Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A History of Bad Judgment

“A good time was guaranteed for one and all
The tattoos did target practice in the hall
While waiting for their number to get called out
I, I, I, I found out what the wait was about”
                                                          Chrissie Hynde – “Tattooed Love Boys”

Much to say but barely enough space to do justice to everything I want to write about.  And what I wanted to write about isn’t as important as what needs to be said…..

Anyone who knows me, knows I live, breathe, and bleed hockey.  I’ve played on all levels and coached when I stopped playing, and for years kept an equipment bag along with my CCM and KOHO sticks in the trunk of my car in case somebody somewhere needed an extra player….and in my house, we are a hockey family from the youngest to the oldest especially when it comes to matters of the New York Rangers.

If you have a marginal interest in hockey (or sports), by now you have heard the allegations that NHL star Patrick Kane raped a woman earlier this month.  Although the investigation is on-going, no charges have been filed yet (there is an entirely separate conversation that needs to be had about the way we charge assailants in crimes against another person’s body and how we prosecute cases involving property).  For a more thorough examination into the investigation, check out Sports Illustrated’s recent article:

So it’s another headline and another story about an athlete’s poor behavior.  

We already know about the NFL’s #1 draft pick Jameis Winston, and the daily sports pages (which resemble a police blotter on a good day) are littered with the names of college football players like Sam Ukwuachu (Baylor), Michael Williams (UT), and AJ Johnson (UT) who are facing sexual assault charges of varying degrees. But the NHL isn’t immune.  Last year Slava Voynov was suspended by the NHL after being arrested for a felony DV incident involving his wife.  And before that it was Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov who was charged with misdemeanor assault against his girlfriend, although the charges were later dropped because the prosecutors could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Earlier this year Mike Ribeiro of the Nashville Predators was charged with sexually assaulting his nanny.  Years before that, Hall of Fame goalie and current coach of the Avalanche Patrick Roy had a DV run-in but was never charged.

It’s clear that domestic violence and sexual assault issues are not limited to football.  The sport that I love faces those same problems and needs to take strong steps that educate and enforce clear guidelines about what will not be tolerated, although I am not hopeful.  Check out Kavitha Davidson’s recent article on what the NHL is not doing:

This is way bigger than hockey – no matter how much it affects what happens on the ice – and that should be lost on no one.

“You know, if you don’t want to entice a rapist, don’t wear high heels so you can’t run from him.”

And that brings us to Chrissie Hynde (of The Pretenders).

In her upcoming memoir and interviews this past week to support the book’s release, Hynde talked at length about her sexual assault when she was 21.  Hynde told the Sunday Times Magazine that she completely blamed herself for being raped by a motorcycle gang member in Ohio.  She also said women should take responsibility when they get assaulted and need to stop blaming others.

"You can't paint yourself into a corner and then say whose brush is this? You have to take responsibility," Hynde said. "If you play with fire, you get burnt. It's not any secret, is it?"

Twitter exploded with quick condemnation and criticism.  But this is the world we live in  – and it’s been that way for a long time.  Hynde is no different than other victims of DV and sexual violence who blame themselves for what was done to them by someone else.  Too many women think that in cases of sexual violence, they were somehow to blame.  Hynde’s comments reinforce to people who have been raped or abused that same misguided point of view:  it was your fault.  But the thing is –choice of clothing and how someone is dressed is not an invitation to rape, nor is it an excuse for bad behavior by an assailant.  

There is no such thing as “asking for it”.  

Patrick Kane can get away with living a frat-boy, life-of-the-party existence because we have learned to turn our heads at inexcusable behavior, especially when it comes from athletes. We are cautioned to withhold judgment against Kane until “all the facts are known”, yet very few voices have said that we should be doing the same thing for the woman who made the allegations.  The social media world exploded with knee-jerk reactions and harsh condemnation against her with words like “gold digger”, “liar”, and “slut” without any details of the allegations being made and somehow that’s okay.  That victim-blaming – no matter by whom, including victims like Chrissie Hynde – is somehow acceptable.

And it reinforces to a sizeable chunk of the population those fundamental misconceptions about rape and who is at fault.  That includes the victims themselves.

We live in a society where we talk about the clothes women wear, the height of their heels, the way they dress, and how much they have had to drink as relevant factors in sexual violence.  The kind of place where we spend more time teaching girls not to get raped than we do in educating boys not to rape.

 We need to change that conversation.  


  1. We have so far to go re: victim blaming and slut shaming. Thank you for consistently adding your voice to the conversation.

  2. We need to change the conversation. And change the narrative. Thank YOU.

  3. Some follow up comments from Chrissie Hynde:

  4. And then there's this update on Slava Voynov: