In a new lawsuit, Ohio State is accused of concealing evidence of widespread sexual abuse in the University's prestigious diving club. Were you or a loved one harmed? Our experienced attorneys can help.
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A new class action lawsuit calls out Ohio State University for looking the other way on sexual abuse and exploitation within the school's prestigious diving club, an affiliate of USA Diving and the US Olympic Committee.
In her federal complaint, one student-athlete accuses Ohio State, USA Diving and the USOC of failing to protect her from the sexual abuse allegedly committed by William Bohonyi, a former USA Diving coach who shepherded dozens of young divers through Olympic-track competition during his time as a coach at Ohio State's Diving Club.
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These are damning and serious allegations. In response, our experienced sexual assault attorneys have opened a full investigation into the Ohio State Diving Club to help victims step forward. If you or a loved one were abused while training at Ohio State, our personal injury lawyers are here to help. You can learn more about your legal options in a free consultation today.
Like so many women before her, the new lawsuit's young plaintiff says she lived amidst the "toxic culture" of Olympic-level athletics, training and competing under the guidance of USA Diving-affiliated coaches and volunteers during her tenure at Ohio State's Diving Club. She says she was repeatedly abused by William Bohonyi, forced to perform fellatio and anal sex, all while he served as a coach for Ohio State's diving club.
Echoing the recent and shocking allegations leveled against USA Gymnastics, the plaintiff accuses Team USA of preying off young, vulnerable women's Olympic dreams, exploiting the labor of training athletes in exchange for million-dollar paychecks, lucrative sponsorship deals and the prestige of competing on an international level.
At the same time, she says, the United States Olympic Committee governed over a wide range of national governing bodies, including USA Diving, which had no incentive to protect the health and wellbeing of young athletes.
Medals and money, she says, ruled everything. It was a world in which influential coaches were given a pass, even after being accused of the most horrific child abuse, for fear that USA Diving, Ohio State and the USOC would lose a profitable partnership or become liable to victims in civil court. Keeping up appearances is the name of the game.
The USOC and its national governing bodies have repeatedly and consistently stated that protecting and cultivating young people is their primary goal. Federal law, meanwhile, requires the USOC, which directly controls the activities of its national governing bodies (including USA Diving), to keep young athletes from dangerous sexual predators.
The United States Olympic Committee has admitted to this responsibility numerous times. And, in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal in USA Gymnastics, the USOC has even apologized for failing to protect young Olympic-level athletes. This is what large organizations are sued over all the time: failing to uphold a legal duty.
But as young athletes themselves tell the story, Larry Nassar is just one instance of a much-wider pattern. Sexual abuse and exploitation appear to be endemic to Olympic-level athletics in America.
Over the past 30 years, nearly 300 coaches and volunteers affiliated with Olympic sports in America have been publicly accused of sexual exploitation. That's one new case of molestation, child pornography or other abuse every six weeks.
William Bohonyi, the first coach to be publicly banned from USA Diving, is one of these men. A coach for the Ohio State Diving Club, as well as Indiana Diving Club, Bohonyi sexually abused at least two young female athletes, the class action (PDF) claims, exploiting their vulnerability and Olympic dreams to extort sexual favors, produce child pornography and ruin lives.
Both USA Diving and Ohio State University share in the blame for these shocking crimes, the class action continues.
In the case of William Bohonyi, it appears that USA Diving and Ohio State University failed to protect young student-athletes in colossal fashion. Despite having significant and substantial evidence of Bohonyi's sexual misconduct, including news of hundreds of child pornography images, USA Diving has never reported Bohonyi's activities to law enforcement officials, the new Ohio State class action alleges.
Ohio State shares in the blame, too, the plaintiff says. In 2014, Ohio State became intimately aware with Bohonyi's misconduct, discovering a trove of child pornography images in the man's possession.
Hundreds of pictures depicted one student-athlete, the lead plaintiff in the recent class action, who was between 16 and 17 years old at the time, nude and in sexual positions and situations. For two months, nothing was done, the class action alleges. The pictures were never handed over to police.
Instead, Ohio State conducted an "internal investigation." Bohonyi was fired from Ohio State on August 29, 2014, nearly two months after the child pornography was first discovered.
Even earlier, the Ohio State Diving Club coach John Appleman had heard rumors of Bohonyi's misconduct. Another young athlete had seen troubling messages from Bohonyi on the plaintiff's phone. She reported her concerns to Appleman, the lawsuit says, but nothing was done for at least another year.
USA Diving's alleged mishandling of the situation may be even more troubling. When Ohio State produced a final report on Bonhonyi's abuse of the plaintiff, the report was quickly forwarded to USA Diving, but the organization did nothing, the lawsuit says. Only after being lobbied by a "concerned coach" did USA Diving open its own investigation.
The investigation stretched on for six months. Finally, Bohonyi was made "permanently ineligible for membership" in USA Diving in February 2015. During those six months, the plaintiff continued to suffer abuse at the hands of Bohonyi.
But in reality, the lawsuit claims, USA Diving has never actually cut ties with Bohonyi. Even though Bohonyi was "banned" from USA Diving membership, USA Diving continues to work with a company, Nayked Apparel, that features Bohonyi as a prominent employee, attorneys write in the class action complaint.
Unfortunately, the list of banned coaches is not prominently publicized, so few parents or young athletes have any idea of the names on it.
How was this allowed to happen? How could a USA Diving-affiliated coach systematically abuse two young female athletes for years under the ostensible watch of multiple institutions sworn, by law and common morality, to protect them?
It happened, the class action's lead plaintiff says, because no one really cared. Holding dangerous pedophiles accountable would have threatened Olympic organizations; it would have marred their prestigious place in American life, the plaintiff suggests. No one could let that happen. So reports of sexual abuse were ignored, she says. Sexual predators were allowed access to young children. Lives were ruined.
Now, young women across the country are beginning to fight back. In civil lawsuits filed by the hundreds, thousands of female athletes are standing up to the US Olympic Committee, its national governing bodies and the universities affiliated with them.
Were you or a loved one sexually abused while participating in an Olympic-level diving program at Ohio State University? Our experienced personal injury lawyers are here to help. Like so many other women, you may be eligible to file a civil lawsuit, pursuing financial compensation and accountability. Our dedicated legal team has opened a full investigation into this growing crisis. To learn more, contact us today for a free consultation.