Fighting domestic violence should be talked about in locker rooms, says CFL legend Anthony Calvillo
MONTREAL -- It wasn't until Montreal football legend Anthony Calvillo was around 40 years old that he first spoke openly about his childhood.
But since then, he's come to believe that talking -- simply talking -- is one of the most important things he can do to save other people from similar suffering.
Calvillo's father "was a secret that we all kept for for many, many years," the former Alouettes quarterback recalled in an interview with CTV.
But as a kid, that just led to a lot of confusion, he said.
"As young kids, you're just trying to ask yourself, 'Is this normal? Is this is this what goes on in other households?'" he said. "That was a big question for me when I was growing up."
After a terrible two-month stretch that saw a jump in domestic murders in Quebec, Calvillo echoed a call made by thousands of protesters, mostly women, who gathered on Friday, and also by Premier François Legault last month: to discuss it openly wherever it comes up, even if that's the locker room.
"As a coach, as a leader, you're also setting the example for the people that are around you," Calvillo said in an interview with CTV News Montreal.
"Whatever comes out of your mouth, however you conduct yourself -- that's telling the people around you that what you're doing is okay."
In Quebec, eight women have allegedly been murdered by boyfriends, husbands or ex-partners in the last eight weeks, a sharp increase from the normal rate in the province, already too high, which is about one woman a month.
Calvillo's upbringing in Los Angeles taught him a lot about how violence at home can grow.
"During a normal week everything's fine but, you know, my dad had a problem with with alcoholism," he told CTV News.
"I think that was a major trigger for him, and then when the weekends came around, he started drinking more, and then all it took was some something small to trigger him."
At first, the children generally weren't there during his father's violent episodes, but "we realized it when we came back, because we could see physically that there was bruises on our mom," he said. "Then as we got older, he started to do it when we were at home."
The silence he and his siblings maintained outside the house was a sharp contrast to what they were living through at home.
"It was shocking just to hear the noise, to hear the screaming, to hear the... physicalness of somebody hitting another person," he said.
"And the person that was doing this was your father, so it was hard to deal with, because you know, we were just kind of taught that you deal with it. You be quiet, and you don't say anything about it, and we didn't."
He always knew that he wanted to "break the cycle" within his own family and make sure that his own future wife and kids would never experience anything like it. His daughters are now 13 and 15, and he recently sat down with them and watched the documentary and explained what he experienced as a child.
It wasn't easy to decide to speak openly for the 2012 documentary, "The Kid from La Puente," he said.
But what's clear to him now, too, is how important it is for men to take a stand outside their families, too, or at least not to brush off the topic amongst themselves when it comes up.
Calvillo, who retired from CFL team the Montreal Alouettes in 2014, is now an assistant coach for the Université de Montreal's Carabins. In his current locker room, he's even more careful not to sidestep domestic violence when it's mentioned.
"I've tried to share my personal experience, so if we're talking about... what's been seen in the news right now with domestic violence, then we talk about that," he said.
"I'll just share my experience with them and tell them what I think, and how I was able to change my life around and how they should treat women at the end of the day."
The idea that people are always listening and taking a cue about "what's okay" is always on his mind, he said.
"I keep that in the back of my mind quite often, to make sure that I'm trying to do and say the right things so somebody else could learn and grow," he said.
"That's why I wanted to coach college football, because you're molding young men, and you can help them be stronger men for the future."
In early March, Legault also interrupted a COVID-19 briefing to deliver a special message to the province's men, asking them to "get together and say 'We're going to speak to our boys, we're going to speak to our friends.'"
Watch the video above for the full interview with Anthony Calvillo.