INDIANAPOLIS (CN) – A former member of the Ohio State University Diving Club claims in a class action that a former coach used his position to sexually abuse her and says neither the college nor USA Diving did enough to protect female athletes from such abuse.
The plaintiff, an Ohio resident, filed the class-action lawsuit against USA Diving Inc., the Ohio State University Diving Club, and Will Bohonyi on Wednesday in federal court in Indianapolis, where USA Diving is headquartered.
She alleges that she was an aspiring diver and Olympic hopeful and part of the OSU Diving Club when Bohonyi, a coach for the USA Diving-certified club, sexually assaulted and exploited her. She also claims that the university and USA Diving’s response to the coach’s alleged conduct was tepid and ineffective.
Bohonyi did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment.
OSU spokesman Ben Johnson said that the college does not “not tolerate sexual misconduct of any kind” and had placed Bohonyi on administrative leave and begun an investigation as soon as it learned of the allegations in 2014. The school notified Franklin County Children Services, the Ohio State University Police Division, or OSUPD, and USA Diving. OSUPD closed the investigation at the request of the complainant in August 2014, Johnson added in an email.
“The university’s administrative investigation continued and resulted in Mr. Bohonyi’s termination on Aug. 29, 2014. The results of the administrative investigation were reported to USA Diving in 2014,” Johnson wrote. “The OSUPD investigation was re-opened on Jan. 30, 2018 after the university was contacted by the former dive club member. The investigation is pending and OSUPD is working with the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office.”
The Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office said that its special victims unit is currently reviewing OSUPD’s file but that an investigation is not currently pending.
USA Diving spokeswoman Cait Cohn did not comment on the specifics of the lawsuit but wrote in an email, “Providing a safe environment for our members is of tremendous importance to USA Diving, and we take these matters very seriously.”
According to the complaint, the plaintiff was 16 when Bohonyi told her to send him naked pictures of herself. Then, in July 2014, she claims the coach forced her to perform oral sex on him on the OSU campus. During a trip to Bethesda, Maryland later that month, Bohonyi allegedly forced her to have sex with him.
Filed by attorneys Jessica Wegg and Jonathan Little with Saeed and Little, the complaint alleges forced labor, sex trafficking of children, and sexual exploitation. The plaintiff claims she was 16 and 17 when the alleged conduct occurred, between July 2014 and August 2015.
When the plaintiff’s teammate reported Bohonyi, according to the lawsuit, OSU administrators sent her home from a meet in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The university later fired him and the plaintiff won a protective order, the complaint states, but she alleges that after his firing, he made her “engage in deviant sexual acts” and coached her on what to say to OSU investigators.
She claims USA Diving at first refused to investigate the coach but later reversed its decision when another Indiana-based diver came forward with similar allegations. She also claims that she handed over hundreds of explicit images that Bohonyi allegedly instructed her to take of herself, but that OSU failed to turn them over to law enforcement.
“Despite placing Bohonyi on its banned list in 2015, USA Diving has continued to provide Bohonyi access to underage female victims by doing nothing to stop him from continuing to act as a coach of diving,” the lawsuit states.
The complaint says USA Diving also continues to do business with Nayked Apparel, a company that Bohonyi works for.
“Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and the class, declare that enough is enough, that no other female athletes should have to endure the ‘disgusting and unnecessary’ exploitation, abuse, and forced labor they have experienced at the hands of the USA Diving rapists who stood at the apex—and served as the gatekeepers – of their competitive diving dreams,” the lawsuit states.
The woman notes that other divers harassed her after she made her claims and that her coaches move her to lower level diving team in retaliation.
Even after her father obtained a protective order against Bohonyi in October 2015, neither USA Diving nor OSU officials reported the coach to police, according to the complaint.
“Rather than upholding the values and spirit of Team USA, these bad actors manipulated the trust placed in them, abused the power and legitimacy bestowed upon them, shattered the innocence and dreams of numerous female athletes, and violated multiple federal and state laws in the process,” the lawsuit states.