4 sexual assault victims of Bertrand Charest want chance to speak out

Former national ski coach Bertrand Charest was sentenced to 12 years in prison for sexual assault. Mike McLaughlin / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Four of the victims who were sexually assaulted by Bertrand Charest while he was a national ski coach will request to have the publication bans placed on their identities lifted in Quebec Superior Court on Friday.

The four have filed a motion seeking to lift the bans because they are “convinced that by sharing their sad experience with the public they will be able to further the cause of prevention and harassment of sexual assaults in the sports milieu and keep this from happening to others.”

The four women also hope to “talk openly about what happened to them with the goal of informing the public about sexual assault in the sports milieu.” Their request also notes that the four have been invited to take part in a press conference on the subject that is scheduled for next week.

One of the four women making the request was the first person to file a criminal complaint against Charest, on Feb. 1, 2015. The case against him grew and eventually 12 victims came forward alleging that, between 1991 and 1998, Charest abused them sexually and psychologically while he was their trainer. On June 22, 2017, Charest, 53, was convicted on 37 counts related to nine of the victims who were between the ages of 12 and 18 when the abuse occurred. He was sentenced to a 12-year prison term.

During Charest’s trial, victims said that Charest had complete control over their lives as their trainer. He would often try to humiliate the girls by calling them names. He was also described as a manipulator who sometimes told the girls he wanted to marry them. The 19-page decision to convict Charest describes other acts of humiliation including how, while at a hotel, Charest would grab a girl’s and invite boys he was training to watch and mock the victim while he abused her.

All of the victims testified that what Charest did to them impacted on their lives severely. One said she lost her desire to ski competitively because of Charest while another ran away from her home at a young age to avoid him. Several sought treatment from psychologists, had suicidal thoughts and have experienced difficulty in relationships.

In his 19-page decision Judge Sylvain Lépine wrote that: “The young women were isolated. They wanted to win and the only way to do so was to get advice from (Charest).”

Charest managed to convince each victim to keep what was happening to them a secret but everything spilled out during a tournament in Europe in 1998 when some of the victims realized he was having sex with them at the same time. Alpine Canada, the governing body for alpine ski racing in Canada, was informed of what had happened with at least three of the victims and Charest was asked to stop working as a trainer for the organization.

The publication bans that were placed on the identities of all of the victims during Charest’s lengthy trial are the standard type issued in all sexual assault cases in Canada. The bans are used to protect the interests of the victims.

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