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.”