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Second witness tells sex-assault trial of ex-ski coach about harassment

Second witness testifies at trial of ex-ski coach

SAINT-JEROME, Que. — The second alleged victim to take the stand at Bertrand Charest’s sex-assault trial told the court Friday she suffered intense psychological harassment when she joined the national ski team in 1996.

The woman testified that she became caught in Charest’s orbit at 15.

She said Charest manipulated her psychologically and touched her inappropriately.

The harassment, she testified, broke her and put an end to her skiing career after two years.

During her testimony, she said Charest never sexually assaulted her when he coached her but that she almost wished he had so she could feel as though she had more evidence against him.

The woman said she kept silent for years because she felt as though she was his only alleged victim and what she suffered wasn’t significant enough to come forward.

Charest is facing 57 charges including sexual assault and breach of trust, with 12 alleged victims between the ages of 12 and 19 at the time.

Charest, 51, worked with Alpine Canada’s women’s development team between 1996 and 1998 and has been in custody since his arrest in March 2015.

The witness told the court he forced her to ski through a serious injury and that he constantly insulted her, although he was very gentle at other times.

“Every day was hell,” she said.

She said Charest didn’t want his students to have boyfriends and regularly asked her, when they were alone, what kind of sexual relations she had with her partner.

“We lived in his bubble and we were manipulated and were constantly played off against one another,” she said.

A third alleged victim later told the court Charest would ask about her sexual relations with her boyfriend.

She testified that Charest would behave in ways she thought were inappropriately intimate.

The witness said the accused told her, “You must miss your boyfriend. You could have sex with me.”

She added another ski student, who was allegedly having a relationship with Charest, confided to her he had hit her.

The court was also shown a video Friday of Charest’s deposition to police after his 2015 arrest.

In the video, Charest told police he was in love with two of his alleged victims and added, “I never did anything with anyone against their will. When there is no consent, for me, it’s rape.”

He said that for years following his departure from the national ski team, he worried his relations with the athletes would come back to haunt him.

“It’s not the intention that is wrong,” he said in the video. “It’s society that has decided that it’s not correct. There were never any bad intentions.”

Pierre St-Arnaud, The Canadian Press

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