An Edmonton hockey player who claims she faced rape threats and violence on the ice says Hockey Alberta hasn't done enough to combat sexual harassment in the arena.
Kaitlyn Byers, 18, has played minor hockey for 10 years. At first, as the only woman playing for the Spruce Grove Highlanders team, she felt supported by her coach and teammates.
But that all changed in November 2015.
Byers noticed another player was eyeing her up during a game. He played aggressively against her, and eventually cornered her, whispering vulgar threats.
“His exact words to me were, ‘I want to f*ck you,’ and then it changed to, ‘I’m going to f*ck you,’ and then he pinned me against the boards and said, ‘I’m going to have sex with you whether you want to or not’ and at this point I was in complete fear and shock," she told the Calgary Herald on Tuesday.
"I was in complete fear and shock."
Byers immediately told her coach what had happened. He took her concerns to referees, but they said there was nothing they could do because they hadn't overheard the comments first-hand. Her coach was given a suspension for arguing.
A few months later, Byers faced off against the same player. This time, things took a violent turn.
"He took his stick and dug it into my ribs — where I have no padding — and took his other hand and slammed my head into the ice," the athlete told CBC News.
"... I couldn't breathe and I was scared he was going to do something else, so I forced myself to get up and skate to the bench, and as I skated to the bench, the other team's parents were cheering and clapping, saying things like, 'That's what she gets for playing boys' hockey, she shouldn't be playing boys' hockey if she can't take the pain.'"
Byers filed a complaint with Hockey Alberta, who allegedly told her there was no sexual harassment policy in place. As far as she's been told, the only punishment the other team has received is a stern talking-to, according to Buzzfeed.
The athlete shared her storyon a feminist podcast in late June. On July 6, she posted an update saying very little has changed.
In an email to the podcast's hosts, Byers said other players threatened her with rape again at a recent game. She also said the opposing team's coach cat-called her for the entirety of the game.
That coach and players did receive suspensions, but Byers is hoping Hockey Alberta will eventually enact a specific policy to handle sexual harassment.
According to Hockey Alberta's website, harassment is defined as unacceptable conduct that includes "unwelcome jokes," "threatening" actions, "unwanted physical conduct," "any form of physical assault or abuse" and "any sexual offense."
A Hockey Alberta representative told The Huffington Post Alberta the matter is currently under investigation, and that they take any accusations of this kind "very seriously." According to the organization, matters are usually dealt with by individual hockey leagues first — in this case the Spruce Grove Minor Hockey Association and then Hockey Edmonton — and are only escalated to Hockey Alberta if there are concerns the matter was not handled correctly.
The representative added that depending on the outcome of this investigation, the organization may look into adding a specific sexual harassment policy in future.
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