BILLINGS — An athletic trainer at a Montana high school sexually abused at least 18 student athletes decades ago under the guise of boosting their athletic performance, according to a lawsuit filed Friday.
The deception was aided by the team winning five state football championships in 16 years, the lawsuit states.
It alleges James E. “Doc” Jensen of Miles City performed nude massages and sexual acts on boys as part of what he called “The Program” to enhance their strength and testosterone levels.
It also claims school and athletic officials knew about the alleged abuse and failed to stop it.
“This was a structured, sophisticated system of ritual sexual abuse,” Miles City attorney Daniel Rice told The Billings Gazette .
The case against Jensen — who no longer works for Custer County High School — the school district and unnamed school officials was filed on behalf of the 18 alleged victims and an estimated 80 others who are unknown.
Jensen, now 78, worked part-time as athletic trainer for the high school from the 1970s until about 1998.
He did not return a phone message left by The Associated Press seeking comment. The school’s attorney, Jeff Weldon, said he would comment after he had time to review the case.
Jensen’s grooming of the student-athletes began with routine, state-mandated annual physical exams in which he touched the boys’ genitals under the guise of a hernia check, the lawsuit states, and escalated as Jensen promised the boys a natural method for enhancing athletic performance.
He generated fictitious records charting the boys’ progress and told athletes the program was producing such amazing results that they had to keep it a secret or people would think they were cheating, the lawsuit states.
The school football team won five state championships in the 1980s and 1990s.
If boys became reluctant to continue the 10-step program, Jensen would tell them their testosterone levels had stopped rising and question their commitment to their sport and their team, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit alleges the students complained to district coaches and staff about the program but it continued.
“At least one of the members of the football coaching staff made multiple inappropriate jokes and comments regarding ‘special massages’ from Jensen,” the lawsuit states.
In the late 1990s, a concerned parent reported to the high school that Jensen was performing hernia checks without having any medical qualifications. Soon, Jensen was not working for the district, but It’s not clear how his employment ended.
“The district did not attempt to contact any of the victims of ‘the program’ or their families regarding the alleged sexual abuse,” the lawsuit states. “The district did not offer or recommend counseling services to the victims.”
The suit seeks yet-to-be-determined financial damages, an apology, school policy changes and training to prevent something similar from happening.
“What this case is about, to these guys, is making sure that no one else lives through the horror of what they have lived through, and have been dealing with for the last 20 to 30 years,” Rice said. “This was systemic. There were — as adults looking back on it — red flags everywhere.”
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