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Sexual Assault And The NHL: League Response Through The Eyes Of A Survivor

The National Hockey League's responses to allegations and legal actions stemming from sexual assaults are an embarrassment. The message it sends to fans who are survivors is even worse.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

With Patrick Kane, Slava Voynov, and Mike Ribeiro in the news regarding issues of sexual and domestic assault, both alleged and litigated, the issue unfortunately remains a blight on both the NHL and the sport.

Several SB Nation sites have written pieces on the issue; Pension Plan Puppets on the ignorance about women's issues by hockey journalistsStanley Cup Of Chowder on the media's complicity in the NHL's war against female fansJewels From The Crown taking to task an article on the NHL's off ice 'issues', to name just a few.

This past weekend we received an email from an Anaheim Calling reader who was victim of sexual assault, and wanted to share her story as a survivor and viewpoint on the position the league has taken. We are honoring her request to remain anonymous, and hope this personal account will further inform the discussion on this issue. -EE

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The following is a personal account from a sexual assault survivor. In an effort to remain fair, we remind you that the Patrick Kane investigation is ongoing and no charges have been filed at this time.

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If someone tells you that they were a victim of assault, do you immediately assume they are lying or do you believe them without asking for more information?

I was a victim of sexual assault.

And I was the target of two other attempted sexual assaults.

And this is the first time I've spoken out.

I never went to the police because I never wanted to relive the incidents. When I told a close friend about the first attempt they called me "lucky," because I escaped with nothing more than a few bruises.

That one word is the only thing that resonates from that exchange, from that confession.


Somehow I was "lucky" that when I was at a friend's party and a guy cornered me in her room, pinning me onto my friend's bed, I didn't stop fighting. I was "lucky" that even with his knees pinning my shoulders down, I kept trying to get free. I was "lucky" that when he was distracted trying to unbutton his pants I kicked up with my right knee, it connected with the middle of his back, and when he was recovering I managed to get away.

But I wasn't "lucky" enough to avoid the nightmares. I wasn't "lucky" enough to escape the bruises, or the feeling of his knees holding my shoulders down down. And I wasn't "lucky" enough to silence the disgusting threats he whispered in my ear that remain echoes in my brain, and fuel my deepest fears.

Even in attempted assaults, a person is hurt, is put through suffering, and a life is changed. Even attempted assaults have victims.

So why not go to the police? Why not report the incident? Stop at nothing to catch this creepy pervert?

Because I know the stories, I know the process. The endless questions, the investigations that turn your life inside out, the interviews that somehow only manage to raise doubt in your own mind about something you know to be the truth. I know that unless something is proven "beyond a reasonable doubt" nothing "can" or will be done.

How can "reasonable doubt" be erased entirely if the repetitive questions somehow make the victim feel guilty? Questions about intoxication, intentions, attire, and conversations somehow get twisted to sound like the victim was somehow the instigator, or even the perpetrator.

But the real reason I haven't spoken up? The news stories.

It's hearing about individuals living in the limelight who are accused of assaulting a woman, but nothing further ever seems to come of it.

It's hearing about cases such as Drew Doughty's alleged sexual assault that was deemed a "he said, she said" case and swept under the metaphorical rug.

It's reading the disgusting details of the accusations that suggested Mike Ribeiro assaulted the nanny who took care of his children. A case which ended in an "undisclosed settlement".

It's hearing that even though he's being investigated for rape, Patrick Kane was still allowed, expected, and even encouraged to participate in the Blackhawks' training camp. And he did participate. Despite the allegations, life goes on as normal for the NHL superstar.

It's hearing that women were victimized and then discredited, ignored, doubted, intimidated into silence, and, in some instances, even blamed for the events that transpired.

It's hearing that women go through absolute hell and then end up being questioned so unapologetically and forced to relive these nightmares over and over again, only to end up getting offered a lump sum of money to stop answering the questions. There should not be a price tag for silence.

After you've been through something like assault or attempted assault, the last thing that you should have to do is convince someone you aren't lying.

That is why I never went to the police.

