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A lesson in fixing a flawed system

Lawyer, author and survivor Greg Gilhooly spoke to law students on criminal justice reform for victims of sexual assault

March 22, 2018 — 

The Criminal Law Group of Robson Hall’s Manitoba Law Students Association hosted author, lawyer and child sexual abuse survivor on March 13, 2018 at the Faculty of Law. Gilhooly was speaking out about criminal justice reform for victims of sexual assault and sharing his story of surviving abuse at the hands of Graham James, the infamous junior hockey coach who has been convicted of abusing former NHL stars. Gilhooly’s book, I am Nobody: Confronting the sexually abusive coach who stole my life was recently published by Greystone Books, and took him six years to write, as he explained in an interview with Global News.

A Princeton-educated graduate of the University of Toronto Law School, Gilhooly is now a successful corporate lawyer, senior business executive, public speaker and writer with a family. However, in his talk he described the life-long process of recovery from the emotional and psychological damage he experienced as a promising young hockey player.

Speaking as a victim and survivor of child sexual abuse, Gilhooly emphasised to the capacity-filled lecture theatre at Robson Hall, that it is important for lawyers and the legal justice system to fully understand what the crime does to the victim. “The legal justice system doesn’t understand what abusers are doing to children,” he said. “Child sexual assault is no less than murder or attempted murder of a child’s soul.”

“It’s all well and good to believe in second chances and rehabilitation,” he said, “but enough is enough. We have to recognize that there are monsters among us.”

Gilhooly shared his frank and compelling account of how the abuse started, ended, and continued to affect him throughout his adult life, how he attempted to recover from it and finally, how he managed to finally write about the abuse he suffered from the same offender put behind bars by accusations made by NHL stars Sheldon Kennedy and Theo Fleury.

He appealed to law students to not think of law cases as “precedents” but to recognize that each case has a human story behind it. Gilhooly also challenged students to ask how we can make changes to the law to ensure that victims are encouraged to come forward and be believed in a system that respects the victim more than it currently does. “Society needs to understand the offence better to ensure justice,” he said.

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