PLANO, Texas — A set of twins known in the world of cheerleading have come forward with a civil lawsuit and allegations that they were sexually abused by a coach.
Jason McCartney, as well as Cheer Athletics Inc., were both named in the suit, announced Monday. Cheer Athletics Inc., showcased in the Netflix series "Cheer," is headquartered in Plano.
Twin stars Hannah and Jessica Gerlacher described sexual abuse and harassment in the lawsuit, allegedly by their coach McCartney, who worked at the Frisco and Plano gym locations. WFAA is efforting a comment from both the coach and Cheer Athletics Inc., but have not received a response at the time of publishing.
McCartney allegedly started abusing the sisters when they were 15 years old, Gerlachers' lawyers said in a statement. After they became cheer coaches themselves, they realized the issues of what they went through with McCartney, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges sexual assault, negligence, negligent hiring, intentional infliction of emotional distress and gross negligence. It says the twins are now living with mental trauma that has led to frequent counseling sessions. The twins hope to hold McCartney accountable and protect athletes in the future, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit says that the twin sisters started with private lessons with McCartney because he assured them he could take them to the highest team level in cheer.
But, according to the suit, the abuse began in 2015 after Hannah suffered a head injury while training at Cheer Athletics. The lawsuit says this vulnerability and her young age “allowed McCartney to abuse her even more severely” than her twin sister Jessica.
McCartney’s "lewd behavior" included frequently using the pretense of “spotting” the twins as an excuse to touch their breasts, crotches and buttocks and push his erection against them, the lawsuit claims.
“Because the girls were so young and saw McCartney as an authority figure, Hannah and Jessica’s lawsuit describes how they remained for a long time uncertain and fearful about reporting McCartney’s sexual contact with them,” a statement from the twins' lawyers said.
For years, Hannah and Jessica "felt shame about what had happened to them as minor athletes and they were both fearful of speaking out," the statement continued. The two said they believe they are not the only ones who have been abused by McCartney.
The twins are now cheer coaches at a different gym and "know the level of spotting McCartney used on them was not necessary and was not for their safety but rather for his own sick pleasure.”
The twins, according to the lawsuit, filed an anonymous complaint online with the The U.S. All-Star Federation - the rule-making body over All Star Cheer - and the lawsuit claimed no action was taken, including an investigation, notification to parents or interviews with the gym’s athletes.
The lawsuit now seeks more than $10,000,000 in damages from McCartney, who is now co-owner at Cheer Athletics’ Austin gym, and a jury trial.
Cheer Athletics has already faced another tie to sex abuse allegations. In December, “Cheer” star and former athlete with Cheer Athletics Jerry Harris pleaded not guilty to federal child pornography charges and allegations that he solicited sex from minors at cheerleading competitions and convinced teenage boys to send him obscene photographs and videos of themselves.