New lawsuit filed against South Bend Catholic high school, SNAP stands with and applauds the victims
A lawsuit was filed on October 29th against St. Joseph High School, the Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend, school administrators, and a former athletic coach. The three young women who are the plaintiffs in the case graduated from St. Joseph High school in 2018 and 2019. The complaint accuses former volleyball coach Justin Cochran of "sexual and inappropriate interactions and correspondence." The administrators named in the suit are cited for failing to appropriately respond to the girls’ outcries at the time of the misconduct.
The court filing describes in graphic detail the harm these brave girls suffered in high school both from the actions of Coach Cochran and from the inaction of school administrators. We loudly applaud the three young women for coming forward now and taking steps to lay the responsibility for their damages back where it belongs, at the feet of the accused, the administrators, and the Diocese responsible for monitoring the high school. We are so impressed by the girls' efforts to call adult attention to the problem while they were still in high school, despite persistent harassment and bullying. While it is never a cause for celebration to learn of sexual abuse in any form, we are very grateful to know that the young women's families supported them, and we want the girls to know that we stand with them as well.
The disturbing grooming behavior and sexualized atmosphere endured by the volleyball team and described in detail in the lawsuit are bad enough, but in our view, the harm was compounded exponentially by the apparent failure of the school and the Diocese to respond appropriately to the teenagers' outcries. We are particularly outraged at the trivialization of the girls' distress and the insistence that they address the issue directly with Cochran. Moreover, we also want to highlight the telling statement made by Coach Cochran himself, as reported by the South Bend Tribune. In response to parents' concerns about his behavior, the Coach responded that "the age of consent in Indiana is 16." Fortunately, the parents were aware that Indiana law still prohibits sexual contact with students by someone in a position of trust and authority, such as a coach.
We encourage anyone who has experienced or witnessed abuse in the Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend to report directly to law enforcement. We also urge survivors to reach out for help and support to family, friends, therapists, and support groups like ours.
CONTACT: Melanie Sakoda, Survivor Support Coordinator: (925-708-6175, [email protected]) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected]) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President, (814-341-8386, [email protected])
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)