For former NHL hockey player
Sheldon Kennedy, speaking out
about being sexually abused was the
start of a long journey back to health
“Yes, my life changed, but not
instantly,” says Kennedy, who played
for the Boston Bruins, the Detroit Red
Wings and the Calgary Flames.
“When somebody asks for help,
we think it’s over. But it almost
gets worse before it starts getting
better, because we’ve now disclosed
Kennedy was a 14-year-old junior
player in the Western Hockey
League when his coach, Graham
James, began sexually abusing him.
It continued for the next four years
and Kennedy waited until he was 28
before asking for help.
“That’s fairly normal. A lot of
times, people don’t come to grips
with it,” says Kennedy, now 44.
“It was a lot of hard work. It
took me about 10 years to get to a
place where I felt confident enough
that I had come through the dark
tunnel, and got a little bit of my own
Kennedy went through two
different alcohol and drug treatment
programs and says his healing took
time, patience, consistency and a
willingness to change.
“A lot of it is acceptance, and not
blaming yourself,” he notes.
“We can’t expect others to fix
us. It wasn’t until I accepted the
fact that I needed to do my part in
helping myself, before I could start
moving on. I attend AA (Alcoholics
Anonymous) meetings—for me, that
has been critical. It’s also committing
to exercise, to eating better and
sleeping better—all those things that
are going to make me feel better and
Kennedy is now an advocate for
children and a board member of the
Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy
Centre, which helps children heal
after physical and sexual abuse.
“I want to show people there is a
way out, and you can get your life
back. We need to give people hope
that there is a way out of
Many children who have been
sexually abused don’t speak out
about it until they’re adults. Inspired
by Kennedy’s leadership, the
Canadian Centre for Male Survivors
of Child Sexual Abuse (cc4ms) in
Calgary was formed to help adult
male survivors of child sexual abuse.
“There is a lot of need, especially
around men, to deal with this in their
lives,” Kennedy says, adding “cc4ms
is a great extension for what we do.”
on Asked for help