Fleury seeks to empower victims and achieve 'transference of shame'
Published Friday, December 7, 2012 8:03AM EST
Former NHL star Theo Fleury says he hopes his new initiative -- which will see him walk across Ontario -- will empower victims of sexual abuse to read their own victim impact statements, even if they never got the chance to do it in court.
Fleury, a Stanley Cup- and Olympic Gold medal-winning hockey player who spent much of his career in Calgary, launched The Victor Walk campaign Thursday.
The movement will bring together victims of child abuse from across Canada to walk from Toronto to Ottawa next spring to lobby the federal government to take a tougher stand against child predators, whom Fleury says receive lenient sentences in Canada and are likely to re-offend.
Participants will also be encouraged to write a "victor impact statement" about their experience -- similar to a victim impact statement, but with a focus on emerging victorious from the abuse they suffered.
Fleury said he got the idea in February, when he learned that only a portion of his statement would be read at the sentencing hearing for Graham James, who abused Fleury in the 1980s when he was his junior hockey coach.
"I submitted my victim impact statement to the courts and found out that the defence got to edit my victim impact statement, which I thought was kind of unfair," Fleury told CTV's Canada AM on Friday.
"So half an hour before it was going to be read in court, I read it live. I held my own press conference and it was picked up by 600 media outlets and about an hour later we started getting a stream of emails from people saying 'I wish I could read my victim impact statement, I just want to be heard.' So that's why we're going to Ottawa, we just want people to write their own and we're calling it a 'victor impact statement.'"
The Victor Walk will take place from May 12-23, 2013.
Fleury is also pushing for tougher sentences for convicted pedophiles, suggesting a minimum of 15 years for each count of abuse, served concurrently, would be appropriate.
He also wants those who fail to report incidents of sexual abuse to be legally culpable.
All too often, he said, victims of sexual abuse end up living a life of shame.
His goal is to achieve a "transference of shame back onto the people who I think should be responsible for that -- the people who have abused us."