Dooling is volunteering something you don’t hear talked about in his muscled arena. Sexual abuse has been a plague in youth hockey, and the Jerry Sandusky scandal toppled Penn State, but rarely does the public know a victim’s face. You just don’t see a famous athlete volunteer his voice, name, pain and platform to help others feel less alone about sexual abuse, especially not in basketball.
“To be honest, I couldn’t even look in the mirror sometimes,” Dooling says. “I knew I was hiding something. All these internal battles. Insecurities. Not feeling good about yourself. Addressing insecurities, they become strengths. I’m embracing these emotions. I don’t know if I was delusional or my mind blocked it out, but I’m fully able to do it now. It is so liberating. So much freedom. Inner peace. I’m not embarrassed about it. It is bigger than me. Thousands of kids are reaching out to me. It is an epidemic. It’s something I’m going to fight for the rest of my life.”
Have you forgiven the people who molested you, Keyon?
“Heck, yeah,” he says. “Heck, yeah. Heck, yeah. If I would say I’m all peace and never angry, I’d be lying. But to the people who took advantage of me — because I was molested more than one time by more than one person and more than one sex — yeah, I have forgiven. I haven’t forgotten. But I have no ill-will in my heart. I don’t have a hateful bone in my body. Why have malice? I don’t have that for the people who hurt me. I feel sad for them. I hope they get help. I know they are being tormented.”
Awareness and understanding are such blessings. Clarity, too. It is only now, in adulthood, away from the grind of sports that reduced his world focus to the size of that basketball, that Dooling can clearly see the damage done to him.
“It is weird, man,” he says. “Some people who hide sexual abuse get tormented by it. They know it, and they deny it. I couldn’t feel the emotion, but I could feel the effects because of my pattern of behavior. Some of the anger issues I had, especially at a young age, led me to start drinking early and smoking early and having sex early. It wasn’t until I got involved with sports that it was an outlet for me to get that negative energy out. I don’t know how I got myself in that situation. I’ve asked myself all these questions.
“When it happens young, you blame yourself. I’m getting out of that. There is nothing I could have prevented. What I can do is raise awareness and be preventative.”
And now what? As the rest of his life stretches out before him at just 32?
“I’ll be mentoring,” he says, “and I’ll be smiling.”