey in Spain.

At the trial, Kruze had testified that Stuckless abused him from 1975 to 1982, starting when he was 13 years old. At trial's end, in 1997, Kruze threw himself off Toronto's Bloor Street Viaduct.

When experts in Canadian law talk about sexual abusers who also breach the trust of their victims, the heart-broken, desperate Martin Kruze could serve as the face of those victims.

Another obvious case of abuse of trust is that of hockey coach Graham James, convicted of the sexual abuse of several of his former players, including Sheldon Kennedy.

Abuse of trust coupled with sexual abuse should, in the minds of most Canadians, lead to greater sentences for those convicted. Abuse of trust should always be considered an aggravating factor. Children who would run screaming from the sexual overtures of a complete stranger can become confused, and more vulnerable, when a known, loved or admired figure makes advances.

So it comes as an unwelcome surprise that in fact sexual assailants who traded on trust are usually given lighter sentences than are assailants who strike randomly.

In a large-scale study conducted for the Cornwall, Ont. inquiry into an alleged pedophilia ring, researchers found that in the past 10 years, convicted assailants who had been in relationships of trust with their victims were sentenced on average to lower jail sentences than other assailants.

The lower sentences were handed down despite the fact that abuse of trust was put forward as an aggravating factor. It was not, in other words, as though the subject hadn't been broached at trial or sentencing. This suggests that either the courts don't believe that abuse of trust is an aggravating factor, or they think such cases are so rare as to not need special measures.

The Cornwall study should set the courts straight: Citing Statistics Canada, the study says that 11 per cent of cases of child sex abuse involves a stranger. Family members were the perpetrators in 34 per cent of cases and 43 per cent were perpetrated by someone known to the child. (In the remaining cases the relationships was not known.)

In Quebec, the average sentence for an abuser acting in a relationship of trust was 28 months, nearly half a year less than for non-trust cases. Colleen Parrish, director of policy at the Cornwall Public Inquiry, told the Globe and Mail that Canadian society is "still coming to grips with the profound damage this can do." Parrish said witnesses said their trust in other people was destroyed.

Canadians' understanding of the damage child sexual abuse can do has improved. We know that it matters enormously that society recognizes a child's victimization. But if today our courts are failing to acknowledge that the abuse of trust adds harm to an already terrible experience, then we are once again failing these children.

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008

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Hockey groups must do all they can to keep players safe

November 05, 2008

Pornography and sleaziness are birds of a similar feather. You and I may not be able to offer a detailed, legal description of what constitutes porno or sleaze but, in all likelihood, we would know it when we see it.

Former hockey coach/player agent David Frost is sleaze on a stick. That, of course, doesn't make him guilty of the sexual-exploitation charges against him that were heard in a Napanee court in recent days; in fact, my reading and parsing of the trial testimony and the effective, two-hour-long defence summation suggests to me that Frost will not be convicted.

In one sense, it doesn't really matter.

The two young men -- two of Frost's former junior-aged players -- who are the alleged victims of Frost's alleged sexual exploitation, didn't even testify for the Crown during the trial. In fact, in a strange twist, they were called by the defence lawyer to testify on behalf of Frost.

(A point to make here: These charges of sexual exploitation against Frost suggest that there were no non-consensual, male-on-male rapes or sexual assaults involved; the exploitation charges emerge from the Crown's contention that there was, in fact, consensual sexual contact between Frost and his former players and that Frost abused his position of trust and authority in initiating that contact.)

The former players, who played for Frost in eastern Ontario during the mid-1990s and cannot be named, told the court that Frost, contrary to the charges, did not touch them in a sexually inappropriate manner.

The Crown's case against Frost was left to the testimony of two women, who were then the girlfriends of the two male players. They told the court that they were the consensual participants in sexual threesomes involving Frost and their player boyfriends.

The ex-girlfriends told the court that the sexual activity took place in a motel in Deseronto and also at a home owned by Frost. The players lived with Frost, in the motel and at his home, during that period. Justice Geoffrey Griffin will bring down his ruling on this case on Nov. 28.

These incidents, you may recall, also form part of the sordid history that led to the imprisonment of another former Frost player, Mike Danton/Jefferson, who is currently serving a jail term for trying to have Frost killed.

We've heard this kind of thing before.

We heard it in the case of former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy and his former junior coach Graham James. We heard it in the case of former NHL star Theo Fleury, whose hockey and off-ice life were affected because of incidents years earlier in junior hockey. And now, we have David Frost.

Here is the point I wish to make: You cannot see this particular case -- or those that have gone before -- as a broad, simple indictment of junior hockey or the hockey culture, even as you acknowledge that on any given junior-aged team, stupid stuff is bound to happen over any given season.

Ninety-nine per cent of the time, because we are dealing with young men, the stupid stuff is benign and victim-free, a testosterone-fuelled, boys-gone-wild kind of thing; one per cent of the time, things can get badly out of hand.

