Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » Suburban volleyball coach’s accusers testify in Senate hearing
SUBSCRIBE to Capitol Fax      Advertise Here      Mobile Version     Exclusive Subscriber Content     Updated Posts    Contact
To subscribe to Capitol Fax, click here.
Suburban volleyball coach’s accusers testify in Senate hearing

Thursday, May 17, 2018

By Hannah Meisel

* Michael O’Brien and Jon Seidel from the Sun-Times have been following this story for months now, in November publishing an expose on former Olympic volleyball coach turned suburban club coach Rick Butler’s alleged sexual abuse of his female team members.

Since then, Butler has been class action suit from parents and past alleged victims.

* Earlier this week, two of Butler’s former players testified in front of a special Senate committee hearing on sexual harassment about the alleged sexual abuse and even rape they endured while being coached by Butler decades ago.

They asked lawmakers to consider extending the statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases, in situations when the accused abuser threatens to sue victims for defamation to try to keep them from coming forward.

* The Sun-Times’ report details how Butler and his wife, who run the Sports Performance Volleyball Club in Aurora, allegedly threatened the girls into silence.

Three women who in the 1990s accused a popular west suburban volleyball coach of sexual abuse have long said he was never prosecuted because they didn’t make their accusations until crucial legal deadlines had passed.

But Tuesday, one of them told state lawmakers Rick Butler could have faced criminal charges if another accuser, who remains anonymous to this day, had come forward at the same time. Instead, she was allegedly threatened into silence.

“She’s still ‘Jane Doe,’ as you can imagine,” Sarah Powers-Barnhard said during a hearing in Springfield. “And that came from being threatened.”

* WGN’s account of Sarah Powers Barnhard’s testimony

“He told me I had to follow him blindly. That if I wanted to reach my goals to play in college and the Olympics, I had to understand I was different from everybody else. I had to follow him blindly. I just listened and he just leaned over and kissed me. I hadn’t even kissed a boy at that point,” Powers Barnhard said.

She said kissing was just the beginning. And while she played for him, he sexually assaulted her hundreds of times.

“When we were in Germany as a team, we were on a train, and he grabbed me and took me into the bathroom and raped me there with my teammates close by,” she said.

“We were staying in tents and our host put is in a room. Rick slept on the floor next to me and he fondled me during the night with my teammates next to me. I could do nothing about it.”

* Tribune story

“I’m not here today because I want to relive all of the horrible things that Rick Butler did to me when I was a child entrusted to his care,” Julie Romias said in a hushed Capitol hearing room. “I’m here because I feel that I have to be because change needs to happen.”

So awful.

- Posted by Hannah Meisel        

  1. - JB Pritzker’s Quilted Vest - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 9:30 am:

    Youth sports in America: some coaches really care, some coaches you wouldn’t trust to watch your dog.

  2. - njt - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 9:42 am:

    FYI, the double quotes in the href on the hyperlinks is breaking the HTML for the linked articles.

  3. - OneMan - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 9:44 am:

    Ok, this is going to be a long one.

    My daughter played club volleyball in Aurora and the Aurora area for several years. The first club she played for was SportsPerformance, the next year she was not invited back (they start to limit the numbers) she was like second or third alternate or something and I think we later got a call that a slot had opened, but at that point, we had committed to a different club and once you committed you were financially locked in. This would have been in middle school.

    Shortly after at a thing for a different child and a different sport I was speaking to another family and found out about what Butler had been accused of, the ESPN Magazine story would have come out by then. This family for a variety of reasons and told me about how the program responded to their departure. “Your kid will never play varsity volleyball” and some other volleyball-related things along those same lines.

    At that point, we had decided my daughter would not try out again at Sports Performance, which was fine, she was a good player but not that good and they required a significant financial and time commitment.

    However, it is hard to understand the influence Rick had (and I suspect still has) unless you were involved in youth volleyball. His facility hosted events most weekends and may be one of the few purpose-built (we used to play in a lot of industrial parks) volleyball facilities in the country (they have even expanded it once). I knew of families who drove significant distances several days a week to take their daughters to that facility in Aurora. Sports Performance was at the top of the pyramid of volleyball.

    Relatively recently I was at an athletic thing and a parent mentioned something about their daughter playing for them and I have to admit I shot her a confused look because she said: “Well we talked with our daughter about it and she wanted to stay”. I have to admit I was disappointed but not surprised.

    I live kind of close to the facility and the place I get my oil changed is on the same side street. The parking lot is still full on weekends and people are parking on the street as people bring and watch their kids play at tournaments at the facility (it isn’t just kids in their program playing there, kids from all over the midwest play in tournaments there), buy stuff from the pro-shop and eat the concession stand food (when we were involved there you had to volunteer X hours at the concession stand).

    The fact people still patronize his facility is depressing.

  4. - VanillaMan - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 10:13 am:

    I am uncomfortable trying 25 year old cases of this kind because there isn’t a lot of concrete evidence beyond the two persons involved.

    There are statutes of limitations for practical reasons.

    I’d dread what my old relationships could do today if any of them felt that what we had was abusive or wrong.

