Two women's cross country runners from Huntington University have filed lawsuits claiming systemic abuses
*Content warning: This story discusses sexual assault. Please take care and keep scrolling if you need.
The GIST: Two former Huntington University women’s cross country runners have filed a federal lawsuit against current and former coaches, school officials and the institution (a private Christian school near Fort Wayne, IN), claiming systemic abuses that center around sexual assault and doping. When will it end?
The details: According to both the civil court filings and an investigation by the Indianapolis Star, former coach Nicholas Johnson manipulated and abused multiple runners physically, sexually and emotionally. He also forcibly injected them with unknown performance-enhancing substances, calling it an “experiment.”
- Johnson was fired in 2020 after being arrested on four felony charges involving crimes against a high school girl. He pleaded guilty to a single charge and served 30 days before allegedly continuing to “provide workouts” to Huntington runners outside of school.
- Following his firing, the school replaced him with current head coach Lauren Johnson — Nicholas’s wife (!!!) — who, along with current assistant coach Curtis Hines, have been implicated as negligent parties in the lawsuit. Can’t make this sh!t up.
The context: While many institutions, both religious and secular, become tight-lipped in the face of abuse allegations, many religiously affiliated colleges have documented patterns of problems with sexual abuse and a gross lack of support for survivors, who must contend with morality clauses in codes of conduct along with pressures to forgive rather than press charges.
- As for Lauren Johnson’s time as head coach, it’s giving big Washington Commanders vibes: After being forced from the NFL team’s operations due to sexual harassment allegations, team owner Dan Snyder appointed his wife, Tanya, as co-CEO.
What’s next: As of late last week, Lauren Johnson and Hines have both been placed on leave by the university. But as the claims move through the legal system, we can’t help but wonder why a school would knowingly allow a criminal to maintain any relationship with the institution, even indirectly. That stench? The rot of negligence.