Bellator Champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane Files Lawsuit Against Former Coach Over Sexual Abuse

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Bellator 236 Ilima-Lei Macfarlane
Credit: Bellator MMA

Bellator flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane has come forward against her former basketball coach about sexual abuse she, her sister, and another individuals suffered as children.

Flyweight title holder and one of Bellator’s biggest stars, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane has filed a lawsuit along with her sister, Mahina Macfarlane Souza, and another individual against their former basketball coach, Dwayne Yuen, and the Punahou School.  Punahou School is a private school in Honolulu that has students from kindergarten through the twelfth grade, which Macfarlane and the other girls attended.  Detailed in the lawsuit are accusations of predatory behavior and sexual grooming towards the then-underage girls and allegations that the coach had sexually abused them. His actions included having them the girls him inappropriately, sending illicit photos, and offering them money for sexual services.

Apart from the report, Macfarlane also posted a lengthy Instagram post in which she discussed why she did not come forward sooner and how the experience affected her life:

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.

In the post, Macfarlane mentions that attempts to report the crime did not result to any action being taken by the school.  Apart from the emotional damage of the experience, which she says did affect her personal relationships over the years, she also says that it led to her falling out of love with the sport of basketball.  In an interview with MMAFighting.com, Macfarlane stated: “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.  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.”

Yuen has not issued any statement on the matter and the Punahou School released a statement that they are investigating the matter.  In a statement to MMA Junkie, Bellator President Scott Coker spoke on the matter saying: “That’s something very serious. We’re here to support her.  It’s obviously become a legal situation, and that’s something that’s always a rough go, but we’re here for her. And if she needs anything, we’ll be here for her.”

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