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Federal class-action lawsuit filed over volleyball coach’s sex abuse cover up

An Illinois volleyball coach, his wife and their volleyball program have been accused in a federal class-action lawsuit of deceiving parents and children into joining their program by covering up alleged sexual abuse by the coach against at least six underage girls. The lawsuit lays out decades of abuse, though the coach has never been charged.

According to The Beacon-News, the suit includes allegations of five women who claim they were sexually abused, assaulted, or raped by their volleyball coach, Rick Butler, in the 1980s while they were underage. Furthermore, the complaint states that the volleyball program and the Butlers pressured and threatened his accusers to remain silent and purposefully left out his history of sexual abuse while recruiting new players.

The lawsuit is led by Laura Mullen, a mother of a girl Butler coached in 2012.  She is suing him, his wife Cheryl Butler, Great Lakes Volleyball, Sports Performance Volleyball Club and the Great Lakes Center. The complaint states that Butler used his powerful position to sexually abuse underage girls. Mullen claims she never would have enrolled her children in the club had she been aware of the allegations against Butler.

The Great Lakes Center hosts Sports Performance Volleyball Club, a training program that trains volleyball teams for national competitions. Through the program, players have won national titles, Olympic medals, and gone on to win scholarships to play at Division I schools.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, accusations against Butler first surfaced in 1995. The lawsuit claims that at that time, Cheryl Butler threatened the victim to remain silent. Now, Cheryl Butler allegedly attacks individuals via Facebook if they accuse her husband.

USA Volleyball recently banned Butler for life, though it’s not the first time the organization has punished Butler. USA Volleyball also banned the coach in 1995 over sexual abuse allegations, but then partially lifted the ban in 2000. He has also been banned from the Amateur Athletic Union and the Junior Volleyball Association.

The New York Times reported that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigated the complaints against Butler in 1995 and found that “credible evidence supported an indicated report of abuse.” During that time, an administrative law judge concluded that Butler “had sexual relationships with at least three players.” Butler claimed that those relationships occurred with consent after the women turned 18.

The complaint seeks a jury trial, statutory penalties, attorney’s fees, and compensation for the fees paid to the Great Lakes Center. The suit seeks more than $5 million. The law firm representing this case has said it will donate any attorney’s fees to charity.

Rick Butler released a statement in the fall stating that he never sexually abused anyone.

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