2 women accusing volleyball coach of sexual abuse testify in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Two women who accused a prominent youth volleyball coach of sexually abusing them when they were teens testified in front of a state senate committee in Springfield on Tuesday.

They said Powerhouse volleyball coach Rick Butler groomed them, isolated them, and eventually raped them.

The two are among six women who filed a lawsuit against Butler and his wife.

An attorney for Butler responded to the lawsuit for the first time on Tuesday and said the lawsuit is full of inexcusably false allegations.

“He asked me to come over to his house one day and I obliged. He had roommates. They had always been there whenever I was there before. When I went in, we were alone. He had Chinese food. We talked a little about the team and he took my hand and walked me into the back room. I felt there was no way to say no. I’m following blindly. And then, he raped me,” Sarah Powers Barnhard, one of the women who testified on Tuesday, said.

The lawsuit was filed Feb. 27. It also claimed that Butler’s wife, Cheryl Butler, “actively concealed” her husband’s abuse for years. The Chicago Sun-Times said the lawsuit said Cheryl Butler pressured the victims to remain silent, often by threatening to end their futures in the game.

“He told me I had to follow him blindly. That if I wanted to reach my goals to play in college and the Olympics, I had to understand I was different from everybody else. I had to follow him blindly. I just listened and he just leaned over and kissed me. I hadn't even kissed a boy at that point,” Powers Barnhard said.

She said kissing was just the beginning. And while she played for him, he sexually assaulted her hundreds of times.

“When we were in Germany as a team, we were on a train, and he grabbed me and took me into the bathroom and raped me there with my teammates close by,” she said.

“We were staying in tents and our host put is in a room. Rick slept on the floor next to me and he fondled me during the night with my teammates next to me. I could do nothing about it.”

Julie Romias joined Powers Barnhard on Tuesday. She also trained under Butler and shared a similar story

“My high school club volleyball coach Rick Butler raped me when I was 17 years old under his care. It went on for over a year countless times in countless places,” Romias said.

She said it started with Butler telling her to trust him, and that he nicked named himself God.

“He made it clear he had incredible power,” she said.

Butler's attorney filed a lengthy response to the federal lawsuit saying it contains inexcusably false accusations that are unsupported by facts. Butlers attorney points to the suit being brought by the mother of a former player who was at the club between 2012 and 2017 and had no first-hand knowledge about the allegations made against Butler in the '80s.

The lawsuit also claims that Rick Butler deceived parents and youth to join the volleyball club, the Sun-Times said.

The allegations first surfaced in the 1990s when three former players accused Rick Butler.

He has been banned by the Amateur Athletic Union, the Junior Volleyball Association and USA Volleyball.