Ashley Wagner says she was sexually assaulted by John Coughlin
Ashley Wagner said she was sexually assaulted in 2008 by John Coughlin, a fellow figure skater who killed himself in January after being suspended for unspecified reasons and was later accused of sexual assault by a former pairs’ skating female partner.
Wagner, a 2014 Olympian and 2016 World silver medalist, told USA Today the assault occurred after a house party with local athletes while she attended a June 2008 figure skating camp at Colorado Springs. Wagner was 17. Coughlin was 22.
Wagner recounted it in a nine-minute video and first-person essay published by USA Today.
“It was the middle of the night when I felt him crawl into my bed. I had been sleeping and didn’t move because I didn’t understand what it meant,” she said. “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.”
Wagner said she opened her eyes after five minutes, pulled away from Coughlin, grabbed his invading hand and told him stop. He did and left the room.
“That is such a small amount of time, but it’s haunted me ever since,” she said. Wagner said that, at the time, she told two people close to her what happened and nothing else.”
Wagner said she made a hard decision to include Coughlin’s name to add a bit of legitimacy to her story.
“But this is not about a name,” she said. “This is about the environment that allowed for that act to happen. I want the issue to feel real to people, and for them to understand the dynamics of my sport, where uncomfortable power imbalances thrive to this day.”
The U.S. Center for SafeSport and U.S. Figure Skating had given Coughlin, who became a coach and TV commentator after his retirement, an interim suspension for unspecified conduct.
SafeSport halted its probe in February, saying there was no reason to continue after his death because its purpose is to “protect the sport community and other covered persons from the risks associated with sexual misconduct and abuse.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.