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USA Diving Faces Sexual Assault Class Action Lawsuit From Divers

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According to allegations raised in a class action lawsuit filed against USA Diving and other defendants, at least 50 divers indicate they were sexually assaulted and molested, or worked under forced labor conditions, as hopeful Olympic divers working with Team USA. 

The complaint (PDF) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on July 11, on behalf of Eszter “Estee” Pryor and 49 other plaintiffs who are remaining anonymous. In addition to USA Diving, Inc., other defendants include the Ohio State University Diving Club and Will Bohonyi, a former diving coach and gynecologist.

According to allegations raised in the sexual assault class action, Bohonyi forced at least two female athletes to have sex with him, and send him naked pictures of themselves, including Pryor, who was a minor at the time.

“Estee’s relationship with her coach Bohonyi was friendly at first but it quickly became sexual,” the lawsuit states. “On July 4, 2014, Will told Estee to send him naked pictures of herself. Estee was 16 years old. She did as Will told her.”

The lawsuit notes that Bohonyi forced Estee to perform oral sex and engage in sexual intercourse with him on a number of occasions.

According to the complaint, when a diving partner, Rachel Rubadue, saw text messages from Bohonyi on Estee’s phone that raised alarms, she told Ohio State Diving club coach John Appleman in August 2014. However, the lawsuit claims Appleman did nothing, and no action was taken until 2015, when Bohonyi was placed on a banned list by USA Diving.

USA Diving continued to provide Bohonyi access to young girls, and failed to inform law enforcement of the incidents, the lawsuit notes.

In addition to the sexual abuse allegations, the lawsuit claims that USA Diving profited off the labor of its athletes in the form of both money and medals, despite laws to prevent it from working as a business for profit.

The claims are similar to those made by hundreds of women and girls molested by Larry Nassar, a former Michigan State University (MSU) gynecologist who worked with USA Gymnastics.

Many of the women, who call themselves the Sister Survivors, indicate that they told MSU staff, USA Gymnastics officials and others about Nassar’s behavior, but were discouraged from reporting the incidents. Some testimony even suggested that MSU officials told the survivors that they simply did not know the difference between sexual assault and a medical examination. However, after victims began to step forward publicly, the abuse finally got over-due attention and Nassar was arrested, tried, and found guilty on multiple charges.

Nassar will spend the rest of his life in jail, having received a federal sentence of 60 years on child pornography charges. He has also received two additional sentences; including one for 40 to 175 years, and another of 40 to 125 years from verdicts in two Michigan courts.

The lawsuit is also similar to sexual assault claims brought against former University of Southern California gynecologist George Tyndall, who allegedly sexually assaulted students for decades while the university ignored numerous complaints and warnings.

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