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Canada Abused as a child by his coach in Greenfield Park, Dave tells his story

16:25  05 december  2019
16:25  05 december  2019 Source:   montrealgazette.com

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a person and a dog in a body of water: François Lamarre, 71, worked as a Montreal police officer and coached hockey in Greenfield Park. He is charged with a series of sexual offences against minors in connection with four complainants. François Lamarre, 71, worked as a Montreal police officer and coached hockey in Greenfield Park. He is charged with a series of sexual offences against minors in connection with four complainants.

After years of being tormented by what was done to him as a child, Dave Johnson knew he needed to finally unburden himself. The moment came much later in life, when his wife was about to bring a child of their own into the world.

It was the spring of 1997 and his wife was expecting in a few months. Johnson, then in his mid-30s, made his way to a local police station in Toronto.

“It’s hard to say why,” he said recently, “but I wanted to handle this and take care of it before our son was born.”

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He remembers meeting with two officers for hours. It was the first time he shared his story with anyone outside his wife.

As a young child growing up in Greenfield Park, on Montreal’s South Shore, he told them, he had been repeatedly sexually abused by his hockey coach. It started when he was 9 and lasted into his early teens.

Then he shared with them what he feared would complicate matters: the man in question was also a Montreal police officer.

As the words left his mouth, Johnson says he felt the “temperature change in the room.” Following the meeting, he says he was told he needed to contact Montreal police to move forward with the complaint. He told them why he didn’t think he would be able to.

“But they just left it to me,” Johnson, now 57, said. “And I couldn’t do it again. I had one swing at this and it was just too emotional. I couldn’t start over in Montreal, of all places.”

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Maynard is also known for his bizarre onstage personality and his tendency to write rape-and-genital-centric lyrics. As far as I know, nobody knows if Maynard was abused except himself, his abuser , and possibly those closest to him that know him as a real So was Maynard abused by his father?

 

It would take 22 years before he could try again. In January of this year, Johnson wrote to any police force he could think of: Toronto, Montreal, the Sûreté du Québec and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He figured it was his last attempt at justice. 

On Tuesday, after an 11-month investigation, Longueuil police arrested François Lamarre , 71, at his home in Greenfield Park. He is facing charges in connection with sexually assaulting or sexually abusing four boys over the span of 25 years, from 1972 to 1997, including Johnson.

The force believes there are other possible victims across the country.

“I’m numb right now. It’s been a long, hard battle,” Johnson said after learning of the arrest. “I don’t feel proud, I don’t feel happy, I don’t feel excited. I just don’t know what to feel.”

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Parents who were abused as children were two and a half times as likely to be reported to child protective services for physical violence compared with parents in the comparison group who admitted to physically abusing their kids, or whose children said they had suffered physical abuse .

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Johnson agreed to share his story with the Montreal Gazette in hopes of helping other potential victims understand they’re not alone.

Though he wanted to use his real name, he agreed to have the Montreal Gazette change it to a fictitious name because of an impending publication ban on his identity as an alleged victim of sexual assault.

Like many cases of child abuse, his path from victim to complainant is a story of stops and starts, false hopes and crippling doubts. He has long wrestled with why he waited so long to come forward. He lives with deep-seated regret but also hopes it isn’t too late to right a wrong.

And after so many years, he isn’t sure what would represent a sense of justice for him today. All he knows is he couldn’t stay silent any longer, describing living with the secret as having acid in his stomach, burning more with every passing day.

“I need to cleanse myself, unburden myself and just tell the truth for once,” he said, trying to find the right words to express himself.

“It’s time,” he then said. “It’s just time.”

***

Growing up in a dysfunctional family, the local hockey rink in Greenfield Park had become his refuge and the countless hours spent there had translated into results.

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By the time he was playing peewee in the mid-1970s, at age 13, he was among the top players in his league. He collected scoring titles and most valuable player trophies. Like any young boy dedicated to the sport, in the back of his mind, he dreamed of making a living out of playing hockey.

But when he laced up his skates for first-year bantam tryouts, a critical time for young players hoping to play junior one day, he reasoned he only had one choice  — be as bad as he possibly could be.

He purposely bumbled around on the ice. He tripped over his skates. Acted as though he had never seen a hockey stick.

In the end, his plan worked: he was cut from the team.

“It was the only way I could think of to get away from him,” Johnson recalled, explaining how desperate he was to distance himself from Lamarre. “It destroyed me but I got away from him. I lost everything that I loved —  hockey was my life —  but I got away from him.”

