I am a Little Warrior

Here in Canada recently there was a lot of hoopla in the news about Graham James. He was a hockey coach in the 70s and 80s who ritually abused boy and was recently sentenced to two years in jail – a pitiful, incomprehensible sentence considering the suspected vastness of his crimes (he’d served 3.5 years on a previous charge, and – barf – had been given a pardon!). One of the most famous of his victims was Theoren Fleury. He used to be one of my most favourite hockey players from back in the day. I can remember when I first heard that he’d been abused by Graham James… I couldn’t figure out at the time how he’d been so successful, because surely that kind of abuse would have done someone in. Wrecked them.

It was the first time I learned what coping mechanism were. How damaged people did not always appear as damaged people. If you read Theo’s book Playing With Fire you can read all about the destructive behaviours he engaged in, all in an attempt to fill up the hole created by Graham James.

I was molested as a child on a few different occasions, by a former family member and a babysitter, both time so brief I often wonder if I can call it a molestation but my body has memories that still come back, so I know it still affects me. Nothing even close to what Theo (and other boys) experienced, not even in the same galaxy. You can read Theo’s victim impact statement here.

M & Theoren Fleury

I had recently attended a hockey event and cajoled my shy son into getting his picture taken with Theo (for the record, I’m not sure if he likes to be called Theo or Theoren … I grew up here in the 80s, I call him Theo.) because he was my favourite hockey player…and one of the few I can recognize off the ice. We’ll just gloss over the part of this story where I may have called him short. I really do have foot-in-mouth disease. (He’s 5’6 and my son is very small for his age… I thought it was relevant!)

What I wanted to say was “thank you” for being so brave and speaking up. I understand that he didn’t have much choice but to face his demons, but it still takes amazing courage.

For the last few years I had heard about an organization called Little Warriors. It’s an organization that trains adults to recognize the possibility of childhood sexual abuse. Or, as they say much better:

Little Warriors is a charitable organization with a national focus that educates adults about how to help prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Little Warriors also provides information about the prevalence and frequency of child sexual abuse and information about healing and support resources.

It’s a good organization.

I had wanted to engage in some training for a while but had just not done it. So when a spot became available right in my neighbourhood this month, I jumped at it. I’m now what they call a Steward of Children.

I’d love to tell you all about the training they provide, but I could not do it justice. It only takes a morning or an afternoon, but it’s a very tough few hours. You have to really face things you don’t necessarily want to.

But that’s where the courage to be a Warrior comes in.

As a society, we know (in theory) that these things happen. Daily. Hourly. But we gloss it over and assume someone else is looking out for those kids being abused. We self-righteously point fingers at the parents, THEY should have known. THEY should have done something, THEY were supposed to be looking out for their kid.

Well THEY didn’t realize that someone was making their child PREY. And that person’s sole purpose was to confuse, distract and manipulate the parents, to gain access to their child. What THEY didn’t realize was that a child who is molested is least likely to tell their parents because the predator has positioned himself between them. What THEY didn’t realize was once a child is targeted, the grooming can take years. That’s YEARS where nothing happens and a form of trust is built between parents, child and predator.

As a society, we tend to see the dregs of society from the view straight down the ridge of our first-world noses. Prostitutes. Drug addicts. It’s all their fault, they made bad choices, they shouldn’t come in contact with our family. Imagine… seeing your child talking with a drug addict? A prostitute? Your heart would leap into your throat, you’d grab your kid’s hand and rush away. Or maybe you’d just grab their hand and smile and nod because it would be unchristian to be so OVERTLY disdainful.

Did you know that 76% of prostitutes were victims of childhood sexual abuse? Would you shun a six-year old girl being ritually abused by a predator? No, I don’t think you would. That prostitute IS that six-year old girl.

Or, more precisely, that six-year old girl on the playground at school that you watch your kid play with before the bell rings … that girl will be that prostitute.

Unless she has a warrior.

The kid who dropped out of school because of drugs? Kicked out for having pot in his locker? Dumbass, right?

70% of victims report excessive drug and alcohol use. That kid isn’t getting high to be cool, he’s getting high to get high enough away from himself that he can forget how damaged he is.

He needs a warrior.

I knew this training was important for me as my new life as an EMT, hockey mom, hockey trainer, volunteer, etc… means I am in close proximity to kids of all ages. From the kindergarteners in my daughter’s class, to the teenagers on my midget hockey team. I’m ready to be a warrior for any of them.

How about you?

I know you feel ready, even without the training you think you are ready.

Trust me, you need the training.

You wouldn’t run a marathon without first training. You wouldn’t play a hockey tournament without first training. You wouldn’t try to undertake your profession without training.

And a child’s well-being. His or her soul, feelings of worth, innocence, and future are worth first training.

Look for training in your area by clicking here.

Or, if you are in Calgary, drop me a line because I’m going to be hosting Stewards training this spring.



  1. Count me in next time!

  2. Shocking and powerful, as always, Heather … at the same time, this is a very hopeful column, because you have come to terms w/your past and are focused on ways to prevent other kids from being abused. Thank you for being upfront and outspoken. Sorry for anything that happened to you, and Theo, and anyone else.

  3. I’ll join your training session! This is so important, we have to discuss it no matter how uncomfortable it is.

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