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Greg Gilhooley, photographed March 7 2012 in his Oakville, Ont. home, is a successful corporate lawyer and he talks to the Globe about the abuse he suffered at the hands of hockey coach Graham James. He was not allowed to give a "victim's statement" at the trial (where James pleaded guilty). (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Greg Gilhooley, photographed March 7 2012 in his Oakville, Ont. home, is a successful corporate lawyer and he talks to the Globe about the abuse he suffered at the hands of hockey coach Graham James. He was not allowed to give a "victim's statement" at the trial (where James pleaded guilty). (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

ROY MacGREGOR

Graham James's alleged first victim finally has his say Add to ...

Once he graduated, he had no trouble finding work at the most prestigious firms. He married a woman who already had a child by a previous marriage and soon the two of them had a daughter. On the surface, it seemed he had it made.

“I never felt that I deserved success,” he says. “Whatever anyone saw on the outside of me – tall, athletic, Princeton graduate, University of Toronto graduate, Varsity Blues goaltender – I just felt that I was a fraud inside, and every day was me putting a mask on trying to be something I wasn’t. Because I was a failure.”

Just as Gilhooly was beginning to climb the corporate ladder, Sheldon Kennedy came forward with his explosive charges against James, who he said had molested him, and others, when they were junior hockey players in Swift Current, Sask.

“Sheldon,” Gilhooly says, “is the great hero in all this. It is beyond words how strong he was to do what he did, and especially when he did it. He did it alone in the face of the hockey community rallying around Graham at the time, believing everything that was said about Sheldon because he had his faults and he was an easy target for anyone who didn’t want to believe Sheldon and wanted to believe Graham.”

In reading Kennedy’s book, Why didn’t I say Anything, Gilhooly came to realize that James met Kennedy around the time Gilhooly left for Princeton: “He was probably in the midst of grooming Sheldon when I went away to school.”

Kennedy’s courage made Gilhooly come to terms with his own reality. Once his father passed on in 2003, he decided to tell only those closest to him. He told his wife first, then he told his therapist. At around the same time, his marriage, which had not been going well for other reasons, collapsed. His brother, sister and mother all supported him.

“It is a long road back,” he says. “It is not something you just show up one day and have it all explained to you and say, ‘Well, I’m better. I’m good and deserving.’ “But I do see a light. To be honest with you, I did not for a long time. But I do now. And one of the reasons I do see a light is because of my daughter.”

He hopes for more light on March 20, when Graham James will be sentenced. He commends the federal government for getting tough on crime and believes it should be even tougher on this crime: “I wish and hope that our system is able to deal with a monster like Graham – and it’s not right now.”

Greg Gilhooly sat down this past week and wrote out the victim’s impact statement he would have given had he been allowed. “My name is Greg Gilhooly,” he began. Two thousand painful, torturous words later – the entire statement can be viewed at www.globeandmail.com – he wrote “I deserve a good life with a happy ending,” but felt obliged to add: “... the horror never, ever goes away.”

Writing his statement helped, he says. He will be in Winnipeg court Tuesday when 59-year-old Graham James finds out what his punishment will be.

And after the sentence is handed out, Greg Gilhooly will go to the University of Manitoba where he has arranged to speak to law students about the significance of hearing from the victims in the Canadian justice system.

“I view this as me standing up to Graham,” he says.

“Graham has thrown out a last challenge, and this time he will not victimize me.”

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