Call for Witnesses: Survivors of Blackhills Football Club Sexual Abuse
PCVA has gathered evidence that multiple coaches at Olympia-based Blackhills Football Club, sometimes referred to as Blackhills Soccer Club, were sexually abusing and harassing players between the late 1990s and 2019. PCVA attorneys have successfully represented multiple Blackhills players who survived the sexual abuse and came forward, shedding light on the horrible actions of wrongdoers and achieving multimillion-dollar settlements on their behalf. PCVA believes there are more survivors associated with Blackhills Football Club.
Who has come forward and filed a lawsuit against Blackhills Football Club?
In one of the largest child sexual abuse settlements ever reached in the state of Washington, attorneys Darrell Cochran, Kevin Hastings and Andrew Ulmer reached a $7.5 million settlement for their client Courtney Butler, who accused her Blackhills Football Club soccer coach, David Davis, of forcibly raping her in 2005 while at a tournament in Medford, Oregon. James Charette, who was the club’s technical director, is also named in Butler’s lawsuit against Davis.
Another Blackhills coach (and co-founder) Dennis Jones used his position of authority and trust to groom and sexually assault then 15-year-old Abby Rice. Jones’s grooming of Rice began when she was 15, but he waited until she turned 16 before initiating sexual contact with her; the abuse, which continued for years, still haunts her. That case is ongoing. In another matter, Jones was convicted of fourth-degree assault for sexually assaulting a player in a van in 2002 for which he served time in jail.
Multiple lawsuits have accused Blackhills Football Club coach David Cross of sexual assault. In 2018, Brittany Wentz came forward and accused Cross of sexually grooming her when she was 13, and by the time she was 17, the relationship became sexual. Brittany thought she would go to jail if she told anyone. Blackhills agreed to a $1.5 million settlement in Brittany’s case. Kelsea Huston, who also filed a claim against Cross in 2018 for sexual grooming and assault, received a $2.2 million settlement. And in the case of Stephanie Cleaves – resulting in a $1.5 million settlement with Blackhills Football Club – Cross was accused of touching the then 16-year-old on her inner thigh while seated next to him on a flight to a soccer tournament. Because Stephanie rebuffed his advances, he viciously retaliated against her, ultimately resulting in Stephanie being prohibited from playing for any team during her junior year of high school.
Given nearly 20 years of sexually abusive behavior by coaches at Blackhills, the “good ol’ boy” culture of disrespect for the club’s young female players, and the club’s willingness to overlook and deny what was generally known internally to be occurring at Blackhills, it’s difficult to imagine that these women are the only ones with stories to tell.
Why was this sexual assault able to happen?
According to the PCVA attorneys who have been representing the abused, a number of factors were at play. Blackhills Football Club failed to educate coaches and members or staff about the grooming behaviors of pedophiles, had a culture that tolerated verbal and emotional abuse by male coaches, failed to adopt basic safety standards, and failed to enforce boundaries or even investigate when they had direct knowledge of what was happening. “Founding members of this organization sexually abused players over years, leaving a long list of victims who, to this very day, silently suffer the abuse, the shame, the guilt of it all, hoping the effects will just go away,” said PCVA’s Darrell Cochran.
At away games and tournaments, Blackhills discouraged parents from staying at the hotels, claiming that the coaches were teaching the girls how to behave in a “college environment.” These abusers used “textbook” grooming techniques to gain the young players’ trust, such as showering them with increasing personal attention and praise until they felt comfortable being with their coach in private. In the case of Courtney Butler mentioned above, Davis is accused of luring her into a hotel room claiming he needed to have a captain’s meeting. He then sadistically raped her and left her in the hallway of the hotel.
How common is sexual abuse in youth sporting organizations?
Unfortunately, the abuse that took place within Blackhills is not an isolated incident. Youth sports leagues attract sexual predators, who exploit their positions of authority to gain access to minors.
“Every parent who has a child in a club sport really needs to study the lessons of this case. Predators continue showing up in these clubs – whether it’s soccer, gymnastics, wrestling, swimming – and take advantage of parents and their children who have hope for sport scholarships if their child just pleases the coaches with their performance,” says Darrell Cochran. “When a club fails to use sensible hiring, screening and supervisory processes, these sexual abusers have an easy time isolating and assaulting children with ruthless and terrifying efficiency.”
Why don’t victims always come forward right away?
Courtney Butler told KIRO News, “I wish when I was younger I would’ve done something about it, but I didn’t believe in myself. I believed my perpetrator. And what I really want people to know, girls to know and guys too, I just want them to understand that there is no shame in this.” Darrell Cochran adds that Courtney and her parents “are heroes for having the courage to step forward and take on this establishment when instead of standing by these sexually abused players, the Blackhills Football Club turned on them, denying that anything had happened and destroying documents to hide evidence that would help prove what had happened.”
Should I file a sex abuse lawsuit?
The decision to file a civil lawsuit over damages caused by sexual abuse is a personal one. Factors you should balance are the benefits of exposing the wrongs of your perpetrator and possibly receiving compensation for your pain versus the requirement to provide information about the trauma you experienced and other aspects of your personal life.
PCVA’s sexual abuse attorneys are trained in trauma-informed counsel. This means that to prevent re-traumatization, we have undergone professional training on how to work with individuals who have been subjected to trauma. When you work with us, know that you are working with an advocate who represents you with the utmost empathy and care.
I suffered abuse at the Blackhills Football Club. However, it was long ago, and I was a child. Can I still sue?
Most likely. In Washington State, a special statute of limitations allows many victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits for the abuse they suffered many years later, even as adults. That law recognizes that survivors of childhood sexual abuse may not realize or appreciate how the sexual abuse harmed them until much later in life. If you were sexually abused, please contact us so that we can confidentially explain your legal options.
Can I come forward or sue anonymously if I’m worried about my privacy?
Most likely. The law usually allows attorneys to file lawsuits on behalf of survivors of sexual abuse using a pseudonym, like “John Doe” or “Jane Doe,” or our client’s initials. Moreover, it may be possible to resolve your case privately without filing a lawsuit or going to court.
How PCVA Can Help
Our nationally recognized attorneys have represented thousands of sexual abuse survivors, helping them achieve justice by holding the institutions that failed to protect them accountable and recovering hundreds of millions of dollars in damages on their behalf. Our attorneys have been involved in some of the most complicated and concerning sexual abuse cases in the country and are often consulted by other law firms for guidance and expertise when representing sexual abuse survivors.
If you or a loved one has experienced sexual abuse or assault, our attorneys are here to listen and help. Schedule a no obligation consultation with one of our lawyers by completing our online form or by calling us at (253) 948-3199 or (206) 536-2850.
How much do you charge?
Our work is done on a contingency basis. This means that you do not pay us on an hourly basis, and we advance the costs of litigation. If we help you resolve your case, we receive a percentage of the amount you receive, and you reimburse us for the costs we advanced on your behalf.
Media coverage about sexual abuse within Blackhills Football Club
- The Associated Press, Woman who says coach raped her at age 16 will get $7.5M
- The Olympian, Blackhills soccer club settles fourth sexual abuse lawsuit for $7.5 million
- KIRO, $7.5 million settlement reached in sexual abuse case against South Sound soccer club
- VICE, Multiple Women Say They Were Sexually Abused by Soccer Coaches at One Club
- Seattle Times, Woman who says coach raped her when she was 16 will get $7.5M from Olympia soccer club