“Because I can.”
When one of Rick Butler’s young victims first asked why he was assaulting her, that was his answer, according to a new bombshell class-action lawsuit filed against the coach.
Butler was for years considered “most powerful coach in youth volleyball,” according to the 72-page complaint, which alleges that he used his position to rape at least six underage girls “hundreds” of times.
Butler, who had “the ability to place the teenage girls he coaches at top college volleyball programs,” even impregnated one of his alleged victims, the complaint claims.
“The victims were each at the top of their game; rising stars in need of a coach to propel them to the next level and help get them a scholarship to an elite college,” claims the lawsuit, which was first reported Tuesday by The Chicago Sun-Times. The complaint additionally notes that Butler used that “leverage” over the girls and their parents to manipulate them.
The suit identifies several accusers, including Julie Romias, Sarah Powers-Barnhard, Christine Tuzi, and Beth Rose. All of those allegations were first reported by the Sun-Times.
According to Powers-Barnhard, Butler began inappropriately touching her when she was just 16 years old, on a team trip to Syracuse, New York. He allegedly told her that she needed to “follow me blindly,” kissed her, and fondled her on that same trip.
Days later, he raped her for the first time, according to the complaint.
“She lay motionless in a terrified state. It was painful and resulted in her bleeding,” the lawsuit states. “After, Butler was very angry that she had not enjoyed it.”
Over the following years, Butler allegedly raped her and abused her countless times, all while punishing her on the court and during practice. When he allegedly began raping her teammate, Beth Rose, the lawsuit claims he bragged about how much Powers-Barnhard enjoyed the assaults.
After allegedly raping Christine Tuzi “hundreds” of times, she became pregnant, the lawsuit claims. Butler allegedly drove her to an abortion clinic. After the procedure, he forced her to masturbate him, according to the harrowing complaint.
The coach’s wife, Cheryl Butler, stands accused of helping her husband hide the alleged rampant abuse by threatening the victims into silence over a span of three decades. Their Chicago-area club, Sports Performance Volleyball Club, is also named as a defendant in the suit.
“They have persistently intimidated and attempted to discredit the few of his victims brave enough to come forward by exerting emotional and psychological control over them,” the plaintiffs claim.
Laura Mullen’s daughter was coached by Butler but is not specified as a victim of sexual abuse by Butler. The family paid “substantial” fees for Butler’s coaching over the years but was not aware of the allegations against Butler until June 2017. Mullen seeks monetary compensation, injunctive relief, and attorneys fees.
USA Volleyball first banned Butler from coaching girls in 1995 following an initial investigation, but that ban was partially lifted in 2000. It was reinstated in January of this year.
Butler is now also banned by Amateur Athletic Union and Junior Volleyball Association.
Many of the organizations were initially vague about their bans, but USA Volleyball reportedly later clarified that it “received allegations of sexual misconduct and abusive coaching practices against Mr. Butler,” which caused it to “to bring a disciplinary action” against the formerly renowned coach, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Butler has not been charged with any crimes, and his accusers told the Sun-Times that the relevant statutes of limitations have expired.