Bellator flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane is one of three former students of the Punahou School suing the institution and a former basketball coach, Dwayne Yuen, over the latter’s alleged sexual abuses of the underage students, according to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday.
The news was first reported by KITV4, who obtained a copy of the legal complaint.
Macfarlane, her older sister Mahina Macfarlane Souza, and a third, unidentified girl accuse the prestigious Hawaiin private school of “gross negligence,” alleging that Yuen “targeted and sexually groomed” the then-underage students.
At the time of the alleged incidents, Macfarlane was twelve years old and in the sixth-grade, and her sister was fourteen.
According to the complaint, the Macfarlane sisters were “subjected to demands made by Coach Yuen” to touch “his genitals, offers of cash in exchange for sexual acts, sexual harassment, unwanted sexual advances by a predatory adult on two minors, and the display and sending of sexually explicit photographs.”
The complaint alleges that Macfarlane sisters “pled for the school’s help and protection,” reporting the alleged misconduct around 2004 and 2005, but claims that “Punahou did not provide or offer the Macfarlane sisters any help, did nothing to protect the girls from Coach Yuen, did not keep Coach Yuen away from them and allowed Coach Yuen to continue assisting, interacting and participating with Punahou’s basketball program.”
Allegedly, after the Macfarlane sisters’ attempt to report Yuen to the school’s administrators, Yuen responded with “retaliation,” including “calling the girls “liars” and “sluts”, mocking them, holding them up to “ridicule”, and benching them during basketball games.”
In an Instagram post on Thursday, Macfarlane spoke at length about the lawsuit, her experience, and her complex emotions.
“Punahou knew I was a victim and witness to my own sister’s abuse and didn’t even bother to check on me,” she said.
Speaking to Hawaii News Now, Macfarlane said the alleged incidents pushed her away from basketball, her first sporting love, and into wrestling to avoid Yuen.
“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 added.
“There was no follow at all, whatsoever, which was especially heartbreaking because I love Punahou… I truly believe and know that they all knew what was going on and it was just like a culture there,” said Macfarlane of the school.
When contacted by Hawaii News Now, “Yuen declined to comment and referred questions to his attorney, who did not return [their] request for comment.”
Yuen is not believed to have been charged with a crime or arrested to date in connection with these allegations.
The day after the lawsuit’s filing, the Punahou School issued a formal statement.
“We are deeply troubled by reports of sexual abuse raised by three former students. The reports allege abuse from 2004-2005 by Dwayne Yuen, a former girls basketball coach at our school. We are currently investigating these reports and are committed to working with the survivors to find resolution and healing.
In no uncertain terms, Punahou stands with survivors of sexual abuse everywhere, and we respect the courage it takes to report these incidents.
Providing for the physical, mental, and emotional safety of our students is our highest priority at Punahou. We hold ourselves to the highest ideals and are committed to reckoning with the past and bringing issues out of the shadows so that we can resolve them and provide counseling and support to survivors,” said the school.
Macfarlane, 30, is undefeated in MMA at a stellar 11-0.
The Bellator MMA flyweight champion has defended her title four times since capturing the vacant belt in 2017, and has been credited with bringing the promotion to her native Hawaii, where she has twice retained her championship.
Michael Fiedel is The Body Lock's deputy editor, a staff writer for FloCombat, and a Russell-Rice scholarship recipient at Vanderbilt University.