As a woman I understand I am part of the minority of sports fans, especially in the population of hockey fans. I also understand that as a minority there is far less attention paid to accommodate me at sporting events. For example, when I shop for a jersey, I can only get certain players represented on the back because only certain players have nameplates and numbers produced in a size small enough to fit the woman's sweater sizes.

But when it comes to being a female fan, I think it is reasonable to expect some respect when there is news coverage reporting circumstances surrounding a star athlete being caught up in allegedly assaulting a woman.

These men should not be treated with special privileges simply because they are athletes. There should be repercussions and punishments for immoral and illicit actions both from the legal justice system as well as from the league itself.

It disgusts me that the NHL ends up protecting players accused of such atrocious actions. The fact that Patrick Kane is involved in a rape investigation, yet still allowed to attend training camp is setting the complete wrong precedent. This course of action prioritizes talent over morality, and tolerates misogynistic violence. This is a blatant objectification of women, and it disrespects every female fan out there.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not so naive to believe that there is any sort of gender equality in sports. However, consider the fact that the Los Angeles Kings chose to maintain a connection to Slava Voynov, who pleaded "no contest" when charged with domestic violence towards his wife. What more does it take to show just how unethical and backwards the priorities are in the world of sports?

The tolerance in the form of silence demonstrated by the NHL for illicit actions by its players is appalling and downright disgusting. Any accusations that lead to an investigation at a legal level should merit disciplinary action from the NHL toward that player.

Be it a suspension, or the insistence of a public apology, the NHL should implement disciplinary actions in order to encourage moral, or, at the very least, legal behavior from its players.

By allowing players to continue to play and train as if nothing has changed just proves that even when victims find the strength to speak out, the NHL won't bother to listen. The league is demonstrating how little it cares about it's female fanbase and alienating every woman who supports this sport by turning a deaf ear to those who are speaking out, and begging to be heard.

I understand that as a female I represent a minority group in sport fandom, especially hockey, but unless the NHL steps up and actually punishes players for wrongdoings, specifically actions against women, how can I continue to offer my unwavering support?

How can women remain hockey fans when the NHL doesn't even care enough to hear what we have to say?

How can I continue to spend money on tickets or jerseys when the NHL wouldn't even listen if I was victimized by one of its precious posterboys?

Had any of the men who attempted or assaulted me been professional athletes, it would feel unbelievably betraying if their sport, which I grew up passionately discussing and backing, didn't show any sort of reciprocated support.

The legal system requires there to be zero reasonable doubt remaining in order to fully punish an individual for their actions. Show me where in the NHL rule book or the CBA the phrase "without a reasonable doubt" is printed.

In my opinion, even being accused of illicit activities merits the consideration of disciplinary action from the NHL, yet the league refuses to take a stand, further allowing for these situations to get swept under the rug.

As the NBA has done several times in recent history, the NHL should adopt the practice of immediately suspending a player from all hockey-related events including training camps, practices, games and appearances, for the duration of any and all legal investigations.

As an institution, the reputation of the National Hockey League is being torn to shreds by the likes of Voynov, Ribeiro and Kane, whose wrongdoings in their personal lives have hugely negative affects on the sport they are affiliated with. Add in the fact that the league refuses to step up and denounce these mistakes only further casts a darker shadow onto hockey as a whole.

Reports have recently surfaced that the rape kit does not have any DNA evidence to prove Patrick Kane raped the woman accusing him of assault. Because of that some people believe him to be uninvolved and innocent, however a secondary explanation, something as simple as wearing a condom, can also explain the lack of DNA evidence present.

Just because DNA is not present does not absolve Kane, and the investigation, which he belittles as nothing more than a "distraction," continues, and the Blackhawk forward is still allowed to participate in team events, including training camp.

Considering Kane is still allowed to speak to press and maintain his position in the public's eye, he can perpetually insist he is innocent, while the victim and accuser is still trying to prove she is truthful beyond a "reasonable doubt".

If a player is involved in an investigation, the NHL will not intervene. If the legal investigation ends with a player walking away without any punishment, the NHL most likely won't dole out any disciplinary action either.

And so the victims screams fade to nothing but an echo, and often end up forgotten.

Hopefully she's also "lucky" enough to eventually forget. I know I haven't been.