***Trigger warning: Sexual harassment, threats of sexual violence, violence***
Kaitlyn Byers had a terrifying experience on a boy’s hockey team, and she says nothing is being done about it.
The then 17-year-old hockey player says that in 2015, the coach of an Alberta Midget boys hockey team saw her playing and suggested she try out for his team.
“As soon as I got on the team, I realized that they all respected me. We were all just one big family,” Byers says.
Almost as quickly, she says she discovered that this was not how other teams—along with their coaches and fans—felt.
During a game on Nov. 1, 2015, a player on the opposing team kept coming up to Byers. At first, she says he wasn’t threatening.
“And then he’d come up to me and kept saying ‘I want to fuck you,’ and then ‘I’m going to fuck you,’” says Byers.
She says he pinned her again the ice and said “I’m going to have sex with you whether you want to or not.”
The refs’ response? Byers says they told her coach they didn’t hear anything so it wasn’t their problem.
After he told the opposing team’s coach to tell his player’s to smarten up, Byers says her coach was suspended for three games.
He and her parents supported her in filing a complaint with the association that oversees the league. Byers says they dismissed it, saying they would not punish someone for calling her a bitch and this was not any different.
She says the threat became a little too close to action for Byers when the player showed up in her dressing room at a time and arena he was not scheduled to play at.
“The guy was, like, walking into my change room, like the guy who originally made these threats, and I found it weird,” Byers says.
At the time, her coach happened to be with her, so the player immediately took off.
A few months later, Byers was on the ice with him again.
“It was a pretty rough game, the whole game. They didn’t say anything to me, but they did target me on the ice,” Byers says.
The boy who had made threats against her kept elbowing her under the chin.
“I didn’t think much about it because I know violence is apart of the game,” Byers says.
Then, with all the players—except her and him—on the other end of the ice, Byers says he cornered her, shoved the end of his stick under her ribs where there was no padding and slammed her head into the ice.
In complete shock, Byers skated to her bench.
“I couldn’t breath, so I laid down. I didn’t know what was going on at first. My stomach muscles were contracting,” Byers says. Every time she moved, she screamed.
But her voice was drowned out by the sounds of everyone else yelling.
She says the parents on the other team were cheering, and the other coaches were saying she got what she deserved. Her coaches were yelling back at them.
“My team was trying to fight the other team’s players because they were mocking me,” says Byers.
She says her coaches carried her out and onto a table to wait for the paramedics in peace.
When they came, they said she has a concussion and cracked rib.
“They were really worried that if they moved me too much, I’d puncture a lung,” Byers says.
She went to the association again.
“We actually had a meeting with the director and he acted like it was this big thing he was going to look into, and then he never filed the paper work,” Byers says.
When asked, she says they told her it was just something she’d have to get over.
“They tried to make it seem like it was my fault for being a girl,” Byers says. She believes the same hit would have caused the same injuries to a boy, but a boy also would not have been targeted by other players the way she was.
“I felt like a victim and it was really scary. Physically I recovered, but I was still in fear that this guy would find me. I didn’t know what he was capable of,” Byers says.
Despite the fear, Byers is speaking out about the incident.
“I’m not looking to get them in trouble,” she says.
She wants the association to come up with a sexual harassment policy so that other girls don’t have to go through what she went through.
And she knows firsthand that it’s possible for leagues to take action against sexual harassment on the ice.
After physically recovering, Byers joined a different boy’s team. She says something similar happened, but the other team was kicked out of the league because of it.
Now 18, Byers doesn’t see anymore boy’s hockey in her future; she made it onto the Sherwood Park Steels in the Alberta Junior Female Hockey League.
What happened to Byers isn’t cool.
Instead of looking to put sexual harassment policies in place in sports leagues after something happens, how about we be proactive and put them in place beforehand?
Contact the sports leagues in your area, share Byers’ story and see if you can get them to protect their players from situations like this.
❤❤❤And send your love to Byers. What a strong young woman.❤❤❤