World Champion Cheerleading Stars Hannah and Jessica Gerlacher Sue Over Sexual Abuse
Household names in the cheerleading world describe molestation enabled by U.S. All-Star Cheer Federation and CheerAthletics
DALLAS, July 19 – On the heels of a sexual abuse tragedy involving Netflix Cheer star Jerry Harris, Texas cheerleading gym Cheer Athletics now stands accused of enabling a second sexual abuser within its ranks: Coach Jason McCartney.
Twin cheerleading stars Hannah and Jessica Gerlacher, admired throughout the cheerleading world and followed by more than 65,000 fans on social media have come forward to describe years of sexual abuse and harassment at the hands of their once-trusted coach at what was formerly an admired, top-tier cheer facility.
McCartney began sexually abusing the sisters when they were 15 years old. Their lawsuit, filed by national sexual assault and victim’s rights attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel and co-counsel Andrew Dao, details how for years, Hannah and Jessica felt shame about what had happened to them as young teens, at the hands of an adult whom they were expected to trust.
McCartney’s lewd behavior included frequently using the pretense of “spotting” the twins as an excuse to touch their breasts, crotches, and buttocks, and push his erection against them. McCartney also instructed Hannah to sit on his lap, where he would fondle and touch her genitals. Because the girls were so young and saw McCartney as an authority figure, Hannah and Jessica’s lawsuit describes how for remained for a long time uncertain and fearful about reporting McCartney’s sexual contact with them.
Cheer Athletics and its owners have a history of supporting child sexual predators on their staff. One of the best known, Jerry Harris— a star on the acclaimed Netflix show Cheer—is currently facing federal charges of child pornography and child sexual exploitation of numerous minors across three states. But even after learning of the allegations, Cheer Athletics and its owners continued to post supportive comments regarding Harris.
An inclination to support predators at the expense of athletes goes across the entire sport: a USA Today investigation found approximately 180 cases in which USASF failed to act on both allegations and confirmed cases of child sexual abuse, allowing coaches to remain in their jobs, in contact with minors.
“This entrenched pattern of brushing sexual abuse aside in the cheerleading world is sadly similar to what I witnessed in the gymnastics world when I represented survivors of Larry Nassar, and it must stop,” said attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel. “USASF clearly has no sense of shame or decency when it comes to protecting these young athletes, so if they won’t hold coaches and staff responsible for sexual abuse, we have no choice but to hold them responsible in the civil justice system.”
In a joint statement, Hannah and Jessica Gerlacher said, “We love the sport of cheerleading. Now that we are role models in the sport and coaching young athletes ourselves, we want better for the children in the sport moving forward. The silence surrounding abusive coaches, and the failures of gyms like Cheer Athletics and USASF to protect minor athletes has to stop. We have gained strength from watching women in gymnastics speak out about abuse, and we are here to stop a similar culture in the sport of cheerleading. What they did to us, how he touched us, how we were treated is not okay. We wanted to feel nothing but love for our sport, but now it’s combined with a feeling of disgust, not only at how Coach McCartney used us, but also about how all the other adults let it happen, in a place where we were supposed to feel safe.”
“McCartney abused and harassed our clients as minor athletes, and USASF and Cheer Athletics negligently failed to supervise and train its coaches, and failed to protect athletes in their care. We sadly expect there are other victims both of this perpetrator and in the sport of cheer, and we would encourage them to report abuse so the adults and abusers are held responsible,” said attorney Andrew Dao, co-counsel representing the Gerlacher twins.
Attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel has recovered millions of dollars for and represented sexual abuse and assault survivors in high-profile cases such as the Larry Nassar litigation against The U.S. Olympic Committee, Michigan State University, and USA Gymnastics; sexual assault survivors at the University of Southern California; female students in Title IX lawsuits around the country; and clergy abuse survivors nationwide. Michelle is a nationally known advocate and voice for women and survivors of abuse and assault.
Attorney Andrew Dao is a Shareholder at Daly & Black. A graduate of the University of Houston Law Center with considerable litigation and appellate experience, Andrew
has represented thousands of clients across a wide array of civil matters, including sexual assault, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, maritime, products liability, and commercial litigation disputes. Andrew has argued in front of, and prevailed at, the Supreme Court of Texas.
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