Johnson says the abuse started when he was only 9. A lot of how the situation developed, and how it was allowed to happen, he says, does not make sense to him looking back on it today.

Raised in what he describes as a “volatile” family situation, he never knew his biological father and his mother was bound to fits of rage, struggling with alcohol addiction. He believes this to be the reason why he was singled out.

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One term a new master made his appearance. His name was Sampson. He was a tall, well-built, pale, black-bearded man. I think we liked him. He had travelled a good deal, and had stories which amused us on our school walks, so that there was some competition among us to get a chance to listen to him.

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Once Lamarre became his coach, he remembers him being increasingly present at his house. Lamarre, then in his mid-20s, ingratiated himself with Johnson’s mother who believed, as a police officer and hockey coach, he could be a good influence.

Instead, Johnson says, that relationship turned abusive.

Lamarre faces two charges in his case: molestation and gross indecency, both between 1972 and 1976. The Montreal Gazette could not reach Lamarre for comment. None of the allegations have been tested in court.

Johnson says what started as roughhousing quickly turned into inappropriate touching, including fondling attempts. That often escalated to violent fights during which Johnson would try to free himself, blindly raging against a much stronger adult.

Police say Lamarre abused the complainants at his house, at the local hockey arena and in his Cadillac. Johnson recalls instances of abuse at all three locations.

He says Lamarre never outright warned him to stay quiet about the alleged abuse, but he believes he did so in more subtle ways. He remembers being brought to the local detention centre, being shown Lamarre’s police car, uniform and weapon. He now understands those visits to have been implied threats.

“I really had no help, no way out,” Johnson said. “I didn’t have a support system. I didn’t have confidence in anyone. I had no one to tell. I couldn’t go to the police, he was a cop. I couldn’t go to the (hockey) association, they loved the guy.”

Though he says you can’t project current-day awareness on things that happened some 45 years ago, he’s long wondered how no one  — either from the hockey association or other players’ parents  — realized what was going on or noticed the red flags.

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“We know more now, but were people really that blind?” he asked. “He was an adult male hanging around 8, 9, 10-year-olds,” he added. “And they didn’t see it. They allowed this guy to continue for many, many years.”

By the time he managed to distance himself from Lamarre, Johnson says he was no longer himself.

His innocence and childhood had been wasted, he says, and his trust in others, be it authority figures or friends, was gone from an early age.

Angry at the world as he grew older, he tried his best to contain his rage but would at times succumb to it. He found himself picking fights for no reason and says he began to “drift away,” disillusioned and sad.

The effects of the abuse have stayed with him his entire life. He went through phases of alcohol abuse —  ”wasting my life just toiling away,” he says  —  and continues to wrestle with bouts of nerves and anxiety. He avoids answering the door when a stranger knocks, or the phone when he doesn’t recognize the number.

He credits meeting his wife and moving away from Greenfield Park with helping him manage to eventually turn his life around, start a family and be where he is today — he now lives in Ontario and runs his own business.

But he constantly wonders about other alleged victims and the toll the abuse took on them.

Could he have changed something by being more assertive with police when he first brought his complaint forward?

“I should have done something. I waited all that time and allowed it to eat me inside while I was, in essence, protecting him,” he said.

“I killed myself to protect him.”

***

Johnson’s son, the one he hoped to protect so many years ago by first bringing his complaint to police, has now graduated from university.

Father and son text message all the time. A year ago, the messages took a different tone. Johnson had something going on, he wrote to him. They needed to talk.

“I told him, ‘I’m going after an old hockey coach,'” Johnson said, “And, he got it right away. He said, ‘Oh no, what happened?’”

They met at a restaurant the next day. Johnson figured breaking the news in a public setting would help him keep his composure. The idea was better in theory than in practice, he now says.

Johnson had to leave the table a handful of times. His wife was there, too  — “she’s stronger than me,” he says  — to help fill in the blanks when it was too difficult for him.

They spoke of the abuse, of Johnson’s regrets and how he wanted, back in 1997, to put it behind him before starting a family. How he was sorry it didn’t work out that way.

Johnson had often thought about that moment with his son over the years. He wanted to find the right timing. He had played out any possible reactions in his mind, prepping himself for the worst and wanting to have the right response for whatever could come.

But in the end, none of that was needed.

“He was just fantastic. He understood. He kind of gave me licence to, you know …” Johnson trailed off.

He took a deep breath to compose himself, then continued.

“It was such a … big sense of relief.”

jfeith@postmedia.com

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