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Theo Fleury disappointed after James’ pardon

It took a lot of courage for Theo Fleury to come public with claims that he had been abused by his former juniors coach Graham James, who had previously been convicted in 1997 in Canada of assaulting Sheldon Kennedy. Fleury had stated one reason he came forward was to raise awareness that victims of sexual assault and abuse should not be afraid of coming out against their attackers.

So you can understand his anger when learning that James was given a pardon in 2007 for his crime. A pardon does not erase a person’s criminal record, but it ensures the convictions are kept out of a police database used by officers throughout Canada.

From Carolyne Burkholder of The Province:

“There’s a lot of ramifications that come from poorly made decisions such as that,” Fleury said in an interview from Calgary. “It has an amazing trickle-down effect.”

“We’re trying to encourage victims to start on a process and with a decision like this obviously puts a pretty big damper on people’s processes,” he said.

He’s right in the fact that it’s tough to encourage victims to speak out on such crimes when they feel the justice system won’t do them any favors. I don’t want to get too heavily into the subject matter at hand, but it’s thought that for every sexual assault that is committed and reported, there are many more that go unreported. The victims feel guilty, ashamed and are afraid of the ramifications of going to the police.

How can Fleury and others convince victims that reporting such crimes is needed, helpful and worthwhile when the justice system fails them?