Now, one step further: If we are correct, as suggested here yesterday, that junior hockey in Canada is going to get younger and younger over the coming years, it will mean that more and more 15-year-old kids will be yanked out of the family home, and shipped off to a strange city, to continue their development and chase their hockey dreams.

The vulnerability factor is there for everyone to see -- and maybe for some people to exploit. The challenge for Canada's junior hockey operators is to recognize the David Frosts of this world when they see them -- and to ensure that they never set foot inside a dressing room again.

Record sports editor Al Coates can be reached at acoates@therecord.com.

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Sports coaches aren't life coaches
05 November 2008 | 13:05 - By Jesse Fink

Now The Finktank has met a few coaches in his time, and I can attest a lot of them are fairly charismatic, so it's easy to understand why they are employed (gainfully) as coaches in the first place.

After all, you can pretty much bet that no matter what the sport involved, 80 per cent of what a coach does is motivational.

So you get players telling reporters and anyone else who will listen how inspired they are by their coach, how their coach helped them in their private life, how they are indebted to their coach for finding the inner spark to deliver a match-winning performance, yada yada yada.

When you think of such gifted coaches, you think of Wayne Bennett in rugby league, Kevin Sheedy in Australian Rules football, Guus Hiddink in football, Percy Cerutty in athletics, Laurie Lawrence in swimming.

What you don't think of is guys like David Frost.

But this obscure Canadian ice hockey coach-cum-agent is the bearer of properties hitherto untapped by sports coaches everywhere.

He can make his players – wait for it – have sex with each other's girlfriends.

Well, that is what is being alleged in a sensational trial involving Frost in Napanee, Ontario, where he is up on four counts of "sexual exploitation" of two of his charges in the 1980s when he was coach of the Quinte Hawks, a junior hockey team in Deseronto, Ontario.

As the Canadian Times reported this week: "Frost [allegedly] held such sway over his teenage hockey players that he masterminded threesomes with their girlfriends… the Crown's story is one of Frost at the helm of a 'cult' in which he directed and participated in numerous threesomes with players and their 16-year-old girlfriends."

The very idea is revolting, especially with a guy who looks like a blimped-out version of Brian Wilson, but it's hardly unusual to hear such stories of group sex in sport, here, in Canada, or anywhere; sport is a veritable honeypot of multi-partner sex.

And that's the defence line in this case.

The two players involved don't deny the sex happened but have denied that Frost took part in the proclivities or directed them to have sex with their respective girlfriends in a group sex situation.

The two women contend otherwise, saying Frost psychologically manipulated his players and was the puppet master in the cavorting.

Defence attorney Marie Henein told the court: "Hockey is not on trial… [group sex] may not be a good thing, it may not be a nice thing ... but it's a thing and Mr Frost didn't invent it."

She dismissed the notion that he held a Mandrake-like spell over his players, calling it a "fanciful theory of control, a speculative one that has been spun out of media stories" and advanced an argument that Frost was physically unable to participate in the activities alleged because of a "plum"-size haematoma in his groin area.

Perhaps. The judge will have to decide. A verdict is expected on November 28.

But a detail missing in a lot of the reports about the trial and clearly inadmissible, though in my view highly compelling, is the fact Frost has been implicated in sordid goings-on in ice hockey before.

Years ago, when I was editing Inside Sport magazine, I wrote a piece about the sad tale of Mike Danton, a promising rookie for the St Louis Blues in the National Hockey League.

In 2004, he was sent to jail for seven-and-a-half years for conspiring to murder Frost, rumoured to be his homosexual lover.

Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHL player who in the mid 1990s revealed his own personal history of abuse at the hands of junior hockey coaches, wrote in his book Why I Didn't Say Anything: "Frost became Danton's mentor, coach, and agent, and Danton followed his hockey and life instructions in a way other coaches have described as cult-like."

Frost may well get off these charges, just as he escaped getting a bullet from the hitman Danton tried to hire for his assassination, but clearly at one time or another he has been operating beyond what you and I would normally think of as the remit of your average coach.

When did sports coaches become life coaches?

Young sportspeople everywhere, male and female, are being damaged by older individuals in authority who should know better and should know their place.

A player's bedroom, in any circumstance, is not it.

Sadly the Frost case is not an isolated one.

The culture of hazing is endemic in junior sport and psychological intimidation/control of junior athletes by coaches is rife. And something needs to be done about it, in a comprehensive and uniform way.

Universal protocols for the relationship of player and coach need to be established and followed to the letter. Penalties for transgression need to be severe.

So whatever happens in Ontario, whether Frost is found guilty or not guilty, let's hope some bigger issues facing junior sport go on trial and justice is finally served for all those individuals who have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of coaches who don't know proper boundaries.

