Sister of tennis star Eugenie Bouchard testifies in online harassment case

MONTREAL — Charlotte Bouchard says her decision to pursue criminal charges against a Montreal man accused of harassing her will have been worth it if it helps just one victim of online stalking.

The 23-year-old younger sister of Canadian tennis star Eugenie Bouchard made the comments after testifying Thursday at the preliminary hearing of 40-year-old Danny Arsenault.

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He is charged with criminal harassment and sending harassing communications over a three-year span. According to charges filed last year, the alleged harassment lasted between September 2014 and December 2017. Arsenault was arrested last February.

"I don't have any comments on the case, but I will say I'm very happy that I've gone through with this," Bouchard said outside the courtroom, flanked by her father.

"Hopefully this will also encourage anybody to speak out who is going through this as well .... If this can even help one person, then I'm happy with that."

The hearing opened with Bouchard answering questions from prosecutor Jean-Christofe Ardeneus, but her testimony is covered by a publication ban.

She was the only witness to testify Thursday. The case resumes Feb. 21, when the Crown will outline its plan to present other witnesses. The preliminary hearing serves to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to send Arsenault to trial.

Arsenault told the judge before the hearing that he was aware of the evidence against him. "In my opinion, there is nothing aggressive or offensive in what happened," he said.

After being informed by Quebec court Judge Serge Delisle of his rights, Arsenault asked for a publication ban, which is automatic at a preliminary hearing if requested by the defence.

He has chosen to represent himself, but a lawyer was present to cross-examine Bouchard on his behalf if necessary. In the end, he declined to challenge any of Bouchard's testimony.

Bouchard's father Michel drew attention to the case in a tweet last week after Canadian junior hockey player Maxime Comtois was subjected to online abuse.

The Anaheim Ducks prospect faced a barrage of hateful messages on social media after missing a penalty shot in a crucial game. Comtois had to shut down commenting on his Instagram page, and on Wednesday he encouraged other victims of cyber bullying to speak out.

Bouchard, who this week talked to media about her experience, had a clear message for those engaging in abusive behaviour online: "To stop and to realize that it affects people, and it's an invasion of your privacy, and it's not OK."

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