A member of the cheerleading team at Northwestern University, in Chicago, has filed a federal lawsuit saying she was repeatedly groped by drunken fans and alumni during university-sanctioned events, the Chicago Tribune reported. The lawsuit alleges that the head cheerleading coach, Pam Bonnevier, told cheerleaders to socialize on their own during tailgates and donor events despite their requests to pair up.
The lawsuit was filed by Hayden Richardson, now a senior at Northwestern. “It became clear to [Richardson] that the cheerleaders were being presented as sex objects to titillate the men that funded the majority of Northwestern’s athletics programs,” the lawsuit says. “After all, the happier these men were, the more money the university would receive from them.”
The lawsuit alleges that university officials failed to respond appropriately when Richardson reported complaints about the harassment. More than a year passed after Richardson first reported her experiences before the university’s Title IX Office opened an investigation, according to the lawsuits and emails seen by the Tribune.
Northwestern said in a statement “it is committed to fostering an environment in which all members of our community are safe, secure and free from discrimination or harassment of any form.” Bonnevier, the former head cheerleading coach — Northwestern confirmed she is no longer employed by the university — could not be reached by the Tribune for comment.