Tuesday morning, La Presse reported an arrest that took place at Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk's hotel room over the weekend, following a domestic dispute. As is the case with any story involving the Habs in Montreal, the story blew up.
Clickbait articles were posted, employing deceptive headlines intended to entice readers to click to find out what the 21-year-old player had done. The fact of the matter is, these stories usually involve a male athlete assaulting a woman. This wasn't the case this time around.
Galchenyuk's girlfriend, Chanel Leszczynski, allegedly assaulted him in the early hours of Sunday morning. Rumours are swirling about the reason for the assault, the extent of the abuse, etc. While the specifics are none of our business, many speculated about what happened, and a few schools of thought emerged:
Galchenyuk was partying all night and got himself into trouble? He shouldn't have put himself in that situation.
The only comforting thing about this statement is that it serves as proof that victim blaming is no longer a phenomenon reserved for female victims of abuse.
Too often, when a woman is subject to violence or abuse, her morality is called into question. She may be asked what she was wearing, whether or not she was drinking, was she alone late at night, had she done something to upset her attacker, had she given him the wrong signals, and so on. None of these things matter, of course, because there is nothing that anyone can do that would merit physical or sexual assault.
No matter what Galchenyuk did, no matter how late it was, no matter who was with him, no one deserves to be hit. To place even one iota of blame on him is victim blaming.
Galchenyuk's girlfriend hit him? Haha, what a wussy!
Men are victims of domestic assault, too. Not just women, which is something that was eloquently pointed out in a piece published on Pension Plan Puppets.
There is so much stigma attached to men who are abused by their female partners, that very few bother to come forward, for fear of not being taken seriously. After all, men are supposed to be strong, macho, all-powerful beings. How could a weak and measly woman possibly do anything to hurt them?
According to a 2009 Statistics Canada survey, 6% of men (or 585,000) experienced domestic violence in the five years prior to the study, compared to 6.4% of women (or 601,000). The support system for abused men is virtually non-existent, despite the fact that this is a very real and very troubling reality for so many.
Galchenyuk should be focusing on hockey.
I suspect this narrative has a lot to do with the fact that the Canadiens are in the midst of their roughest stretch of the season. Although, when the Canadiens first started to struggle this season, some suggested that P.K. Subban should be focusing less on his charity work, and more on his game, so at least the masses are consistent?
In any case, do you focus on your career 24 hours a day? Would it be even reasonable to expect that of anyone? Galchenyuk is 21 years old, and he had a party, at his residence, with his friends, after a game, when the team had four days until their next game. I fail to see the problem with this behaviour. What were you doing at 21 years old? Those who live in glass houses shouldn't cast stones.
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Alex Galchenyuk has absolutely nothing to apologize for. And yet he felt compelled to do so. If this is something that is ongoing in his personal life, we should respect his privacy, offer support, and hope that he is getting the support that he needs from his friends, family, and teammates. If this is an isolated incident, we should expect the same.
Put yourself in someone else's shoes, just for a moment. Imagine it's your brother. Your girlfriend. Your daughter. You.
If you or someone you know and love was assaulted, what would you do? While a popular answer to this questions is, "I would go out and find the bastard and kill them," it isn't exactly realistic. You do retaliate, you are arrested, you go to jail, and no one wins.
The reality is, you would feel hurt, confused, or angry. You would feel helpless, powerless, and afraid. You would want it to be taken seriously, so it never has to happen to anyone else ever again. You would want real change, not just a temporary Twitter ribbon that makes it look like you care.
Prevention, not punishment, is the way to elicit change. So stop. Listen. Speak out.
Finally, if seeing stories like this actively upsets you, perhaps you should invest in robotics, because that's the only way you're going to be able to remove the human element from sports. Athletes are not perfect, athletes have problems, athletes are human. They are no doubt held to a higher standard than average members of society. If an athlete is accused of assaulting someone, this needs to be talked about, and taken seriously, and the same is true if the athlete is him/herself a victim of abuse.
Sports and reality intersect, whether you like it or not. While it's uncomfortable to be confronted with things like assault, abuse, and rape, it's even more uncomfortable to have these things happen to you. One of the ways we as a society can be better is by bringing these issues to the forefront, having discussions about why these things happen, how we can stop them from happening, and making victims of assault feel less isolated.
The sports world is no longer a bubble. It is becoming a more inclusive place (slowly, but surely) where everyone is welcome. If this bothers you, take a good hard look inside yourself and question why that is.