No longer a victim

Jim Day
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Theo Fleury charms crowd at Charlottetown speaking engagement

Theo Fleury was in Charlottetown on a speaking engagement -- one of more than 400 that the former NHL star has given since his tell-all book called Playing With Fire detailed his troubled life that included being sexually abused by coach Graham James over a period of two years when he was a teenager.

Theo Fleury quips to the young boys holding mini-sticks that their floors at home must have taken quite a scuffing.

Fleury, despite his propensity for swearing up a storm and losing his cool, has a talent for interacting with and disarming people coming from all walks of life.

He is patient, jovial and even charming with the long line of people at a Charlottetown hotel that snake towards this former NHL star with the well-known story of abuse. Even one man clutching what seems an unreasonable pile of hockey memorabilia to be signed piece by piece doesn’t dampen Fleury’s pleasant demeanor.

He continues to smile as one after another from the audience squeeze in close to him for a photograph, hands him a book to be signed or reaches over the table for a firm handshake. He doesn’t rush anyone along. He seems to take it all in stride.

Fleury has been a much-sought after celebrity ever since his best-selling tell-all book called Playing With Fire hit the shelves in 2009 detailing the sexual abuse he endured by his former coach Graham James and the subsequent self-inflicted abuse of alcohol, drugs and gambling.

The successful book has led to several spinoff projects including an edgy, plenty-of-warts-and-all HBO documentary, an acclaimed stage version of the book, and speaking engagements.

In Charlottetown, Fleury was giving his latest of more than 400 talks that have been delivered since his book made him a popular speaker to diverse audiences ranging from students to mental health groups.

Being Metis, Fleury has a natural affinity towards the Aboriginal people and thus has visited roughly 40 Native reserves to speak.

The busy schedule combined with hearing horror story upon horror story has taken an emotional toll on Fleury, says Carey Fraser, president of Fleury 14 Enterprise Inc. and the man’s personal handler.

“It’s hard to hear everybody’s stories,’’ said Fraser. “It can create sleepless nights.’’

Fleury has been overwhelmed by the large number of speaking engagements he has with people flocking to hear his thoughts on and his experiences of sexual abuse.

“When I started writing this book, I had no idea that this would happen,’’ he said.

“But you know it’s amazing when you’re willing to get honest and share your story. I think Canadians, we pride ourselves on hard work and honesty and all that stuff and I really think that that is what people connected with in the book.’’

People are regularly turning to Fleury to reveal for the first time their own story of being a victim of sexual abuse. He says most commonly they want to know how to start to deal with their dark past.

Fleury makes clear, though, that he is not a therapist or a counselor. He is an advocate trying to raise awareness about sexual abuse, which he terms the biggest epidemic on the planet.

He lashes out the media for the way his story has been covered, suggesting senationalism wins out over simply presenting a helpful message.

“We get nothing but positive feedback except from the media because the media for some reason looks at sex abuse as a money-maker: let’s revictimize the victims and let's sell a whole bunch of newspapers,’’ he said slipping into one of a couple of somewhat angry rants during a 20-minute interview with The Guardian.

He also let loose on politicians who like to boast that Canadians live in the safest country in the world.

“Well you’re full of s***,’’ he said.

“There’s eight million victims (of sexual abuse) in this country and you’re saying that and you want me to vote for you? It ain’t going to happen. I don’t understand why we’re not taking this seriously.’’

Still, Fleury says there are many people doing amazing work around sexual abuse.

He would, however, like to see much more collaboration. Without tipping his hat, he says something is in the works to bring great profile to the problem.

“We have a plan and you will hear about it and it’s going to be big and it will be in your face, so to speak, just like me,’’ he said. “A big movement: a big movement for change.’’

Fleury also plans to put together another book over the next two years dealing with what he calls “post-traumatic growth.’’

He no longer views himself as a victim or even as a survivor today. He believes he has emerged from his dark past victorious.

“I’m a victor, I’m a victor, I’m a victor,’’ he said.

“It’s taken a long time but I’m truly a victor over this. I just feel so blessed that people come out like this and listen and are inspired and when they leave they make changes in their lives.’’

Organizations: Charlottetown hotel, NHL

Geographic location: Fleury, Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Enoughalready
    May 29, 2012 - 16:33

    There are 196 Countries in the world and Canada is consistently in the top 15 of the safest places to live so yeah I would say they are one of the safest Countries in the world.

