I-Team 8

Expert: Former Huntington University athletes have to prove complaints in sex abuse case

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — In order for Huntington University to be held liable for violating Title IX and not protecting former track athletes Hannah Stoffel and Emma Wilson from the sexual and physical abuse of their coaches, the two women will need to have proof they, or someone on their behalf, had complained about the abuse to the University, according to a legal expert.

“You have to have evidence of a meeting and (be able to say), ‘I told you in a meeting, dated,’” explains Jennifer Drobac, a law professor at Indiana University. “A verbal complaint can be enough. But you have to be able to prove that you complained.” 

Drobac says that is the key but also can be the challenge for student-athletes who victims of sexual and physical assault.

According to the lawsuit, some of the sexual assault and injections of unknown drugs performed and given by Nick and Lauren Johnson to the former track athletes happened on campus.

“This was not happening in the dark. Nick’s behavior of performance enhancing drugs was entirely observable, and his history of performance enhancing drugs was known before he got to Huntington,” aid Jon Little, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “He rubbed unknown creams on these girls, digitally penetrated them during massages, sometimes in front of their teammates. He massaged their breasts in front of their boyfriends.”

The lawsuit details a history of performance enhancing drug use by Lauren Johnson and sexual assault and rape of a high school student by her husband, Nick.

“If (the school) did know and failed to properly safeguard the situation, then they may be liable under Title IX for keeping a known predator or a suspected predator hired by the school.” 

Drobac says only the school can be liable for violating Title IX, but the Johnsons could face charges of things like, emotional distress, assault and battery. She says cases like this put an unfair burdern of coming forward on victims.

“I don’t know of a woman who hasn’t been sexual harassed somewhere, at some point,” she said. “Over and over again, we see repeat offenders, whether it’s Larry Nasser or Harvey Weinstein, that’s what #MeToo is all about.”

Huntington University has said that it is “aware of the lawsuit … but couldn’t comment any further.”

Little says both Johnsons are still employed by the university. He says Nick Johnson currently mows the grass through his lawn service.