01 Jan Bellator champion Ilima-Lei MacFarlane files lawsuit against school, former coach for alleged sexual abuse
Bellator flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane and two other former students have filed a lawsuit in Honolulu, Hawaii against their former school and basketball coach, who they allege sexually abused them.
News of the lawsuit was first reported by Hawaii News Now on Thursday.
According to records from the Honolulu Circuit Court, Macfarlane and the two students named Punahou School and former coach Dwayne Yuen in the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges Yuen “was a sexual predator who targeted and sexually groomed underage female students attending Punahou School.”
Sexual grooming “refers to the behaviors that a child molester employs in preparation for committing sexual abuse against a child.”
Macfarlane and her older sister along with a third person, who was listed at ‘Jane Doe,’ filed the lawsuit against the school and their former coach. Macfarlane alleges that Yuen began grooming her and her sister when they were just 12 and 14 years old respectively.
“I had an inappropriate relationship with an adult who was in an authoritative position and a position of power, as a 12-year old, and that has 100 percent affected what I think is a healthy relationship,” Macfarlane said.
“I ended up losing my love for basketball, which was crazy. That’s what I wanted to do as a career. I wanted to play professional basketball in the WNBA.”
In the lawsuit, Macfarlane and her sister allege that Yuen would force them to touch his genitals, offered to pay them money to perform sexual acts and sent explicit photos of himself to them. The third person in the lawsuit alleged that the coach also sexually abused her and eventually sent threatening texts and phone messages to her with some transcripts from those conversations attached to the lawsuit.
Yuen did not offer comment when he was contacted by Hawaii News Now but the Punahou school issued a statement after the lawsuit was made public.
“The reports allege abuse from 2004-2005 by Dwayne Yuen, a former girls basketball coach at our school,” Punahou School director of communications Robert Gelber said. “We are currently investigating these reports and are committed to working with the survivors to find resolution and healing.”
Macfarlane and her sister claimed they reported Yuen to school officials back in 2005 while asking for “help and protection.”
“There was no follow at all, whatsoever, which was especially heartbreaking because I love Punahou,” Macfarlane stated. “I truly believe and know that they all knew what was going on and it was just like a culture there.”
Macfarlane, her sister and the third person in the lawsuit are seeking a jury trial with unspecified damages from Yuen and the Punahou School.
Macfarlane declined comment when contacted by MMA Fighting. But on Thursday afternoon, she released a statement on her accusations and search for justice.
Even though I’ve been a strong voice for other wahine toa—creating my scholarship for native girls, teaching self-defense to them, leading healing retreats for women—I never really shared my own story. To be honest, I was in denial and didn’t want to admit that it affected me as much as it did. I have to be strong. I’m a professional fighter. I can’t show any vulnerability. I can’t give him the satisfaction of knowing how much he infiltrated my thoughts, relationships and life even 15 years later. But here we are. The time is now. And for all the trolls saying, “wHy DiD u wAiT s0 l0nG?!” Idiots. We didn’t “wait”. My sister reported him to the school right when it happened and they swept it under the rug. Punahou knew I was a victim and witness to my own sister’s abuse and didn’t even bother to check on me. As a result we were retaliated against by him and the basketball program and had to see him everyday, still allowed on campus around minors. My sister and I tried our best to move on with our lives until it resurfaced in 2018 when more victims came forward. Punahou claimed they were doing an internal investigation but again, didn’t contact me and refused to share the results of the “investigation” with my sister. Disgustingly, we found out that he’s STILL coaching and teaching minor girls. So here we are now, 15 years later seeking justice together. He can’t get away with this anymore. Dwayne Yuen, YOUR TIME IS UP. P.S. I chose this picture not only for the solidarity that my family and I have together through this process, but to show you how old me and Mahina were when the sexual grooming and abuse started. I was in 6th grade and she (far right) was a freshman.