  • Enoughalready
    May 29, 2012 - 12:49

    MYOB And Canada is NOT. I think you could go to any Country in the World and find those stories. Fleury met James in 1982 and in 1994 chose to go into business with Graham James. I would be interested in hearing why he chose to go into business with this man at 26 years of age.

      May 29, 2012 - 14:42

      I & other Islanders applaude You, in Your Victory THEO FLEURY And wish You every success with your new book "This last comment " Enoughalready" wow, there are people who do 'need to read more' IMO- Says, complete ignorance to the dynamics of Abuse and can open up a dialoge to better educate the ignorant. The psychological affects on Victims-Survivors & The Victors RE: the people who abuse them sexually, physically, verbally, emotionally & psychologically. The Dynamics of Abuse are similar in domestic violence, with parents-gaurdians who physically/emotionally abuse their children of all ages and in cases of sexual abuse-molestation. Most of Canada is familiar with Sheldon (Kennedy) story, numerous other stories have appeared in Magazines and all Media across Canada and into the USA. Sheldon appeared before a US Gov. House Committe on Sexual abuse of young atheletes- by their coaches and other kids abused by people holding positions of trust.

  • Lori
    May 29, 2012 - 10:39

    Bravo Mr. Fluery.... thank for educating us.

  • MYOB And Canada is NOT
    May 29, 2012 - 10:19

    How the hell would you know anything Re: his banking & investments. MYOB! Sounds like " Enoughalready " doesn't do much reading. Canada is NOT one of the safest countries to live in. Read Todays Chronicle Herald at Number 1- "Man charged with kidnapping, murder due back in court July 27 " #2 "Another young woman's Body found stuffed in Hockey Bag Floating in The Mira River." #3-" last weekend's Shooting Death of Corey Duane Lucas." #4-"Man killed in shooting served time for robbery" #5- ""Masked man robs restaurant at gunpoint" #6-Judge extends psychiatric assessment in stabbing cas#7- Police search for clues in Creighton Street shooting. #8-32STUN GUNS SEIZED." ANDThere's MORE CRIMES just in Todays Chronicle!

  • tim tonkin
    May 29, 2012 - 09:41

    It is terrible that people like enough are in such deep denial that they can't see the truth. Mr Fleury could find easier ways of making money than exposing the terrible things that happened to him and is still happening to thousand of kids this day. Wake up people and get behind this movement .

  • Uncle Ruckus
    May 29, 2012 - 07:29

    great speech by mr fleury, thank you mr ghiz for getting this guy to come to PEI!

  • Enoughalready
    May 29, 2012 - 07:04

    First off I feel terrible for this guy. I couldn't imagine going through what he did. Having said that this guy is broke, that is why the books are coming out and the appearances are being made. Is he really blaming the politicians for this. Canada is one the safest places to live.

  • PEI-Theo Fleury and Playing With Fire
    May 29, 2012 - 06:49

    Theo Fleury sure came to the right place by going to Prince Edward Island. Islanders, including people within it's legal-justice system look the other way, sweep sexual abuse under the carpet. Get out and Buy a copy of his book " Playing With Fire " educate yourselves and your family, your kids. I would hope every PEI School Library & including the Confed Public Library order this book to make it available to Students and the Public to read. This is an important subject, it's out in the open now and IMO any people who know a kid's been molested and look the other way, sweep it under the carpet are as bad as the abusers. AGAIN - I would hope every PEI School Library & including the Confed Public Library order this book to make it available to Students and the Public to read.

      May 29, 2012 - 17:00

      I can only take my hat off to Theo for coming out of the darkness and facing his demons!!! I am a living survivor of sexual abuse, and it hasimpacted some sort of my day to day life for the past 30 some years. for you idiots out there that claim h is capitalizing on this that he is broke and doing this to make money, get your head our of the sand and welcome to reality. YOU have no idea what harsh effects this ha on your physical, mental and emotional self!!! YOU have no clue on Theo breaking his silence liberates those who are survivors and gives us hope to see that small dim light at the end of the tunnel. So he has written a book, and reaping the royalties, GOOD FOR HIM!!!! He has the right to pursue any careeer path he choses. This IS sitill a FREE county insn' it!!! I say to those of you who have not walked in the shoes of sexual abuse, keep your uninformed, comments to yourself!!! Thank you Mr. Fleury, you have given me hope!!!!