Ex-dive club member abused by trainer sues Ohio State

A now-defunct former Ohio State Diving Club diver has sued the university for failing to properly address and prevent her sexual abuse by former assistant coach Will Bohonyi. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | photo editor

A now-defunct former Ohio State Diving Club diver has sued the university for failing to properly address and prevent her sexual abuse by former assistant coach Will Bohonyi — including several rapes she says occurred after he submitted photos and videos of the abuse to the University.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court for the Southern District of Ohio on January 18, claimed the State of Ohio failed to adequately investigate the complaints against Bohonyi and failed to turn over evidence. to law enforcement, including sexually explicit videos and photos that Bohonyi had taken and coerced the diver. take when she was a minor. A class action lawsuit against Ohio State, USA Diving and Bohonyi was originally filed in Indiana in July 2018, but Ohio State did not consent instead, forcing the former member of the dive club to open one in Ohio.

“Bohonyi psychologically constrained [the diver] to believe that she was coerced into providing sexual services in exchange for her continued involvement in diving,” the lawsuit said. “He fed off of her age, her vulnerability and her dreams of becoming an Olympian, and used the power structure and power imbalance (coach/athlete) to make her believe she had to sexually submit to him in exchange for his chance to represent Team USA.”

In an emailed statement, university spokesman Ben Johnson said the university reported the abuse to Franklin County Children’s Services and “all relevant information and evidence has been shared with appropriate law enforcement.”

“When Ohio State first received a report regarding a former assistant diving club coach, the university responded immediately and appropriately to remove the coach from campus and protect the safety of our community,” Johnson said.

The statement did not specifically address the allegation that the university possessed and failed to report child sexual abuse images.

Prior to its closure, the Ohio State Diving Club provided instruction and hosted a year-round competitive junior dive team for divers through high school. It was a program of the Recreational Sports Department of the Office of Student Life. The Buckeye Aquatic Academy, which housed both the Ohio State Diving Club and the Ohio State Swim Club, announced in January 2021 that both clubs would be disbanding, citing the pandemic.

Bohonyi did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the lawsuit and other court records, Bohonyi began abusing the diver in July 2014, when she was 16. He forced her to send sexually explicit photos of herself and to perform sexual acts on him, including in his car in the Neil Avenue parking lot on campus.

The lawsuit said that later that month, during a diving competition in Bethesda, Maryland, Bohonyi raped the diver for the first time. A former dive partner of the victim saw sexually explicit messages from Bohonyi on the victim’s phone.

At the junior nationals in Knoxville, Tennessee, in August 2014, several of the diver’s teammates learned of the abuse and reported it to head coach John Appleman, according to the lawsuit.

The diver was sent home soon after the competition because the assistant director of aquatic operations for recreational sports, Christine Thompson, said she “didn’t represent the club very well”, according to the lawsuit.

Thompson did not respond to a request for comment. She is currently the Assistant Director of Aquatic Sports and Director of Aquatic Events at the university.

Thompson’s profile page on the Ohio State Recreational Sports website had been live since Feb. 6, but was down the day after The Lantern contacted Thompson about an alleged phone call with the diver. The webpage was down at the time of publication.

Appleman was placed on administrative leave and temporarily suspended by USA Diving in July 2018 after the first lawsuit was filed, a month after he was announced as the next head coach of the University of Arizona dive team. The University of Arizona rescinded its offer.

USA Diving lifted Appleman’s suspension in August 2018. He could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit claimed that Appleman and Thompson reported Bohonyi after the diving team returned from national competition in early August. The university opened an internal investigation on Aug. 11, 2014, into what was described at the time as a “consensual/sexual relationship” between the underage diver and Bohonyi, according to a copy of the investigation report obtained by The Lantern.

The lawsuit claimed that after the investigation began, Bohonyi intimidated the diver into covering up the extent of the abuse. She said in an interview with investigators at the time that the relationship was consensual, according to the investigation report.

She also turned over her phone, which contained about 700 messages between Bohonyi and the diver, to university police. That’s when the university came into possession of explicit photos and videos of the diver and her abuse, according to the lawsuit. Sexually explicit images of anyone under the age of 18, whether consensual or not, are considered child sexual abuse images.

As a result of the investigation, the State of Ohio could not conclude if any specific sexual acts occurred between Bohonyi and the diver, but determined that they had a “consensual romantic relationship” which was “sexualized in nature”, according to the investigation report. The university fired Bohonyi in August 2014, but he privately coached several of the team’s divers. As he was still in close contact with the team after his dismissal, the lawsuit said he continued to abuse the diver until March 2015.

“The State of Ohio was notified of the sexual abuse in 2014, but allowed Bohonyi to continue spending time with OSU and its divers until his arrest in 2018,” attorney Michael said. Fradin. “This is another sad example of how Ohio State does not take the safety of its athletes seriously.”

Johnson said Bohonyi was banned from campus and reported the results of the investigation to USA Diving “immediately after the investigation was concluded.”

Bohonyi was permanently banned from USA Diving in February 2015.

Although he was banned from USA Diving, the lawsuit said that Bohonyi frequented diving competitions in which the diver participated, deeply affecting his diving career. She gave up her scholarship to Ohio State and couldn’t compete for her school because Bohonyi was attending diving events where she participated. According to the lawsuit, the diver was granted a protective order against Bohonyi in November 2015.

Bohonyi was charged with three counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual pimping of a minor in late 2018 after the criminal case was reopened at the diver’s request. In May 2019, he pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault. He was sentenced to four years in prison, but in August 2020 a judge reduced his sentence to six months in a community correctional facility for nonviolent offenders.

After seeking and being granted probation in March 2021, according to court records, Bohonyi faced possible probation revocation in October for violating the terms of his probation, including interacting with minors and reaching out to the victim as recently as May 2021.

A judge reinstated Bohonyi’s probation in November 2021, pending his “strict compliance” with its terms.

La Lanterne does not publish the names of victims of sexual violence without their permission.

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