Review: Crossing The Line by Laura Robinson (1998)

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Crossing the Line: Violence And Sexual Assault in Canada’s National Sport (hereafter known as CTL) was the commentary on Canadian Hockey referenced in Sheldon Kennedy’s Book Why I Didn’t Say Anything (WIDSA), so we decided to check it out from an Amazon marketplace/Zshop seller.

It’s a thoroughly researched look at the sport in the 1990s which, like Playing With Fire 13 years later, gives analysis of Hockey as a national sport and what it means to Canadians. Robinson’s sporting pedigree in skiing and cycling and journalistic writing skills give any outsider as much of a clue as the recent action in the Winter Olympics.

The structure of Laura Robinson’s book is its strength – at any point you can skip to case studies but there is no demarcated line where her commentary ends and the case studies begin. The book flows freely from her social comment back to the illustration through case study even though CTL serves as a reference. You can read the section regarding Sheldon Kennedy alone for example, and when reading in a single sitting, not get lost. In fact it was starting with the case studies that had me reading all the way to the end in one sitting and then restarting at the beginning.

As well as a bibliography the afterword sections give a timeline of the events that occurred before and after the highlighted case studies with quoted responses from officials involved (where comments were filed).

CTL is a useful historical reference 12 years on, but could use a second edition which splits off the central subjects of child abuse, sexism and racism/xenophobia within the sport; these are big enough subjects by themselves to receive separate treatment rather than this initial smorgasbord approach, however well written and edited the book was.

The other downside is that Crossing The Line also skirts dangerously close to giving its central noted paedophile Graham James an excuse when reporting his own coach was arrested on abuse charges – with 100 victims by James alone, this excuse in the name of analysis has become tiresome, especially when there was no proof of the abuse, assumption causes damage to the argument. Thankfully elsewhere in the book, the one doctor quoted agrees with the same 30% generational abuse rate for sexual abuse that was borne out in lie-detected research on sex offenders’ own abuse history in The Seduction of Children by Christiane Anderson. To be fair to Robinson, this view is of the period when Sheldon Kennedy disclosed and was going through the legal case and before his own book was released. Now the passing-on of child abuse from one generation to the next is becoming seen as the choice that it is, linked in with the refusal to obtain help for the adult’s own past – on a positive note, this is the quoted view of a police officer who would have seen that happen already.

The same goes for the sexism comments; though we will have to wait for the ratings to come in, both Canada’s women and the men won Olympic Gold a month ago and the women won first; some might say the winning and the worldwide audience of billions (not to mention the Own The Podium proceeds) will help the cause of female hockey ten times as much as any suggestions put forward in this book.

Crossing The Line is still worth a read though 12 years on you’ll need Ebay or a private Amazon seller to pick it up (which keeps the price cheap), or look for it in the library.

Otherwise the Amazon pages follow below for more information;

Canada

US

UK

– CBG

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