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2 students sue former Olympic CEO John Furlong for alleged sexual molestation

Two women who allege the former head of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics sexually molested them at least a dozen times when he was a teacher decades ago in Burns Lake, B.C., launched separate lawsuits Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court, documents show.

In one statement of claim, Beverly Abraham, now 55, alleges Furlong would ask her to stay late after class before molesting her in the gym, the equipment room and a mechanical closet.

Abraham, who was 11 at the time, said in the statement that Furlong also emotionally and psychologically manipulated her, calling her his “beautiful Indian girl” and saying it was not wrong for him to touch her.

Grace West, 53, filed a separate statement of claim, alleging that almost every week Furlong would touch her breasts and vagina while stroking himself. West’s claim also states Furlong would kick her almost every day, calling her “dirty Indian” and “squaw.”

Abraham does not state that Furlong physically abused her. Rather she claims he would request that the school’s nuns force her to kneel and the nuns would strike her open palms repeatedly.

While The Canadian Press has a policy of not naming those who allege they are the victims of sexual assault, the women’s lawyer, Jason Gratl, said both agreed to have their names known.

None of the allegations against John Furlong have been proven in court. The ex-VANOC CEO could not be reached for comment through his lawyer or the public relations firm, TwentyTen Group, that represents him.

Both lawsuits also name as defendants various B.C. dioceses of the Catholic Church, alleging they were aware that Furlong was sexually touching Abraham, West and other children enrolled at the Catholic school where he worked in 1969 and 1970.

“Children and other parents … informed the defendants that John Furlong was sexually and physically abusing their children,” Abraham’s statement reads. They “failed to prevent John Furlong from sexually and physically abusing” them.

West’s father confronted Furlong and the head of the elementary school, eventually removing her from the school because of the alleged abuse.

In both statements, Abraham and West say they were “intimidated by the defendants and their influence,” and felt “disempowered as a result of racism and geographic isolation.” They say they were not aware they could bring legal action against Furlong.

Only after viewing Furlong’s news conference last September where he vehemently denied accusations of abuse did Abraham and West seek legal advice, say the court documents.

The allegations against Furlong exploded last fall in an article written by freelance reporter Laura Robinson and published in the Georgia Straight. The article accused him of harming native students when he taught at the Burns Lake Immaculata Roman Catholic Elementary School. The story also suggested Furlong hid details of his past, particularly the first few years he spent in Canada, in his memoir “Patriot Hearts.”

Furlong aggressively denied the claims and launched a lawsuit against the paper and Robinson, arguing in a statement of claim filed last fall that Robinson was waging a personal campaign to discredit him.

Robinson filed a statement of defence in January, insisting she was diligent in verifying the allegations and attempted to contact Furlong to seek his side of the story.

Her statement also included new accusations from Furlong’s former common-law spouse, who lived with Furlong in Nanaimo from 1979 until 1982.

Robinson’s statement says the woman alleges Furlong “raped her many times. On one particular occasion, he forcibly raped her while she was taking a shower, without saying a word. He continued to force himself on her, even though she was hitting him and trying to get him off her.”

The Georgia Straight newspaper, its editor and its publisher filed their own statement of defence in January, denying the story was defamatory and, like Robinson, arguing the article is protected as fair comment and responsible communication.