On Wednesday night, Kyle Beach committed one of the biggest acts of bravery I have ever seen in my life.
With the Chicago Blackhawks sexual assault scandal on the NHL’s center stage, he spoke his truth: He was ‘John Doe 1,’ it was he who had to go through the disgusting acts that then-video coach and forever sexual predator Brad Aldrich committed.
“I am a survivor and I know I’m not alone,” Beach said in his interview with TSN’s Rick Westhead.
“I know I’m not the only one male or female — and I buried this for 10 years, 11 years, and it’s destroyed me from the inside out. I want everybody to know in the sports world and in the world that you’re not alone.”
Kyle, you’re not alone in the hockey world.
I too am a survivor of sexual assault, and I stand by you every step of the way.
“I did what I thought I had to do to survive, to continue chasing my dream,” Beach said in the interview. “That was to not think about it, not talk about it, to ignore it, and that’s all I could do.”
Sadly, that mindset is all too common when it comes to survivors. I had that same experience when I was recovering at the time, but the thing is – we experienced something else that isn’t being talked about as much as it should.
After the two of us experienced what we experienced and went to people we thought we trusted — we were let down.
We experienced name-calling, slurs, and inappropriate jokes that nobody should have experienced.
It was detailed in the Jenner & Block report for Kyle, with teammates calling him homophobic slurs and making countless crude jokes at him.
For me it was something similar.
After I came out and told my friends and coworkers what happened, it was very much the same reaction. The sad fact is this: That reaction is so much similar for all men who are sexually assaulted.
You hear the same words uttered at you over and over again: “You’re a grown man, you could have protected yourself” or “You must have liked it, didn’t you?”
Demeaning phrases like that make you question your sanity, make you wonder if you were truly at fault.
It hurts even more when the people who are supposed to protect you did nothing about it.
For me, it was the police officer who I went to immediately following the incident who told me those words. “You’re a grown man, you could’ve protected yourself.”
The school I attended did nothing to protect me, sided with those who harassed me, and gave me no choice but to leave my job. The harassers still hold their positions to this day.
For Kyle, it was Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville — as well as the rest of the Chicago Blackhawks organization — who let him down.
They didn’t expedite the process to terminate Beach’s abuser. They let him watch his abuser celebrate with the Stanley Cup following the championship victory and even let the kid watch Aldrich spend an entire damn day with the Cup.
They let his teammates pile on him with the slurs and crude comments and did nothing about it.
And of course, for Kyle and I, there’s one man who is in the equation for both of us – Joel Quenneville.
As a Florida Panthers reporter and a sexual assault survivor, I had to sit in the press box and watch Quenneville coach a hockey game after all of this came out.
I had known that this was going to happen from the moment I had gotten word from the team’s media relations department at 7:46 p.m. the night before that he would be available to the media after morning skate and was addressed in the release as ‘head coach Joel Quenneville.’
But nothing could prepare me for the way I felt when I saw it happen.
Not even 15 minutes after I got done reading through quotes from Beach’s interview, there he was — behind the bench for the Florida Panthers.
The man who, in July, said that he first learned of the allegations through the media that summer.
The man, who after being outed in the report for sitting through meetings regarding the incident and wanting nothing of it, stuck by his statement made in July.
The man who allegedly only watched as his players turned on Beach. That was the man behind the bench.
And Beach knew Quenneville had to have known what was going on.
“I witnessed meetings right after I reported [the assault] to James Gary that were held in Joel Quenneville’s office,” Beach said. “There’s absolutely no way he can deny knowing it.”
When I looked at Quenneville standing behind the bench, I saw the higher-ups at my school who turned a blind eye at everything I went through. I saw the police officer who told me that I “was a grown man” and that I “should have done more to protect myself.”
Everything about that screamed those words at me and I couldn’t help but feel sick.
The man who had the audacity to stand behind an NHL bench hours after his actions were shared with the world whimpered away just as quickly.
He didn’t show up to the press room postgame and had his players answer for him — two players who were both not even old enough to drive at the time of their coach’s actions — had to answer questions about it.
Then, general manager Bill Zito read a prepared statement.
The next day, the jig was up.
Quenneville met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Zito, and Florida Panthers president & CEO Matthew Caldwell and resigned.
“It should go without saying that the conduct described in that report is troubling and inexcusable,” Caldwell said in the statement announcing Quenneville’s departure. “It stands in direct contrast to our values as an organization and what the Florida Panthers stand for.”
As a Panthers reporter, I thank Caldwell for valuing the experiences I went through, as well as Beach’s, and removing a man who allowed this to happen from the organization.
But there’s still a lot of work to do.
As someone who has both played the sport and covered it at both the collegiate and NHL level, I can tell you that hockey culture still needs work.
Whether it’s in protecting victims of sexual assault or removing homophobia and racism from the culture itself, it needs work. The Panthers proved that they are on the right side of it.
— Kyle Beach (@KBeachy12) October 28, 2021
Kyle, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for all that you shared. I would’ve been in that same pattern of wanting to avoid talking about my experiences like the plague if you didn’t do what you did.
And to think that you had to say sorry – you had to say sorry for the actions of a cruel person because you felt you could’ve done more.
Well, I’m sorry too.
I’m sorry I held onto my story as long as I did and I hope others haven’t had to hold onto theirs in fear of being alone in this fight.
To all other survivors out there: You are not alone in this fight.
You are loved, you can get through your fight, and everything you are feeling is valid.
Let’s make hockey — the sport we all love — better.
For anyone who is a victim of sexual assault or knows someone who is – here are some resources to use if need of help:
National Sexual Assault Hotline (available 24 hours): 1-800-656-4673
1 in 6, a resource for men who have been a victim of sexual assault: https://1in6.org/
Find Your Local Sexual Assault Program: https://www.fcasv.org/find-your-local-center
Additionally, if you’re feeling alone and need to hear from someone who has gone through something like this themselves – I’m offering myself as a resource. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond as soon as I can.