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Hannah and Jessica Gerlacher, twin cheerleading stars, filed a complaint on Monday saying that a former coach sexually assaulted them for years, beginning when they were 15 years old.
Jason McCartney, a coach at Cheer Athletics, which includes gyms in Texas, Florida, and New York, allegedly assaulted the sisters under the guise of "spotting," or assisting an athlete during difficult moves.
McCartney allegedly grabbed the Gerlachers' breasts, crotches, and butts, and rubbed his erection against them while training in Austin gyms, according to the Gerlachers.
The Gerlachers, who have more than 65,000 Instagram followers and a prominent YouTube channel, also name Cheer Athletics and the US All Star Cheer Federation as defendants, accusing them of doing nothing when an anonymous complaint was submitted against McCartney.
"The silence surrounding abusive coaches, and the failures of gyms like Cheer Athletics and USASF to protect minor athletes has to stop,"
Hannah and Jessica Gerlacher said in a joint statement. "We have gained strength from watching women in gymnastics speak out about abuse, and we are here to stop a similar culture in the sport of cheerleading. What they did to us, how he touched us, how we were treated is not okay. We wanted to feel nothing but love for our sport, but now it's combined with a feeling of disgust, not only at how Coach McCartney used us, but also about how all the other adults let it happen, in a place where we were supposed to feel safe."
Hannah was also forced into the "pro shop room at Cheer Athletics' facility during team tryouts, an event where parents were specifically forbidden from being present in the gym,"
according to the Gerlacher twins' lawsuit, where "he pressed her up against the cabinets. McCartney had one hand on her neck, while his body was pushed up against hers."
According to the lawsuit, "Hannah was too frightened to make any noise as he touched her body."
Requests for comment from Cheer Athletics and the USASF were not immediately returned. McCartney was unavailable for comment. A request for comment was also not returned by the Cheer Athletics Austin facility, which listed McCartney as one of the franchise's owners.
The claims come after Jerry Harris, the star of Netflix's Cheer, was accused with manufacturing child pornography and enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity. He was detained when two 14-year-old twins who said they had been harassed at cheer competitions filed a lawsuit
in Texas accusing him of soliciting sex, sending sexually explicit messages, and asking for nude pictures.
Attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel mentioned Cheer Athletics' connection to the Harris affair at a press conference announcing the case, which also stemmed from a damaging report
by USA Today that uncovered systemic failures on part of the USASF to protect young competitors. Cheer Athletics defended Harris until its co-owner, Angela Rogers, cut connections with him as the issue unfolded.
For bodily pain and suffering, loss of earning capacity, and emotional agony, the Gerlachers are seeking an undetermined amount in damages.
"We love the sport of cheerleading. Now that we are role models in the sport and coaching young athletes ourselves, we want better for the children in the sport moving forward,"
Hannah and Jessica Gerlacher said in their statement.