My name is Greg Gilhooly. I was repeatedly sexually abused by Graham James over a three year period beginning in 1979. This is my victim impact statement.
I am not sure that I can adequately describe in words the full extent of the impact that Graham has had on me. Even as I write this he is not “Graham James”, or “Mr. James”, or even “the Defendant”. To me he is still just “Graham”, who was once a friend, a mentor, somebody who was going to help me become everything I dreamed of becoming.
All I ever wanted was to be the best me that I could be. It is easy to see now that Graham never for a moment cared about that. But at the time I put all the faith and trust that a fourteen year-old dreaming about his future could have into him. I have had to live with that decision for the rest of my life, every single day of my life.
The easy part of assessing impact is to consider the actual physical actions themselves. Still, words like “massaging”, “touching”, “fondling”, “groping”, “masturbating”, “oral sex”, and “ejaculating”, words which attempt to describe various actions, can’t come close to describing the horror of what was going on. I live with the horror of those actions, and there is no erasing them. And until they invent a pill that allows you to control your own dreams and nightmares, I never know when I will revisit those horrors in my sleep.
The harder part of dealing with Graham’s impact is looking at who I was, who I became, and who I must become to better deal with this.
Graham left me with questions about myself that I have had to deal with for over thirty years, questions that would come up at times I couldn’t control. They would haunt me in the middle of the night, waking me up in a sweat and leaving me unable to fall back asleep. They would come up in the midst of me working on a file at work, taking me back to a different time and place. The questions would be front and centre during a handshake or a seemingly normal conversation, me doing my best to put on a mask to get through the encounter until I could retreat to suffer in solitude. The questions would always be there throughout intimate moments with somebody I loved.
Who am I?
Why did he pick me? He must have seen I was weak. People must see me as weak. I must be some sort of joke.
Why did my body respond to his advances and actions? I must have liked it.
Why didn’t I stop it? I must have wanted it. I deserve what I am feeling now. I deserve to feel like his leftover garbage.
How could somebody like him control somebody like me? I am worthless and weak. I am not the strong, tall, intelligent, athlete people see on the outside. I am a fraud.
I am a fraud, worthless and weak. What you see isn’t real. I am a failure, and I deserve failure, not success.
Can’t you see that I’m a fraud? I am a failure, not worthy of this success. I will show you I am a failure, worthless and weak.
What about the others I know who followed me? It’s all my fault for not stopping him. I am responsible for their pain. I have enabled him in his crimes. I deserve to be punished.
Who am I? I am somebody who wanted it, who liked it, who is a fraud, who is worthless and weak, a failure who deserves to be punished.
Who am I? I am a fraud, his garbage, his enabler. I am somebody who doesn’t deserve to live.
When I met Graham I was a fourteen year-old straight-A student who had already skipped a year in school, winning academic awards while playing AAA hockey and receiving athletic awards. A goalie, I had the lowest goals against average in our league while playing on a team that sometimes, but not always, advanced in the playoffs. I was scouted and recruited for both junior and college hockey. I didn’t go to parties, the guys I played hockey with were a year behind me and at different schools, and I kept to myself. As a friend said, I didn’t fit in with the geeks because I was a jock, and I didn’t fit in with the jocks because I was a geek.
I was me. I was fourteen turning fifteen, gangly, even then almost six and a half feet tall. I was alone. All I wanted was acceptance, somewhere, in some group, someplace where I would fit in, where I would be understood. My goal was to go to an Ivy League school and play hockey, like my idol, Ken Dryden.
And then along came Graham. The hockey coach who was a teacher. The local star coach who was revolutionizing the game with his theories of Soviet and Swedish systems, who was on his way to taking his Midget AAA team to the national championships while bringing an academic focus to the game. With me he focused on my academic dreams as much as, if not more than, the hockey dreams. He was everything I could have wanted in a mentor. I, the scholar-athlete, was everything he, the teacher with a Masters in English (as he would tell us - only later did we learn he didn’t even get his B.A. until he took courses while in jail after his first convictions) could have wanted. He told me he wanted to bring me up to his Midget team, two years older than my Bantam team, for the national championships. What he really wanted was something else.
