ST-JEROME, Que. â€” Lingering kisses, pinches on the buttocks and having to answer questions about sex were a regular part of life for Bertrand Charest’s ski students, one of his alleged victims told the former coach’s sex assault trial Thursday.
The woman, who was about 14 when the alleged incidents began, testified she was ill at ease with the kisses and touching but said Charest made it hard to speak up.
“When I showed him I was uncomfortable he would play the victim, and he wouldn’t coach me for a certain period of time,” she said via videoconference.
Charest is on trial on 57 charges, including sexual assault and breach of trust, in relation to 12 alleged victims between the ages of 12 and 19.
The woman was the eighth alleged victim to testify at what is expected to be a month-long trial that began last week in Saint-Jerome, Que.
The witness said Charest would ask her personal questions, including queries about her bra size and whether she was a virgin.
She said he also bit and pinched her buttocks, once hard enough to leave a bruise. She said such occurrences were common and any of the athletes who objected were mocked in front of the others for “not being able to take a joke.”
“It was normalized,” said the woman.
The alleged incidents she described first began in 1992, when she was 14, and lasted until 1996. He coached her between 1990 and 1993.
Charest, now 51, worked with Alpine Canada’s women’s development team between 1996 and 1998.
He has been in custody since his arrest in March 2015.
Several witnesses have testified to having had sexual relationships with Charest and have said he was controlling and manipulative toward the athletes whose careers he managed.
The allegations date back to the 1990s and also involve locations such as Whistler, B.C., New Zealand, Italy and the United States.
Charest told police in a 2015 deposition he had been in love with two of his alleged victims and said he never did anything to anyone against their will.
Thursday’s witness said Charest wouldn’t allow his students to date and would foster jealousy and rivalry among the skiers by mocking them and comparing them to one another.
As a result, she said, “my confidence and well-being became totally dependent on him.”
She said her career suffered once she began to train with another coach because she felt she couldn’t ski without Charest.
The witness said she considered Charest a good friend at the time but that, in retrospect, she feels the relationship wasn’t a healthy one.
“He was the person who was responsible for us, who took the place of our parents at the other end of the world,” she said, referring to when the skiers travelled internationally.
“He was supposed to protect us from things.”
The trial continues Friday.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press