Lawsuit claims coaches & officials for Pacific Swimming & Stockton Swim Club allegedly failed to heed signs of “red flag” grooming behavior by victim’s coach.
One of USA Swimming’s Local Swim Committees (LSCs), Pacific Swimming, and its member club, Stockton Swim Club, are facing a childhood sexual abuse lawsuit (County of San Joaquin, Case #STK-CV-4PI-2019-4973).
The plaintiff is a 13-year-old female swimmer referred to as Jane Doe due to her age. Represented by Attorney Robert Allard of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, the plaintiff alleges that she was sexually assaulted numerous times by her swim coach, Shunichi Fujishima, beginning when she was 12-years-old. She also claims in her lawsuit that one of USA Swimming’s west coast LSCs, Pacific Swimming, failed to implement training that which, if implemented, would have resulted in the reporting of Fujishima’s predatory grooming behavior displayed on a regular basis at both practices and swim meets before numerous coaches and swim officials.
The “red flag” grooming behavior included the coach staying with the minor in a hotel during out of town meet, engaging in social media interactions with her concerning personal matters, referring to her with pet names such as “babe” and his open display of provocative stretching and massages on the pool deck. The ongoing grooming of the minor continued for months and culminated with Fujishima having sex with her in his vehicle in the club’s parking lot.
Fujishima was allowed to continue abusing Jane Doe, according to the lawsuit, even though another swimmer’s father complained to an assistant coach and a Board member about Fujishima texting his young daughter late into the night. Fujishima was arrested in January of 2019 and is currently going through the criminal process.
Pacific Swimming is one of 59 LSCs for the National Governing Body of the sport, USA Swimming. Overseeing more than 120 swim clubs and more than 16,000 swimmers, Pacific Swimming is the third largest LSC. This is not the first time the organization is accused of failing to protect swimmers. In 2010, Pacific Swimming and USA Swimming allegedly conspired to cover up complaints against coach Andy King. King was convicted of sexual abuse and is serving 40 years in prison. USA Swimming is currently facing Congressional pressure to better protect young swimmers from coaching sexual abuse.
“This case highlights the dire need to proactively educate and train swimming officials, coaches, and swimmers on the identification of predatory behavior,” said Allard. “Leadership starts at the top. Pacific Swimming does not have a clear mandate to make athlete safety a top priority, so this lawsuit seeks to remedy that deficiency by protecting young swimmers from predator coaches.”
The lawsuit asks for a court order mandating that Pacific Swimming participate in a training/education program on grooming behaviors of child predators and mandated reporter duties before permitting those adults members to continue supervising minor swim club members.
To date, more than 150 swim coaches have been banned, many more have escaped accountability, and according to the Orange County Register, “at least 252 swim coaches and officials have been arrested, charged by prosecutors, or disciplined by USAS for sexual abuse or misconduct against individuals under 18. Those coaches and officials have a total of at least 590 alleged victims, some of them abused while attending pre-school swim classes.”