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Former female San Jose State athletes seeking damages after sexual abuse allegations against trainer

Ryan Young
·3 min read
San Jose State football field logo
A former athlete said ex-trainer Scott Shaw massaged her breasts under the guise of "pressure point therapy" and another said he repeatedly touched her buttocks. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

A group of 10 former female athletes at San Jose State filed a tort claim against the university and the California State University System this week alleging that university employees knew a longtime athletic trainer was sexually abusing them, according to USA Today.

California law requires tort claims be filed before a lawsuit, which gives a public agency 45 days to review the claims and potentially settle ahead of time. They are seeking in excess of $10,000 in damages.

SJSU athletes accuse former trainer of sexual abuse

The 10 women, who were not named, alleged that former sports medicine director Scott Shaw subjected them to sexual abuse, harassment and discrimination, per the report. They also allege that CSU was “deliberately indifferent” to the risk of sexual abuse. Their claims were backed up in a Title IX investigation last week.

A former athlete said Shaw massaged her breasts in 2017 under the guise of “pressure point therapy,” and another said he placed his hands on her buttocks multiple times. His conduct was investigated in 2009-10, when 17 swimming and diving athletes initially made allegations against him — though new athletes say his abuse continued as late as last spring after he was initially cleared of any wrongdoing.

Shaw had been the director of sports medicine at San Jose State since 2008, though he resigned in August. An expert witness in theTitle IX investigation, per USA Today, determined that Shaw’s treatments were “improper,” “questionable in the most conservative manner” and that he couldn’t “explain, justify, properly document” or obtain informed consent for his treatments.

“There is no reasonable evidence or explanation for the actions of the athletic trainer described in this report,” physician and U.S. Council for Athlete’s Health president James Borchers wrote in the Title IX report, via USA Today. “The treatments, behavior of the athletic trainer and consistent pattern associated with both as described by the student-athletes are at the very least unethical and disturbing.”

San Jose State started reinvestigating the initial claims against Shaw in 2019. Both the FBI and the Department of Justice have launched investigations, too.

The former athletes say that San Jose State and the university system either knew of Shaw’s abuse, or should have known of his abuse, but did nothing to stop it.

“The outcome of San Jose State University’s Title IX investigation is an important first step towards justice for our clients,” an attorney for the women said in a statement, via USA Today.

"These young women trusted SJSU to protect them and act in their best interests. The findings of the investigation demonstrate the opposite. SJSU had a known systemic problem regarding sexual assault of athletes and students by its employees, including Scott Shaw.”

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