Olympic Medalist Ashley Wagner Credits Me Too Movement In Processing John Coughlin Sexual Assault

Ashley Wagner competes in the Ladies Free Skate during the 2018 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Matthew Stockman / Getty Images

Earlier this week retired United States figure skater and Olympic medalist Ashley Wagner revealed that former skater John Coughlin sexually assaulted her when she was 17-years-old. In detailing the incident, Wagner credited the Me Too movement with helping her process the assault.

According to an ESPN report, the 28-year-old reported that when she was 17-years-old, Coughlin, then 22, kissed and groped her without permission. The assault happened after a party associated with a camp for the U.S. figure skating team in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in June 2008. Although she reported feeling paralyzed with fear, Wagner said that after several minutes, she grabbed Coughlin’s hand and told him to stop, and he left the room.

Wagner discussed the details for the first time publically with USA Today Sports. She addressed the aftermath of a party where she and several teammates had been drinking. At one point, Wagner realized that she could not return to her hotel, and somebody offered her a bed, which she took. Sometime after she fell asleep, a person got into bed with her, and Wagner initially thought it was somebody else who needed a place to sleep. According to Wagner, Coughlin began kissing her, and climbed atop her and put his hands down her pants. After realizing what was happening, Wagner told him to stop, and he did, ultimately leaving the room.

“I didn’t really genuinely process what this was until the start of the #MeToo movement,” she said. “Hearing other women come forward with their stories, it kind of made me reflect on this experience in a completely different manner.”

“I had always felt violated but something within that movement really showed me that I was violated and I did have my safety and comfort taken away from me that night.”

Skater Bridget Namiotka also accused Coughlin of sexually assaulting her for two years from 2004 to 2007, and the abuse began when she was 14-years-old, ending when she was 17. At the time, Coughlin was 18 to 21. The two were pairs teammates.

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In January, three women reported to SafeSport that Coughlin assaulted them, and he received an interim suspension while the U.S. SafeSport center began an investigation. Coughlin died of suicide one day after the suspension began. Although earlier in the month, Coughlin had called the allegations “unfounded.” Wagner was not among the three original complaints against Coughlin.

Since she revealed her story to U.S. Figure Skating officials, Wagner has worked to affect changes that will improve athlete safety. She’s spoken with coaches, young skaters, and their parents to help ensure these types of things no longer occur.

“If I’m going to be putting a problem out there into the universe, I want to be able to put a problem out there but also do something about it,” Wagner said.