  5. - Anon - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 10:19 am:

    I’m not going to comment on Mr. Butler or his past behavior because I’ve never met him and I don’t know the victims. If these things happened, then the system failed and modifications should be considered. I don’t know what happened in the past, but I can tell you what’s happening today.

    I have a lot of experience with club sports for my kids. Sports Peformance is the best club that I’ve ever been involved in. My daughter plays for Sports Performance today and she will stay there. There are hundreds of girls that are not only learning the game of volleyball, but about teamwork, responsibility, punctuality, humility, and many others. She also sees great women leaders and mentors that are coaches and managers and referees and players.

    If you want to go after Rick Butler, do your best. But, don’t ruin Sports Performance. It’s doing great things for young women and needs to stay. There are thousands of people that would speak to the merits of this club, if given the chance. The number of current members speaks to that.

  6. - Crispy - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 10:23 am:

    V-man: this isn’t about a bad breakup—it’s about abuse of kids by a powerful and threatening adult. Similar to the Larry Nassarr situation—it was all about power; “consent” wasn’t even in the ballpark. Those poor girls.

  7. - OneMan - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 10:26 am:

    So you feel the sanctions placed upon him by the various entities were inappropriate?

    Do you feel the pressure placed upon Sports Performance due to their relationship with his was inappropriate?

  8. - OneMan - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 10:32 am:

    Sorry the second question is.

    Do you feel the pressure placed upon Sports Performance due to their relationship with him was inappropriate?

  9. - VanillaMan - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 10:40 am:

    ==Similar to the Larry Nassarr==
    Perhaps, but perhaps not.
    We can”t know that.

    We could return to a time when only ladies coached ladies, and only men coached men. Our Victorian-Age ancestors would roll their eyes at us today, and ask how we forgot our common sense.

  10. - titan - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 10:53 am:

    +++ - VanillaMan - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 10:40 am: We could return to a time when only ladies coached ladies, and only men coached men. Our Victorian-Age ancestors would roll their eyes at us today, and ask how we forgot our common sense. +++

    That isn’t it. Several sports have had issues with same sex predatory behavior (hockey, basketball, volleyball, soccer all come to mind). The problem is a combination of predators gravitating to young sports and the wildly outsized “cults of personality” that programs allow to build up around successful coaches (at least that is my take on it as a parent involved with Junior A level hockey and elite level gymnastics).

  11. - Last Bull Moose - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 11:00 am:

    VanillaMan. Dennis Hastert was coaching boys. Same sex coaches will not prevent abuse.

  12. - VanillaMan - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 11:43 am:

    Did you have to bring that up?
    I was enjoying my Victorian-Age fantasy.

  13. - Mama - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 12:56 pm:

    Parents need to teach their children to speak up when they are being abused regardless of the outcome.

  14. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 1:07 pm:

    ===Parents need to teach their children to speak up when they are being abused regardless of the outcome.===

    Stop victim shaming.

    That’s what you’re doing.


    Don’t respond to me about what you think you meant.

    Just stop.

  15. - Mad Brown - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 1:17 pm:

    Unless anyone has actually experienced an assault of a sexual nature, please stop giving advice. Please stop pretending this is some girls’ who have sour grapes, or some relationship went south.

    For more than 30 years these women have carried the scars of this type of abuse/trauma.

    Agree with Willy — victim shaming is a bad, bad look.

  16. - Anon - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 1:47 pm:

    If some of you want to mince words, then let’s do that…alleged victims and alleged offender. No convictions.

  17. - BigDoggie - Thursday, May 17, 18 @ 2:27 pm:

    My question is, what is Butler’s current tie with Sports Performance. Is he still involved in the business (and still presumably profiting from it)? I ask because they are obviously still a prominent presence in the youth sports scene in the Aurora area. Also, a coworker that has a daughter that plays travel volleyball said that earlier this year Butler was still very much present at big AAU tournaments - he can’t coach but he was in the stands. If he’s done all the things he is accused of, it’s a wonder somebody has not confronted him at a match yet.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* How Jason Van Dyke's projected 96-year sentence wound up being 81 months
* Pritzker campaign official pushes back hard against latest lawsuit
* Reader comments closed for the holiday weekend
* Question of the day
* Pritzker orders "comprehensive review" of problems, opportunities at state veterans' homes
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - This just in...
* It's just a bill
* "Trooper's trooper" laid to rest
* RNUG: Vallas' plan "appears to make Chicago's pension problem manageable"
* Because... Chicago!
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Update to this morning's edition
* What's up with this lawsuit threat?
* It's Time To Put Our Progressive Values Into Action
* Money isn't yet flowing toward Burke's challengers
* Lock up your guns and vaccinate your kids!
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Yesterday's stories

Visit our advertisers...








Main Menu
Pundit rankings
Subscriber Content
Blagojevich Trial
Updated Posts

January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004

Blog*Spot Archives
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005


RSS Feed 2.0
Comments RSS 2.0

Hosted by MCS SUBSCRIBE to Capitol Fax Advertise Here Mobile Version Contact Rich Miller