Ontario woman alleges high school running coach sexually assaulted her as a teenager in $3million lawsuit

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A woman from Uxbridge, Ont., has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against her former running coach and the Durham District School Board, alleging she was the victim of sexual assault and child abuse. from a teacher.

The teacher, Edward LaRocque, denies the allegations, and the school board, located about 65 kilometers east of Toronto, denies any responsibility for the allegations.

Now 25, Julia Kearley said she thought it was the right time for her to speak out.

“I’m in a place where I want to be accountable,” she told CBC News. “I don’t want to carry the shame anymore.”

Kearley has so far opted not to go to the police, so the matter has not been investigated and no criminal charges have been brought. None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been proven in court.

A statement of defense filed by LaRocque’s attorneys denies the allegations and asks that the lawsuit be dismissed. Lawyer Andrew Max told CBC News in an email that “the matter is before the court and Mr. LaRocque will respond to these allegations there.”

It is also a separate legal action by the school board filed against the complainant’s mother, which the board says was initiated by her insurer without her knowledge. He alleges she is partly responsible for any abuse by failing to protect her daughter “in accordance with her parental/guardian responsibility” – which Kearley’s mother denies.

According to a statement, Kearley first met LaRocque in 2011 when she started attending Uxbridge Secondary School in Year 9. She was 14 at the time, while LaRocque, the coach of the school’s cross country and track teams, was in his late 30s.

Kearley joined the cross country team later that year. The lawsuit alleges that LaRocque soon began treating her.

Kearley and LaRocque are seen together in this photo from the Athletics Ontario cross country championships in 2014, when Kearley was in grade 12. (Submitted by Julia Kearley)

“Early on, LaRocque complimented Julia and told her how talented she was,” the statement read. At LaRocque’s suggestion, according to the lawsuit, Kearley also joined the Greater Uxbridge Road Runners club outside of school – which led to her training one-on-one with LaRocque and leading her to training and competitions.

The lawsuit alleges that over a period of months, LaRoque and Kearley spent more and more time together and exchanged text messages. The lawsuit alleges that the text messages initially related to the race but quickly turned into exchanges on other topics.

“I really really thought, especially in 9th, 10th grade, that he was someone who really cared about me, and I really cared about him,” Kearley said in an interview.

Mental health struggles

By the time Kearley was in 10th grade, the statement said, LaRocque began isolating her from family and friends, as well as making “comments to Julia about her body, texting her with photos minimally dressed women and telling Julia that the women in the photos had beautiful bodies and that Julia should aspire to look like them.”

The lawsuit says more overt sexual abuse began to occur when Kearley was in 11th grade. At the time, she was starting to receive scholarship offers from schools in the United States and Canada, but had to miss the race due to an injury. .

“Julia told LaRocque she was struggling psychologically because she wasn’t running,” the lawsuit alleges about the time around January 2014. “She told him she was having suicidal thoughts and that she felt very isolated.”

This photo is from a 2013 run at Boyd Conservation Park in Vaughan, Ontario, when Kearley was in grade 11. (Submitted by Julia Kearley)

At the time, according to allegations in court documents, LaRocque began telling Kearley that it appeared she had been previously abused or assaulted and insisted that she was repressing memories of such experience.

He reportedly told her he “loved her like a father” and would help her feel more comfortable around older men. That process included the two “cuddling” in bed with no clothes on to “imitate what sexual abuse looked like,” according to the lawsuit.

“Julia complied with LaRocque’s instructions due to LaRocque’s position of trust, power and authority over her as a teacher and coach,” the statement read.

“Slowly the lines faded, and that’s when the sexual assaults started,” Kearley told CBC News.

The contact would have persisted until 2017

The lawsuit alleges LaRocque first kissed Kearley in the spring of 2014, and he first had sex with her around May 2014, when she was 16 — his first sexual encounter with anyone. a.

Kearley’s lawyers allege that LaRocque continued to have sex with her on a regular basis after that and “coerced Julia into texting her nude and sexual images and videos of herself”.

Kearley continued running while in college in New York State, but she says her relationship with the sport broke down over the years. (Laura Pedersen/CBC)

The statement also alleges that LaRocque sometimes drove Kearley to his home in Ajax, Ont., where they spent the night.

