MONTREAL – Four of the women sexually assaulted by ex-national ski coach Bertrand Charest when they were adolescents say he robbed them of much of their childhood and turned their dreams into a nightmare.
Genevieve Simard, Gail Kelly, Amelie Frederique-Gagnon and Anna Prchal attended a news conference in Montreal on Monday, more than 20 years after the repeated abuse.
“My childhood was stolen,” said Simard, struggling to overcome her emotions. “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. My self-esteem was annihilated and my daily interactions with other people were greatly affected by the sexual assaults.
“My adolescence was in no way normal. It was a nightmare.”
The women won the right last week to be identified after a judge granted their request to lift a publication ban.
Charest was found guilty in June 2017 of 37 of the 57 sex-related charges he was facing, and was eventually given a 12-year prison term.
The convictions involved nine of the 12 women who’d accused him of crimes that occurred more than 20 years ago, when the victims and alleged victims were between the ages of 12 and 19.
Kelly said Charest took advantage of her and her passion for skiing.
“My dream quickly turned into a nightmare,” she said. “And that’s how part of my childhood was stolen from me.”
Kelly said she has three young children and that she 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 any one to go through what I did: being manipulated, denigrated and belittled. This has had an impact on my life right up until today.
“I used to be funny, smiling and very sociable but because of this manuipulator, I became sad and withdrawn and someone who felt like a complete loser.”
Charest, who is appealing both his conviction and the sentence, was denied bail last year.
As of last December, he had seven years and 10 months left to serve because of his time in detention since his arrest in 2015.
The trial judge called him a sexual predator last June and had more harsh words last December when he said Charest still did not grasp the severity or the consequences of his crimes.
Quebec court Judge Sylvain Lepine said the victims were still suffering from what he called “serious health consequences” as a result of the abuse that took place between 1991 and 1998.