He groomed me. He didn’t touch me for months, but he made my world his. He told me he could get me into Princeton through his contacts. He worked with me, encouraged me, told me what I could do, told me that I was talented, and with a bit of a push, I could achieve my goals, academic and athletic. He told me that I had to keep his help secret, for various reasons that now seem stupid but then seemed real, as if he held all power over the walls which were closing in on me. And then he got me, and I thought that I had nobody to go to for help. He kept me under his spell by threatening to tell people I was gay, to tell the people at school that I was a problem, that my Ivy League dream would evaporate, that I wasn’t deserving. Of course, as it turns out he had no contacts at Princeton, and I got in on my own in spite of him, not because of him. But he had me, and the abuse continued.
The physical abuse continued until I went away to Princeton. The mental abuse, it never ended. The dark thoughts, the answers to the questions, were always there.
People must see me as weak. I must be some sort of joke. I am not the strong, tall, intelligent, athlete people see on the outside. I am a fraud. What you see isn’t real. I am a failure, and I deserve failure, not success. I will show you I am a failure, worthless and weak. I deserve to be punished. I am somebody who doesn’t deserve to live.
I didn’t deserve Princeton, so I would take a transcript full of A’s and trash it by not doing the required course work. I believed that the hockey coach who recruited me at Princeton was Graham’s “contact”, and threw away any chance of success in the program through any number of self-sabotaging ways. Still I managed to get into the University of Toronto Law School, but of course the same pattern repeated itself. I played hockey for the U of T Varsity Blues, but without the contacts I needed. I managed to secure a position as a summer and articling student at Torys, one of the country’s leading law firms, only to guarantee no hire back by skipping assignments in the midst of reviews of my work stating I was among the best students the firm had ever had.
Repeatedly, the innocent fourteen year-old pre-Graham boy could open doors to the most prestigious of institutions. Repeatedly, the post-Graham young man could shut them just as quickly. And not just shut them, but trash them. Burn bridges. Alienate those who had once supported him.
This cycle of stealing defeat from the jaws of victory has played out throughout my professional career, in my personal relationships, during my marriage, and with my friendships. I abused my body and in my self-loathing put on weight. Everything that I ever had that was good in my life I have broken. Everything.
I don’t belong here. I don’t deserve this. I am a fraud. What you think you see isn’t real. The real me is a failure. I’ll show you failure. I don’t deserve to live.
Fortunately I was a failure at that too.
Except now I have come forward. I am getting help. I am in therapy. I am getting proper care and treatment. I have reconnected with my mother, brother, and sister. My daughter is a shining light in my life, while my former stepson shines too from a distance. I have support. I have begun reconnecting with friends who ask no questions, who forgive me for dropping out of their lives. I held my last job for almost six years in the midst of much upheaval, leaving at my suggestion to take time to deal with this situation. I will continue to get better, and the past will no longer define who I am. But the past will always be there, a part of that tapestry of life.
I am not to proud to admit that I know that I will need help going forward, as that is the true legacy of his actions. I will need the understanding and help of family, friends, and supporters to continue to get through this.
But I can now answer those questions he left with me, I can say the words, and I have begun to start living the answers, not just saying them.
I was a victim. It wasn’t my fault. I’m not responsible for what he did to Todd or Theo or Sheldon. I deserved Princeton, and deserved whatever success I had there. I deserved the UofT law school and the Varsity Blues. I deserved Torys. I deserved to be General Counsel at CanWest. I deserved to be General Counsel at Cookie Jar Entertainment. I deserved to be married, to have a wonderful daughter and to parent a wonderful son. I deserve my friends. I deserve to be healthy and in-shape again.
I deserve a good life with a happy ending.
And all of that is good. But I was reminded again just last night that until they invent a pill that allows you to control your own dreams and nightmares, you never know when the horrors will reappear. When it comes to considering the impact on a victim when sentencing Graham, I urge everyone to take a moment to think about that - the horror never, ever. goes away.
Note - Charges with respect to this abuse were stayed by the Crown as part of the proceedings in which Graham agreed to plea guilty to abusing Todd Holt and Theo Fleury, the Crown desiring a timely resolution to this matter while avoiding a trial.