“Julia usually lied to her parents on these occasions and told them she was staying at her friend’s house for the weekend,” the lawsuit states.

Kearley told CBC News that LaRocque tried to pass off what was happening as a “secret relationship” – something that left her extremely emotional and confused as a teenager.

“He was very controlling — very controlling of my life,” she said.

“At that point, I’m a kid…I don’t know what to do about it.

Kearley is seen here with her dog, Harley. She says she has not yet gone to the police with her allegations, but does not rule out doing so in the future. (Laura Pedersen/CBC)

The lawsuit alleges that LaRocque exercised control over Kearley for years. She left Uxbridge in 2015 to attend college in upstate New York, but the two have stayed in touch.

She first tried to walk away from the situation in the fall of 2015, according to the lawsuit, but only managed to break contact in 2017.

“It took a long time to get through it,” she told CBC News.

“I was falling apart because of it. It was a really dark time trying to run away and starting to realize how abusive it was.”

Lawsuit seeks damages from coach and school board

Kearley’s legal claim seeks $2 million in general and aggravated damages, plus $1 million in special damages, split between LaRocque and the school board.

Durham District School Board said in a statement that it first became aware of the allegations when it received the statement and has since contacted Durham Police and the Aid Society. ‘childhood.

The board also said LaRocque had been “removed from [his] homework” as part of an ongoing investigation.

“We are not aware of any other allegations involving other students at this time and encourage anyone with information to report to the police,” the statement said.

“The Durham District School Board takes it seriously when a person in a position of trust and authority allegedly abuses that trust.”

Kearley says she initially wasn’t interested in running, but when she tried it in 9th grade, she discovered a “pure, innocent love for the sport.” This photo is from a run at the Oshawa Civic Center in 2012. (Submitted by Julia Kearley)

The council’s statement of defense initially denies that any abuse took place – but goes on to say that if it did, the council had no knowledge of the alleged abuse and says it is not not responsible for anything LaRocque might have done.

But a complaint filed by a third party on behalf of the school board says some responsibility should rest with Kearley’s mother, alleging that “her conduct fell below the standard of a reasonable parent/guardian in the circumstances”.

In a statement of defense, Kearley’s mother, Stacy, denied the allegation, saying she believed LaRocque’s relationship with her daughter was appropriate for a teacher and student, or coach and athlete.

“At all relevant times, Stacy acted and behaved as a reasonable and ordinary parent/guardian with respect to [her daughter]“At no time did she fall below the standard of care of a reasonable parent/guardian.”

Asked about third party proceedings, a spokesperson for the board said his insurance company, the Ontario School Boards’ Insurance Exchange, was responsible for the case and initiated the claim without the knowledge of the board. .

Spokesman Robert Cerjanec said the board asked the insurance company to end the claim against Kearley’s mother. The insurance company did not respond to a request for comment.

“It takes courage for victims of abuse to speak up and we believe this complaint from the insurance company could be a deterrent in the future for families who come forward,” Cerjanec said.

Repairing a relationship with running

Kearley told CBC News she hasn’t gone to the police with her allegations, though she wouldn’t rule out doing so in the future. She said she wanted some measure of accountability, but also to be protected.

“It’s scary. You hear a lot of stories of victims coming forward and then being completely traumatized by the [criminal justice] system and I wasn’t in a place emotionally, mentally where I think I could handle that,” she said.

“That suits me right now, and everyone’s process is different.”

Carly Kalish, executive director of Victim Services Toronto, echoed that sentiment.

“People have to come forward at their own pace, at their own pace, and our response has to be non-assumption and non-judgmental,” Kalish said.

While a lot about the situation has affected her, Kearley said her relationship with running has undeniably been fractured.

When she first started working out, she loved lacing up her sneakers, fueled by “a pure, innocent love for the sport.”

“And then all through high school, it was something that was twisted. He used it to be able to manipulate me,” she said.

Kearley said she was able to begin to mend her relationship with sports in college, but the ups and downs of the process linger.

“I still feel a pain of loss, like it was something he took from me.”

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