A Jacksonville woman is part of a class-action lawsuit filed against one of the most influential youth volleyball coaches in the country. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Illinois.
Rick Butler is being sued after recently being banned from USA Volleyball and the AAU following allegations by several women who claim he sexually abused them when they were minors. Sarah Powers-Barnhard of Jacksonville is among his accusers.
"Twenty-two years ago when we came out, we were very cautious to share who we were because we were afraid," Powers-Barnhard said. "So for 22 years our story wasn't really told. He's had 22 years to cultivate and communicate his version of the story. It makes sense to me as it alleges people did not know the truth, and I agree because our story was not out there because we were being protected."
The class-action complaint was filled by Laura Mullen, the mother of a former player at Butler's Sports Performance Volleyball Club in Illinois.
The lawsuit alleges, "Had she and members of the punitive Class known that a child sexual predator would coach their teenage daughters, they never would have given money to Defendants and never would have sent their girls to Sports Performance."
Butler's wife, Cheryl Butler, is also named as a defendant, along with his company that owns Sports Performance Volleyball.
The suit said "Butler has sexually abused, as well as physically and emotionally abused, no fewer than six - and on information believe, numerous more - underage girls in his care."
According to the complaint, they "actively concealed his abuses for years by pressuring his victims - often by threatening to end their futures in the game - to remain silent."
"He has a good program. He's a good volleyball coach, and people gravitated towards that," said Powers-Barnhard. "I did not realize what his past was and we weren't out there to continually tell it. Now people are learning the truth and that's what this complaint alleges that they did not know the truth."
We reached out to Butler's attorney for a comment but have not gotten a response. Butler has previously denied all accusations against him and says he has never sexually abused anyone.
You can read the full text of the lawsuit here.