Victims recount sex abuse by Canada’s ex-national ski coach

MONTREAL (AP) Four women sexually assaulted by Canada’s former national ski coach when they were adolescents said Monday he robbed them of much of their childhood.

Genevieve Simard, Gail Kelly, Amelie Frederique-Gagnon and Anna Prchal attended a news conference more than 20 years after the repeated abuse.

”My childhood was stolen,” Simard said. ”Skiing was my passion. I aspired to great things. I had dreams and skiing was my life. The sexual abuse I suffered completely destroyed my self-confidence.”

The women won the right last week to be identified after a judge granted their request to lift a publication ban.

Bertrand Charest was found guilty a year ago of 37 of the 57 sex-related charges. He received a 12-year prison term and is appealing both his conviction and sentence. He was denied bail last year.

The convictions involved nine of the 12 women who accused him of crimes that occurred more than 20 years ago when the victims and alleged victims were between ages 12 and 19.

Quebec court Judge Sylvain Lepine said the victims were still suffering from what he called ”serious health consequences” from the abuse that took place between 1991 and 1998.

Kelly said Charest took advantage of her passion for skiing and ”my dream quickly turned into a nightmare.” She said she has three young children and would never let them compete at the provincial or national level in any sport under the current structure.

”It is urgent that we put in place a system that allows our children to be safe,” she said. ”I don’t want anyone to go through what I did: being manipulated, denigrated and belittled.”

”I used to be funny, smiling and very sociable,” she added. ”But because of this manipulator, I became sad and withdrawn and someone who felt like a complete loser.”