Olympic skater Ashley Wagner says she was sexually assaulted by pairs skater John Coughlin following a party at a national team figure skating camp in 2008.
In an interview with USA Today, Wagner said Coughlin, who committed suicide earlier this year, got into her bed as she slept and began kissing and groping her. She had just turned 17 when the assault occurred.
“I was absolutely paralyzed in fear,” said Wagner, who retired from competitive skating earlier this year following a long career that included a bronze medal win at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Wagner said the #MeToo movement, in addition to the suspension Coughlin received from the U.S. Center for SafeSport, prompted her to inform U.S. Figure Skating in February what had happened.
“Hearing other women come forward with their stories, it kind of made me reflect on this experience in a completely different manner,” Wagner said. “I had always felt violated but something within that movement really showed me that I was violated and I did have my safety and comfort taken away from me that night.”
Wagner, 28, elaborated on her comments to USA Today in a message posted to her Instagram account Thursday:
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Believe women. In 2008 I was sexually assaulted. I didn’t understand what happened to me or what it really meant. I feel so strongly that people need to talk more about these experiences, that they need to have a bright light turned on the dark corners where they thrive. This happens all too often to both men and women, and we need to do better for our next generation. Talk about this, make this feel real so that we can help out those who need it! Read more about my story in the link in my bio 💕
Coughlin, a two-time U.S. pairs champion, was found dead in his father’s Kansas City, Mo., home on Jan. 18 after committing suicide at age 33. His death came one day after he received a suspension from SafeSport. According to USA Today, SafeSport had been investigating three sexual assault allegations against Coughlin prior to his death.
Wagner is the second high-profile figure skater to accuse Coughlin of sexual assault. Bridget Namiotka posted on Facebook in May that Coughlin sexually abused her for two years.
“I’m known to speak my mind,” she said. “I’m a strong woman. I’m an opinionated woman. I think it’s important for people to see that things like this can happen to anybody. I’m tough as nails but something this horrifying still happened to me. It’s not enough for me to be a strong woman to make things like this not happen.
“If I’m going to be putting a problem out there into the universe, I want to be able to put a problem out there but also do something about it.”