Former players accuse Illinois volleyball coach of sex abuse | Chicago.SunTimes.com


Rick Butler is considered the best. For 36 years, he’s coached tens of thousands of girls at one of the nation’s premier youth volleyball clubs, Sports Performance, in Chicago’s west suburbs. He turns raw high school talent into athletes with Olympic potential, who often land big college scholarships. But at a price. “The mindset is complete control.” Sarah Powers-Barnhard is one of five women – including four he trained – who accuse Butler of having sex with them all while they were teenagers. Today four of the five are actively working to get him banned from coaching. “Adults can be really awful human beings because there’s a whole bunch of people that knew he was doing this.” Christine Tuzi trained with Butler in the 80s and claims to have been manipulated by a coach who promised to make her dreams come true “I could be the best setter in the state of Illinois. I will be recruited.” If she listened to everything he told her to do. “He sat me down and I told him all of my dreams. He said I could get it as long as I listened to him.” Powers-Barnhard told the Chicago Sun-Times a similar story. She had just turned 16 and was on a road trip with the team when she got in trouble. “He said come here and I went in the middle of gym and he’s holding a volleyball and he goes Jesus F—ing Christ and threw the ball as hard as he could against the wall and he goes ‘You’re going home on a bus’ and I was like I had no idea what I did, I had no idea. But all I thought is I better beg to stay.” What happened next between her and her coach is a secret she held for 35 years. “So I went upstairs scared to death and he’s sitting there and he said to me ‘You have to know what, you have to follow me blindly if you have goals and you want to be great. You’re not like everybody else, you need to understand, you need to be pushed harder than everybody else, you have to listen to me. You have to follow me blindly and you just have to do what I tell you to do.’ And of course, what am I going to say? Yes. I said okay and then he leaned over and kissed me. And I mean, I was 16. I was a dork. I mean, I was a virgin. I hadn’t had a boyfriend. I mean, I think he probably kissed my teeth because I was so not ready for it.” “I was this happy-go-lucky kid and just you know, loved to compete, loved just all of it, and then I wasn’t” Tuzi claims the sexual abuse began in high school and continued into college when she says she got pregnant by Butler and had an abortion. She still has the love letters she says Butler sent her during this time. “Sometimes I’m ok, sometimes I get very angry, and sometimes I just sink into a bad place.” These accusations are not new. Sexual misconduct allegations have dogged Butler since the mid 90s. What is new is that a fourth victim has come forward to tell her story. And newly uncovered public records indicate a fifth victim exists. Yet Butler has continued to coach, even though he admitted to having sex with three of his accusers but only after they turned 18, he says. “He didn’t admit it at first. He changed his story, then he admitted it.” “He says that our relationship started when we were all 18. Really?” “So is it okay for clergy to have sex with an 18-year-old? Is it okay for a teacher to have sex with an 18-year-old? Is it okay for a boss to have sex with a 20-year-old that they oversee? It’s not.” “It just doesn’t, how does that follow logic?” Butler declined our request for an interview but provided this statement through his attorney saying he has never sexually abused any individual. And says he’s passed five polygraph tests. Powers-Barnhard and Tuzi refuse to go away. The time has long passed to pursue criminal charges, so they are urging USA Volleyball and the Amateur Athletic Union – the AAU – to sever ties even though no player Butler has coached in the last 20 years has claimed sexual abuse. “I hate this phrase, ‘It was so long ago.’ Ok, never say that to a victim – Never, never, never That’s so belittling.” “Even if Rick gets in trouble finally and pays the price, I’m waking up tomorrow the same person. It’s not a relief. It doesn’t make it right. I’m still going to have my days where my husband can’t touch me because I feel dirty. None of that goes away. That stays. I’m fifty. I stand in front of a mirror sometimes
and I have to say ‘It’s not my fault’ I’m 50. That sucks. I’m Michael O’Brien with a Chicago Sun-Times investigation

6 thoughts on “Former players accuse Illinois volleyball coach of sex abuse | Chicago.SunTimes.com

  1. Happy at 12, i had the wisdom to not allow a 90 years old neighbor to touch me for money. Too late now ladies for you exchanged sex to be great.

  2. So you willingly gave up virtue and dignity for fame and fortune, not once, but years. Now decades later, decades, you come out for a cash grab. Blame yourself.

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