WARNING: This article contains details of child sexual abuse.
A former student of disgraced hockey coach Graham James alleges he was sexually abused when he was 10 and that James worked as a substitute teacher in Winnipeg in the 1980s, and is suing James and the school division that hired him for more than $6. millions.
James is a convicted sex offender who has spent several years in prison for sexually assaulting several young players he coached in the 1980s and 1990s. He was granted day parole in 2016.
A statement of claim says the abuse began in May 1983, when the man was just 10 years old and a student at Strathmillan School, which is part of the St. James-Assiniboia school division in Winnipeg.
He says James took a particular interest in the boy and chose him to stay after school.
James also instructed him to sit at the back of the classroom, where James would place his hands on the boy’s thighs while he “pretended to lean over to look at his schoolwork,” unseen by the children at the front of the class, the lawsuit says.
The abuse escalated when James held the boy down after class one day and put his hands in his shorts and sexually abused him, the statement of claim says.
A teacher saw what was happening, walked into the classroom and told James she was going to report him, the lawsuit says.
Not long after, the boy was called to the principal’s office, where he was questioned about the incident while James was present.
“He was humiliated and scared, kept his head down and did not speak,” the lawsuit says.
The abuse continued over the summer, the statement of claim says, after James learned where the boy lived by asking his sister when he saw the brothers playing on the playground.
In June 1983, James went to the boy’s house. The boy said he woke up to find James encouraging his sister to touch him, and that James then forced him to perform sexual acts, the statement of claim says.
“Plaintiff claims he was terrified, humiliated, confused and felt the need to escape.”
The man is seeking $5 million for loss of earning capacity, $1 million for aggravated and punitive damages, $100,000 for future care costs and $50,000 for special damages.
The lawsuit says he requires therapy and medical care as a result of the abuse, which has caused self-destructive and suicidal behavior, severe insomnia, depression and interfamily dysfunction, particularly with his sister, among several other problems.
It says James’ conduct was intentional, malicious and knowingly done that would humiliate the boy and cause physical, emotional and mental injury.
The St. James-Assiniboia School Division had a legal duty to prevent abuse and was negligent in hiring and supervising James, the lawsuit says.
The allegations have not been proven in court and no defense statements have yet been filed.
A spokesperson for St. James-Assiniboia said the school division cannot comment on legal matters at this time.
Breaking: also attempted to contact James, who now lives in a halfway house in Montreal, according to court documents, but did not receive a response Wednesday.
“No one should be surprised”
Greg Gilhooly has spoken publicly about the abuse he says he suffered at the hands of James when he was 14 years old and James was a substitute teacher.
Gilhooly says James used his position as a substitute teacher within the St. James-Assiniboia School Division, where Gilhooly was a student, to groom and ultimately sexually abuse him on school property.
Although James pleaded guilty to abusing several other former teenage players, charges in Gilhooly’s case were stayed.
Last year, she asked the school division for $125,000 in compensation to cover the therapy and medication she needs following her abuse.
James was more than a hockey coach and school officials must be held accountable for what happened, Gilhooly said.
“The story of Graham James is very much a story about how the school system let people down too.”
The latest allegations are disappointing but not surprising, Gilhooly said.
“No one should be surprised that there are other people that Graham abused,” he said.
“We will never know all those who were abused by Graham.”
For anyone who has been sexually assaulted, support is available through crisis lines and local support services through this government of canada website or the Canada Partnership to End Violence database. If you are in immediate danger or fear for your safety or the safety of others around you, call 911.