In a video released by USA Today Sports on Thursday morning, U.S. Olympic figure skater Ashley Wagner, 28, detailed an allegation of sexual assault against pairs skater John Coughlin, who committed suicided earlier this year. Wagner claimed she was groped and kissed without her consent in June of 2008, when she was 17 years old and Coughlin was 22.
Coughlin hanged himself in January, about a month after the U.S. Center for SafeSport suspended him to investigate allegations of abuse. Bridget Namiotka, a former skating partner of Coughlin’s, claimed she was groomed and sexually abused by the Coughlin for two years, according to The New York Post.
Wagner said that she attended a party with friends at a skating camp in Colorado when the alleged abuse took place. She was unable to get a ride back to her hotel, so she stayed the night in a bed offered to her without hesitation because she “felt safe.” Then, according to Wagner, Coughlin crawled into her bed and assaulted her for five minutes before she told him to stop.
“It was the middle of the night when I felt him crawl into my bed,” she recalled. “I had been sleeping and I didn’t move because I didn’t understand what it meant. I thought he just wanted a place to sleep. But then he started kissing my neck. I pretended to be deep asleep, hoping he would stop. He didn’t. When his hands started to wander, when he started touching me, groping my body, I tried to shift around so that he would think I was waking up and would stop. He didn’t.”
“When he continued to wander over my body, I started to get scared because he was so much bigger than I was. I didn’t know if I could push him off of me. I just continued to lie there, pretending to be asleep, hoping that he would get bored and go somewhere else. He didn’t,” she continued.
“I then felt myself starting to cry and I knew I had to make a choice,” Wagner said. “I opened my eyes and I pulled away from him when he kissed my neck. I grabbed his invading hand and I told him to stop. And he did. He looked at me for a few seconds, quietly got up and left the room. All of this happened over a period of about five minutes.”
(Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin pose for photographers after winning the Championship Pairs competition during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the Greensboro Coliseum on January 29, 2011 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Wagner, in part, credited the #MeToo movement for her decision to come forward with the accusation.
“I didn’t know what would happen,” the female skater later said. “I was afraid that my federation would see me in a different light and this was right around the time that my career was just starting to take off so it was all really new and exciting and I didn’t want to jeopardize my position in this sport in any way.”