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Chicago Blackhawks lawsuit: Psychologist says sexual assault survivors often repress memories

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The attorney for a former Chicago Blackhawk who is suing the team filed an affidavit Thursday from a psychologist to bolster her contention that the player long repressed his memory of an alleged 2010 sexual assault by Brad Aldrich, then the team’s video coach.

The plaintiff’s “shame, embarrassment, fear and avoidance of facing the victimization is common among sexual assault survivors, and it often takes years for sexual assault survivors to process their victimization,” psychologist Julie Medlin said in the affidavit, according to court documents provided to the Tribune. “Such survivors often use avoidance as the primary coping mechanism after the assault and try to move on with their lives, without recognizing or address the emotional harm caused by the assault.”

Bradley Aldrich

Aldrich

The Blackhawks have filed motions to dismiss the player’s lawsuit as well as another suit filed by a former high school hockey player in Michigan whom Aldrich admitted having sexual contact with after he left the National Hockey League. Among other arguments, the team says the statute of limitations should bar the former Blackhawk’s suit from proceeding.

The former Hawk, whose suit accuses the team of covering up his complaint about Aldrich, said in court documents that he repressed the memory of the alleged sexual assault for nine years, until he learned of Aldrich’s conviction in the Michigan case in July 2019.

The Hawks say the repressed-memory claim doesn’t pass legal muster and the statute of limitation should apply.

In her filing in Cook County Circuit Court, the former player’s attorney, Susan Loggans, responded with an affidavit from Medlin, a Marietta, Ga.-based psychologist and sexual abuse expert who interviewed the player in late 2020 to evaluate his credibility and determine whether he had suppressed memories from 2010.

According to his lawsuit, filed under the pseudonym John Doe, Aldrich threatened and forcibly touched the former Hawks player around May 2010 after Aldrich invited him to dinner and to go over game video at Aldrich’s apartment.

Then-team skills coach Paul Vincent said he informed team executives about the alleged incident, as well as another misconduct complaint by one of John Doe’s teammates, but he said the team opted not to report Aldrich to Chicago police.

The Hawks won the Stanley Cup the next month.

“Mr. Doe reported to me that he was sexually assaulted by his video coach, Brad Aldridge (sic) ... during the playoff run in 2010,” said Medlin, according to the affidavit. “When he reported this to the team psychologist, he was not given any support or intervention from the team, and it was clear to him that he was to keep quiet about the assault or risk losing his hockey career.”

Medlin said in the affidavit that John Doe spent the next nine years “ignoring and suppressing memories of the assault,” which he said is consistent with typical psychological responses of assault survivors, particularly athletes.

“This was in line with what a young, professional athlete would do in this situation as he loved hockey and wanted to continue his career,” Medlin said.

Medlin said the player and his career “took a downward spiral” after the incident with Aldrich, “culminating in an emotional breakdown” when he was playing professional hockey abroad. The player did not disclose the incident to a doctor on his new team, Medlin stated, “due to his shame, his prior victim-blaming interaction with the Blackhawks sports therapist and his mistrust of team doctors and psychologists.”

John Doe contended in his lawsuit that after the incident with Aldrich he began counseling sessions with the Blackhawks’ mental skills coach, James F. Gary, but Gary “convinced plaintiff that the sexual assault was his fault, that he was culpable for what happened, made mistakes during his encounter with the perpetrator and permitted the sexual assault to occur.”

Bettman: NHL to await investigation into sex abuse claims at the Blackhawks

Gary, through his lawyer, disputed John Doe’s account.

Medlin’s affidavit said John Doe “experienced significant emotional distress” when he learned about Aldrich’s 2013 conviction in Houghton, Michigan. Aldrich pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal sexual conduct with the then 16-year-old high school hockey player for an incident that happened earlier that year.

The former student-athlete, using the pseudonym John Doe 2, has also sued the Hawks for negligence.

One of the Hawks’ arguments in that case is that John Doe 2′s high school never verified Aldrich’s employment with the Hawks and therefore the team had no duty to inform the school about Aldrich’s history.

In a Tribune interview, Loggans said: “We’re contending that by giving Aldrich a day with the Stanley Cup (on Sept. 14, 2010) that there was a nonverbal representation to everyone in Houghton, Michigan, that this guy is part of our team; he’s great.”

A Hawks spokesperson Thursday declined to respond to the filing.

The Hawks announced June 28 that they hired Jenner & Block to investigate John Doe 1′s claims. On Aug. 2, the team pledged to share the review’s conclusions publicly and “implement changes to address the findings and any shortcomings of our organization.”

The investigation is ongoing.

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