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Former NHL star bares soul for others
Valerie Fortney, Calgary Herald
Published: Thursday, November 06, 2008

On Wednesday morning, Sheldon Kennedy is indulging this Herald writer, giving his first print interview in two years. And, like millions of other North Americans, he's also savouring the victory of the night before, when Barack Obama clinched the presidency of the United States.

While it may seem unusual for a charming puck chaser from Brandon to feel a certain kinship with the first African-American politician to rise to the free world's highest office, the still boyish-looking 39-year-old makes a good, and oftentimes eloquent, case for himself.

In 1996, the former NHL star triggered a seismic reaction in the professional hockey world when he publicly revealed his former hockey coach, Graham James, had sexually abused him on several occasions.

"A lot of people turned against me, I was the bad guy," says Kennedy, who chronicled his experience in the 2006 book Why I Didn't Say Anything and appeared on everything from Oprah to ABC's Nightline.

"But I didn't have a choice -- I had to say something or I was going to die."

James, later convicted of sexually assaulting Kennedy and another unnamed player, was a regular fixture in Kennedy's daily existence even after he escaped from his physical clutches.

"I'd come off the ice and see him there with young Hitmen players," says Kennedy, who played for the Flames from 1994 to 1996. "I knew then I had to do something or I couldn't live with myself."

More than a decade later, while the trial of David Frost, a junior hockey coach accused of sexual exploitation, is playing out in an Ontario courtroom, Kennedy likens the changing landscape on the issue of sexual abuse to people's attitudes toward seatbelts.

"There was a time when you couldn't convince people to wear them," says Kennedy, who lives on an acreage south of the city with his partner Colleen and 12-year-old daughter Ryan. "But after decades of education and awareness, it's accepted as a necessary safety measure."

This is precisely what he sees as his role as the co-founder of Respect in Sport (www.respectinsport.com), an Internet-delivered educational program that works in partnership with the Canadian and U.S. Red Cross.

Coaches across North America, in everything from gymnastic and karate to hockey, are educated on such issues as self-esteem, bullying and how to spot abuse. The Canadian Gymnastics Federation, as well as Sport Manitoba, have made this course compulsory.

"It's so much easier today than it was even a couple of years ago to convince people this is important to discuss," says Kennedy, who also helped craft the International Olympic Committee's recently released policy on sexual harassment and abuse in sport.

This evening, Kennedy will be at Hotel Arts to speak to a sold-out crowd at the Purple Heart Gala, the annual fundraiser for Discovery House Family Violence Prevention Society.

Kennedy, who has spoken at conferences all across North America, says the flavour of his talks have evolved over the years.

"It's not about me, Sheldon Kennedy, anymore," he says, "but about getting the message out that together we can work to prevent abuse."

The Sheldon Kennedy story, made into a film in 1999, is an already well documented one. Not long after his revelation about James, he strapped on inline skates for a cross-Canada journey to raise money and awareness for victims of sexual abuse.

But rather than following the path of Terry Fox's heroic run, Kennedy's experience was more that of trouble-plagued Steve Fonyo. He was criticized for drawing a small salary for the feat, and later crashed a Hummer off-road vehicle during a stop in Edmonton. Kennedy spent the next few years in and out of rehab as he wrestled with the demons of his past.

The $1 million raised on his trek, though, transferred to the Canadian Red Cross, helped to launch his current project with partner Wayne McNeil.

Looking back, Kennedy admits he was in no shape back then to position himself as the poster boy for sexual abuse in sport.

"I had so much healing yet to do, I was still filled with so much shame and guilt," he says. "If you don't like yourself and you don't want to be on this Earth, you'll find all kinds of ways to be destructive."

He worries that his former hockey playing colleague Theoren Fleury, who was also coached by James in his teens, won't be prepared for the attention when his upcoming book, tentatively titled Driven by the Devil, is released next year.

In a recent Herald interview, Fleury would neither confirm nor deny if the subject of James is included in the book.

"I've told him to take care of himself because a lot of people are going to come at him," says Kennedy, who claims he doesn't have an inside track on the contents of Fleury's autobiography.

"It can be a tough road."

Still, it's one Kennedy has no regrets about traversing. Four years sober, he prefers to use words like "accountable" and "whole" over more simple labels to describe his life today.

"I feel the most committed to life than I ever did before," says Kennedy, who adds his celebrity helps to open doors and get the word out.

"It gives me a sense of peace, which I guess you could say is a form of happiness."

Through his healing process -- a journey that, he says, included letting go of hatred for James -- Kennedy has fashioned a life for himself of which he can be proud.

"I had to surrender to it all, to the fact this happened and I couldn't change the past, to the fact I'm an alcoholic, before I could start over," he says.

"And the definition of surrender is to join the winning team."


© The Calgary Herald 2008

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