KAMLOOPS - A survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of her hockey coach, a local young woman now living in Alberta is hoping to share her story and help others by writing a book focused on her experience.
When she was a teen, Chanelle Petrie made headlines in Kamloops after she made a rare application to have the publication ban removed on her name during her court case in an effort to go public with her story.
Petrie engaged in a sexual relationship with her hockey coach Heidi Ferber, who made advances toward her when she was 15 years old. The two carried on a one-year relationship before a counsellor encouraged the girl to go to police. Ferber was charged with sexual exploitation and sexual interference with a person under 16. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 months in prison in April 2014.
Now, more than a year later, Petrie says she’s carrying on with her life and studying social work in Alberta. After speaking with fellow survivors of sexual abuse, she decided to write a book to help others and is currently raising funds for the project via KickStarter online.
“We’re going to see how this goes. I’m trying to get as many backers as possible. It’s spreading the word about keeping positive and influencing change and helping kids,” she says.
Petrie was introduced to her publisher through former NHL player Theo Fleury. In 2009, Fleury published his memoir Playing with Fire, which documented the sexual abuse he sustained under Graham James, his junior hockey coach.
Petrie, now 20, says she wants to tell her story a similar way Fleury did, this time from the perspective of a young girl.
"There’s lots of education in it. It’s for parents, teachers and coaches on signs to look out for, coping strategies for kids,” she says.
As part of the educational component within the book, Petrie wants to lend her experience to help victims preparing for court. She notes learning what questions a victim could be asked under cross-examination, or harnessing the strength needed to give detailed descriptions of the abuse, including the proper body part names, are crucial to the case.
“The more descriptive you can be, the more successful your case is going to be. I don’t think victims are fully prepared for that. It’s important to provide that resource,” she says.
Along with knowledge of court proceedings, Petrie says it's important for victims to prepare facing their abuser in court. She says facing Ferber presented it's own challenges during her court case, noting Ferber wrote the word 'liar' on a cup and showed it to her during a hearing.
Petrie says she still uses the coping strategies she learned from her experience today and notes there are times where she still deals with triggers, including when she almost ran into her abuser last summer.
“I’m using what I’ve been through to help others,” she says. “This isn’t going to define me; it’s going to strengthen me."
Ferber was released in December 2014, four months earlier than her scheduled date, according to Petrie.
To learn more about Petrie’s book visit her KickStarter page, here.
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