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About 100 victims come forward with new claims of sex abuse

Updated: Apr. 24, 2020 at 7:29 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - At least 100 former students, medical patients and church members have come forward with new allegations that they were sexually abused years ago.

Many are victims of known sex offenders -- pedophile priests, doctors and teachers.

But at least five ex-Punahou girls basketball players -- including MMA champ Ilima-Lei MacFarlane and former University of Hawaii women’s basketball standout Shawna-Lei Kuehu -- are raising new sex abuse allegations against their former coach Dwayne Yuen.

Attorneys said the lawsuits are just the tip of the iceberg.

“I know (that) for a fact, because I’ve talked to people who are still out there and are still undecided about coming forward," said attorney Randall Rosenberg.

A large number of the suits are against the Catholic Church, which is paying out millions to settle prior cases.

“Some of the conduct is so reprehensible that you wouldn’t believe someone of the clergy would do it. But unfortunately, we’ve seen it over and over again," said attorney Mark Gallagher who represents dozens of victims.

Bishop Larry Silva acknowledged the lawsuits at a recent Sunday mass.

“I cannot tell you how it turns my stomach to read of the abuse these people have suffered, and not only that, but how their faith was damaged," said Silva.

Lawyers said that many of these new cases will go to mediation and not to a courtroom because the accused priest, teacher or doctor is a known offender.

Among those are several dozen new claims against pedophile psychiatrist Dr. Robert Browne, whose victims in the 1960s and 1970s were usually referred by Kamehameha schools.

The school is paying $80 million for prior Browne cases. Kamehameha Schools said it was saddened by the new cases and said it would work with the victims to do what is pono.

Another doctor -- pediatrician John Stephenson who practiced at Straub clinic at about the same time as Browne -- is the subject of about a dozen claims. Lawyers said Stephenson killed himself in 1970.

Straub said it looked into the events but that the details from more than five decades ago are murky.

Some of the suits against the schools alleged that administrators covered up the abuses.

MacFarlane, a 2009 Punahou graduate, alleged that Punahou did not thoroughly investigate Yuen when she and her sister complained about his behavior.

“I love Punahou for the education and the opportunities they gave us but they completely turned their backs on us and our family," she said.

In a statement, the school said it was “deeply troubled" by the allegations but said that providing for the students’ safety was its “highest priority.”

Yuen declined comment and referred questions to his attorney, who did not return a call.

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