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Olympic Figure Skater Ashley Wagner Says She Was Sexually Assaulted By John Coughlin

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Who Is Ashley Wagner? New Details On The Olympic Figure Skater's Claims She Was Sexually Assualted

Sexual assault can happen to anyone. It doesn't matter what you're doing, who you know, how rich or how poor you are, in a very dark way, sexual assault is the great equalizer. That's why it's so important that after centuries of staying silent, women, in particular, are starting to speak up and share their own stories of sexual violence in a hopes of breaking the cycle of abuse, silence and shame. 

One woman who has come forward is Ashley Wagner. Who is Ashley Wagner? She's an Olympic medal-winning figure skater who has been in the public eye for most of her life. Now, she's sharing a story about something terrible that happened to her when she was still a teenager, and what she reveals will break your heart. Her bravery ought to be commended. 

1. Who Is Ashley Wagner? 

Earlier this week, Ashley Wagner, an Olympic figure skater, revealed something gut-wrenching. Wagner shared that when she was just 17-years-old she was sexually assaulted and that the person who did this to her was none other than John Coughlin, another figure skater who took his own life earlier this year after he was suspended from the ice during an investigation into charges of sexual misconduct. Now that Ashley has come forward, that makes a total of four women who have been brave enough to come forward and share their stories of being assaulted by Coughlin. 

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2. Sharing Her Story

Wagner chose to share her story with the public for the time in an essay that she wrote for USA Today. According to her, it was 2008 when Wagner and Coughlin, then 22-years-old, found themselves at the same figure skating camp in Colorado. In Wagner's account, Coughlin kissed her and groped her heavily while she was trying to sleep after the party. "It was the middle of the night when I felt him crawl into my bed,” Wagner, now 28, wrote in USA Today. “I had been sleeping and didn’t move because I didn’t understand what it meant. 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.”

3. Her Word For Word Account 

The account is as horrific as you might imagine, with Wagner revealing that she felt more than helpless, particularly because of their size difference; Coughlin was a much bigger man than Wagner was a woman. “When he continued to wander further over my body, I started to get scared because he was so much bigger than I was, and I didn’t know if I could push him off,” she wrote. It was at this point, according to Wagner's published account, that she began to cry. She stopped playing at being asleep and physically moved Coughlin's hand, insisting that he stop. Imagine the terror she must have felt in that handful of seconds as she waited to see if he would heed her pleas. 

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4. Taking Time To Process 

Thankfully, well, as thankful as anyone can be in this kind of situation, Coughlin listened at this point. “He looked at me for a few seconds, quietly got up and left the room. All of this happened over the period of about five minutes. That is such a small amount of time, but it’s haunted me ever since,” she wrote. To make matters worse for Wagner, like so many other women who experience this kind of assault, she only told two people, feeling a combination of shame and disbelief. To hear Wagner tell it it took her a very long time to even fully process what Coughlin had done to her and to put a name on it. You can hardly blame her for taking her time to process something so shocking. 

5. How To Move Forward 

Moving forward was hard for her, partially because both she and Coughlin never again acknowledged his actions following that night and Wagner was young, confused, and didn't have a set of tools in place to help her cope with this sort of situation. “In 2008, I didn’t have the knowledge and empowerment that came with the #MeToo movement. No one had explained consent to me. Something that was so ambiguous then is very clear now. I was sexually assaulted," she bravely revealed in her essay. Taking a stand like this is never ever easy, but it's always the right thing to do, particularly for people whose jobs make them publicly visible. Three cheers to Wagner for taking such a gutsy risk for the sake of all other victims of assault. 

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6. The Support Of Her Peers 

Thankfully, unlike other organizations, U.S. Figure Skating is supporting Wagner and commending her for speaking out. In a statement, they said: “What happened to Ashley should not happen to anyone, period. Ashley is incredibly strong; not just to have the courage to come forward with her story, but to share her experience publicly to help others. Ashley recently spoke at U.S. Figure Skating athlete safety seminars and her experience and message of empowerment had a profound impact on skaters and their parents. Ashley’s perspective has helped us expand the scope of our athlete safety initiatives and education and words cannot express how much we appreciate her sharing her story with our members.”

Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cats, Batman and Margot. She's an experienced generalist with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, pop culture, and true crime.