The complaint is one of a growing number of cheerleader sexual abuse lawsuits alleging the cheerleading industry knew about the widespread abuse but did nothing to stop it.
A New York man has filed a lawsuit alleging he was sexually assaulted as a teenager while performing as a cheerleader at a USASF gym, alleging the organization failed to take action when notified of the incidents by a trainer.
The lawsuit (PDF) was filed Nov. 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio by a plaintiff identified only as John Doe, since the alleged incidents of sexual abuse occurred when he was a minor. Defendants include USASF, Varsity Brands, Varsity Spirit, USA Cheer, Charlesbank Capital Partners, Bain Capital, LP, ShowPro Choreography, Jeff Webb, Taji Davis and Brandon Hale.
The plaintiff is one of a growing number of mostly young men, and some women and teenagers, who have filed cheerleader sexual assault lawsuits against various gyms across the US in recent months. Complaints suggest the teenagers were regularly groomed, supplied with alcohol and drugs, and then repeatedly sexually assaulted by coaches in the highly competitive cheerleading circuit.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff began working with Hale, Davis and ShowPro in 2014. The abuse began in 2016, when the plaintiff was 17 years old and still a minor, when defendants Hale and Davis allegedly forced him into a hotel. room in Westlake, Ohio for an alleged skills clinic.
“When Plaintiff John Doe 1 showed up at Defendants’ hotel, Defendants took Plaintiff to their room. Defendants offered John Doe 1 a drink, which Plaintiff John Doe 1 refused,” the lawsuit states. “They then began having sex with Plaintiff John Doe 1, who was only 17 years old.”
The suit alleges that the men, who were in their 20s, had sex with the plaintiff on multiple occasions despite his reluctance and attempts to leave the hotel room.
Despite the plaintiff notifying USASF gym officials of the abuse, officials instead focused on what they described as Hale giving the plaintiff preferential treatment and took no other action, allowing Hale to continue choreographing with the minor cheerleaders.
In 2020, after repeated letters to various gyms, the plaintiff finally got the attention of the USASF case manager and began cooperating with law enforcement in Ohio. However, he was informed that police would not press charges because the age of consent in Ohio is 16.
The USASF temporarily suspended the two coaches, but they were reinstated in November 2020 and the plaintiff was not notified of the decision to reinstate them.
Lawsuits Claim USASF Turned a Blind Eye to Child Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse revelations and lawsuits have rocked the cheerleading industry, which faces accusations of ignoring obvious signs of sexual abuse by coaches involving minors while raking in obscene profits by forcing parents to pay for hotels, equipment, lessons and transportation; at inflated prices. Read also : Justine Lindsay Becomes NFL’s First Openly Transgender Cheerleader.
In August, the U.S. All Star Federation, which governs and administers fan competitions across the country, issued a press release (PDF) addressing the complaints and urging its members to report suspected cases of abuse.
Critics of the organization, including many plaintiffs, say there was little way the organization could have known about the culture of sexual abuse and rarely investigated or responded to reports when they were filed. The group declined to comment on the specific allegations of the lawsuits themselves, as the national organization is accused of many, if not all, of the lawsuits filed so far.
“At all times relevant to this complaint, the athletes and their families, including John Doe 1, understood that defendant USASF was responsible for protecting the athletes from injury,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, and specifically with respect to Plaintiff John Doe 1, the USASF has failed to fulfill its obligation to adequately investigate reports of misconduct, to communicate internally and with law enforcement about misconduct, and has continued to fail to act as intended.”
Sexual Abuse of Minors in Sports
The allegations made in the cheerleader sexual-assault lawsuits mirror those made in similar complaints filed in recent years in the gymnastics industry. On the same subject : Snapshot from the camp: Day 9.
In December, USA Gymnastics reached a $380 million settlement with more than 500 survivors of sexual abuse by former Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. According to testimony from more than 150 women and girls, Nassar sexually assaulted young gymnasts during medical examinations since at least the early 1990s in his role as a team physician and assistant professor at MSU, and as the medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics.
Many of the women, who call themselves Survivor Sisters, say they told USA Gymnastics officials, Michigan State University (MSU) staff and others about Nassar’s behavior, but were discouraged from reporting the incidents. Some testimony even suggested that officials told survivors that they simply did not know the difference between a sexual assault and a medical examination. However, after victims began to come forward, the abuse finally received the attention it deserved and Nassar was arrested, tried and found guilty on multiple charges.
Similar allegations were made against Jr. of the ROTC program and the Olympic diving industry.