Metro Morning

Survivors of Gordon Stuckless's abuse deal with 'crippling effects,' author says

Social worker and author Cathy Vine co-wrote Gardens of Shame: The Tragedy of Martin Kruze and the Sexual Abuse at Maple Leaf Gardens. She has interviewed many survivors of Gordon Stuckless’s abuse, and spoke to CBC’s Metro Morning on Thursday.

Author Cathy Vine says survivors hope to find healing by coming forward

Gordon Stuckless leaves a Toronto Court on Friday, March 6, 2015. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Gordon Stuckless, who was sentenced to more than six years in prison last June for sexually assaulting 18 boys when he was an employee at Maple Leaf Gardens decades ago, is facing more charges that also stem from his time working at the arena.

On Wednesday, police announced that the charges relate to allegations that Stuckless sexually assaulted three boys between 1978 and 1984. There are 19 new charges, which include sexual assault, gross indecency and threatening death.

He was scheduled to appear in a Toronto court on Thursday.

Social worker and author Cathy Vine co-wrote Gardens of Shame: The Tragedy of Martin Kruze and the Sexual Abuse at Maple Leaf Gardens. She has interviewed many survivors of Stuckless's abuse, and spoke to CBC's Metro Morning on Thursday.

Matt Galloway: What is your reaction to hearing these new charges?

Cathy Vine: I actually wasn't surprised, and yet I'm always surprised. Does that make sense?

MG: Why weren't you surprised?

CV: Because I believe that Gordon Stuckless was a serial predator, as some of his victims have called him. And I just don't know if we're ever actually going to hear from all of them. Every time his name is in the news, every time there are new charges laid, or there's a conviction, new victims consider coming forward. So I think this is more of the same and yet we shouldn't think for a second that this is any easier than it was for Martin Kruze almost 20 years ago.

MG: I've spoken with many of the victims — you have, too. Why do you think they keep coming forward after all these years?

CV: They may still be looking for justice, both for the men who've previously come forward and also for themselves. Each person's experience is unique unto them. They live with, many of them, with crippling effects and a lot of trauma and for some they believe that being able to step forward, being able to go to court, being able to see charges laid, will help them recover. And for some, this is absolutely the case. For others, it just continues to be a long string of the challenges that they have to cope with.

MG: These charges go back nearly 40 years. In the conversations that I've had with the victims and survivors, they have talked about the effect this has had, that this has in many ways if not ruined their lives, then dominated their lives. What do you hear from those who were victims of the assaults of Gordon Stuckless, in terms of the effect it has had on their lives?

CV: They are to a person so clear about the effect that he had on them. They describe having their lives taken from them, destroyed, ruined. I actually don't have the words to do justice to what they themselves would say so much more effectively. There isn't a person who wasn't dramatically affected by what happened to them. It comes down to how did they understand that experience? And for many of them, as I recall when I was doing the interviews quite a while ago now, they felt responsible. They felt that they had somehow caused the abuse to happen. So it's a huge step for someone to come forward, because part of what they're saying is, 'It's not my fault. This was his fault.' And when the system steps up and starts to recognize that and to lay those charges and prosecute those charges, that continues to vindicate those men in this case and those boys many years ago who've grown up living with all of this self-blame.

MG: I wonder what it's like for them to come forward after all these years?

CV: It's a rollercoaster. For some, again, there's some relief and for others they're actually opening up wounds that they've really not paid attention to for a very long time — for as much as they can manage that. So in some cases, the men that I interviewed, they hadn't told anyone about what had happened to them. And in one particular case that's coming to mind, he was watching the news, there was Gordon Stuckless's face on television and he, in that moment, made a decision that he had to go to the police. And he turned to his wife and said, 'I have to go down to the police' and she said 'Why?' And he said, 'I can't tell you but I'll tell you later.' So in fact he couldn't even say the words to his wife. He needed to get to the police station and start there.

MG: That's incredible. And these charges come after Stuckless was convicted in June, sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison. This is a story that has gone on and on for many, many years, and yet those victims still feel compelled to find their own bit of justice, their own piece of justice.

CV: Absolutely, absolutely. And one of the things that I was also thinking about was we're coming up on 20 years since those original charges were processed in the courts. And given the discussion that's been going on in the media lately about how sexual assault survivors are treated in the courts, my question is are they going to experience things very much differently than Martin and the other men that came forward those many years ago?

MG: You wrote about this through the lens of Martin Kruze. I'm wondering what you think of him in light of this ongoing story? And what your thoughts are about him. He was somebody who went through this as well, and he died by suicide because of the weight that this left on him.

CV: Yes. He always brings a smile to my face, that's always, always the first thought. He was a wonderful man, charismatic, great sense of humour. And I think part of what happened for Martin was he went to the police and he went public because he was so desperate for some of that pain to end. And his belief was that by going public and letting his name and his picture and his experience be known, that it could potentially help others. And there is no question that that's what it did. And I really believe that so many of the men that have been able to be public since then were directly influenced by Martin's move. And I don't think that he would have done anything differently. I think Martin was very clear, and he knew that this issue needed more attention and one of the ways for it to get that attention was for him to step out of the shadows and into the light.

With files from Metro Morning