Three former track and field female athletes have filed a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA, the NCAA board of governors and longtime track coach John Rembao over alleged sexual harassment and sexual abuse.
According to Christine Brennan of USA Today, the three women who filed the complaint are former Arizona, Texas and Olympic high jumper Erin Aldrich, former Texas high jumper Jessica Johnson and former Texas runner Londa Bevins.
In the lawsuit, the women say Rembao sexually harassed and abused them on multiple occasions and accuse the NCAA of failing to protect them even though the schools were aware of allegations against Rembao.
Rembao has served as an assistant track and field coach at many high-profile colleges over the years, including Cal Poly, Arizona, Texas, SMU, Stanford and California.
In December, the U.S. Center for SafeSport suspended Rembao because of allegations of misconduct, but the nature of the alleged misconduct was not revealed at the time.
The 59-year-old Rembao is currently the assistant director of employer relations at the University of California Santa Cruz. He recently was the head track and field coach at Los Gatos High School in Northern California, but said he left that position due to "personal family reasons" and not because of the SafeSport suspension.
Rembao also denied the allegations, saying: "This is ridiculous. It never happened. This is completely false. This is just making me angry because this is all crap."
Aldrich discussed why she decided to come forward with her allegations now: "I stayed silent for over 20 years because the thought of coming forward was horrifying to me. But I decided that I couldn't stay silent any longer. If I did, so many more girls would continue to be abused. Every person I shared my story with, I became more and more liberated. I finally felt that I can make a difference."
Aldrich also alleged that Rembao preyed on her from a young age and digitally penetrated her during a flight to Sydney, Australia, in 1996 when she was 18:
"I was 17 years old but had the maturity level of a 13-year-old when it came to dating. That's how he preyed on me. He was grooming me by calling me beautiful and sexy. He had me in love with him even before he touched me.
"He told me that we were now members of the mile-high club. He said he was going to leave his wife for me. He had me convinced that I could never be an Olympic athlete without him being my coach."
Aldrich transferred from Arizona to Texas after Rembao switched schools, but she said the sexual harassment stopped and he began to harass Johnson.
Johnson offered her account of the alleged abuse:
"When I got to campus, it started immediately. He was constantly touching me. On a trip, he had me come into his hotel room and started putting his hands under my clothes. He showed up in my dorm room. It was traumatic, but I just closed my eyes. He was in control of my scholarship and my athletic career."
Johnson also alleged that Rembao once licked her neck in his office. She and her parents reported the incident to the University of Texas, but the school determined that while Rembao should be disciplined, he "did not violate the university's sexual misconduct and sexual harassment policies."
Bevins also described her allegations against Rembao, saying: "He would lock the door, pet my head, kiss my neck and threaten my scholarship. If he tells you to come to his office, you go. He's in charge of your scholarship."
While the statute of limitations for sexual abuse in Arizona and Texas has expired, the women are hopeful the court will apply "recognized exceptions."
Aldrich, Johnson and Bevins also said they hope that by coming forward with their allegations, others who endured similar experiences will also speak out.