Over the past several years widespread allegations of sexual abuse in numerous Olympic sports organizations have come to light, including allegations that officials governing the USA Swimming organization knew about instances of sexual assault involving coaches and a minor and covered it up.
In a lawsuit filed in the Superior Court in Orange County in 2018, Olympic Swimmer Ariana Kukors Smith alleged that the governing body of the USA Swimming organization knew that her former coach, Sean Hutchinson, had groomed her for sexual abuse and sexually abused her as a minor. She further alleges that the officials on the governing body covered up the abuse.
Smith stated that Hutchinson began to groom her at age 13.
According to Dr. Elizabeth Jeglic, a professor of psychology and a sexual violence prevention researcher, sexual grooming refers to behaviors that a sexual predator employs to make a child more comfortable and to establish an emotional connection in order to establish trust. This could include special attention, giving gifts, sharing “secrets”, and even providing a minor with alcohol or drugs. Often, it also involves lots of touching to desensitize a child to touch.
After grooming her for several years, Smith claims that Hutchinson then began to kiss and intimately touch her at age 16 and began to have sex with her at age 17. She said that officials were informed of the relationship in 2005 when she was 16 and were also told that Hutchinson had sexual relationships with other minors. Yet they did nothing, allowing the abuse to go on for over a decade.
To make matters worse, she has also alleged that the governing officials manipulated a background check system in order to protect coaches that had been accused of sexual abuse.
At this time her lawsuit is still pending.
On October 5th, 2018, Hutchinson was added to the US Center for SafeSport’s list of individuals who have been permanently banned from Olympic Sports. The stated reason was for “the violation of sexual misconduct – involving a minor”.
USA Swimming has a list of all banned individuals, many of whom have been banned because of sexual misconduct. This list currently contains about 150 names, but many USA Swimming members believe it should be much longer and that sexual misconduct, sexual abuse, and rape run rampant in the sport.
Today, the US Justice Department is just one government entity that has begun to investigate the alleged sexual abuse and coverup. This may result in criminal charges and while it is always good to see those who have committed horrible crimes punished, these criminal charges won’t provide victims with any sort of compensation for the pain and suffering they have endured.
However, successful outcomes from US Swimming sexual abuse lawsuits can provide plaintiffs with full compensation for losses such as emotional trauma, physical pain, medical bills, and even lost earnings.
Sexual abuse and rape are some of the most heinous crimes that can be committed and those who have survived will struggle with the impact these acts have had on them for the rest of their lives.
Typically, these survivors have the right to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser and against anyone whose negligence allowed the abuse to occur. These lawsuits are completely separate from criminal charges and are used to send a message, that abuse and negligence will not be tolerated.
Many survivors are afraid to come forward because they don’t want to see their name in a newspaper or online article, highlighting their trauma for all the world to see. At Abuse Guardian, our lawyers want survivors to know that lawsuits can be filed anonymously and that their identity can be protected.
It’s likely that as more details emerge throughout the investigation that other survivors will choose to file a lawsuit and that the litigation will continue to grow.
If you or a loved one were abused while participating in USA Swimming or any other Olympic-affiliated sport, our experienced sexual assault lawyers want you to know that they believe you, they support you, and they will fight for justice on your behalf. You deserve to be heard and our legal team will stand by your side as you seek justice.
Learn more about our legal team and your legal rights through a free consultation. Contact us today.