Who are Hannah and Jess Gerlacher? Texas cheerleader twins accuse school coach of sexual abuse
Hannah and Jess Gerlacher accused their former coach Jason McCartney of beginning sexually abusing them seven years ago
TRAVIS COUNTY, TEXAS: Two cheerleaders from Texas filed a lawsuit on Monday, July 19, alleging that their former coach from high school sexually abused them years ago in the very gym they trained. Identified as Hannah and Jessica Gerlacher, the cheerleaders who are also twin sisters, claimed in the civil suit that their former coach Jason McCartney began abusing them at Cheer Athletics locations in Plano and Frisco after one of them suffered an injury. Hoping that their coming forward will encourage other victims of sexual assault to speak up as well, the women are seeking $10 million in damages from the accused.
News of this comes after the fatal Florida stabbing of 13-year-old cheerleader Tristyn Bailey left the nation shocked, as her classmate Aidan Fucci, 14, was indicted on murder charges. When Fucci was arrested on suspicion after Bailey's body was discovered, he asked how is that his problem. As the murder case against him began, Fucci claimed the voices in his head asked him to kill Bailey. Although there were handprints found on Bailey's thighs when her body was found, medical examiners could not find any proof of sexual assault.
In the case of Hannah and Jessica Gerlicher, the 22-year-olds allege that seven years ago, McCartney began assaulting them at training gyms. The twins, who have more than 60,000 followers on Instagram, have filed their civil lawsuit in Travis County, Texas, reported NBC DFW. Speaking to the outlet, the twins' attorney said: "What happened to Hannah and Jessica as minors is inexcusable. They’ve had to deal with a lot of pain and trauma that they’ve had to hide."
In an Instagram post addressing the lawsuit, Hannah and 'Jess' shared the reason behind them coming forward all this while after the abuse happened. Without adding a caption to the post, the two shared a photo with white text on black background, with their names signed in pink cursive at the bottom. The two write in their joint statement: "We have decided to come forward publicly as victims of Jason McCartney, Cheer Athletics, and US All-Star Cheer Federation because we do not want another child to go through what we went through. We refuse to remain victims of sexual abuse, and instead step forward as survivors and voices for change in a sport that we love."
Holding their coach as well as the cheer organization accountable, the twins continue: "It is time for the coach who abused us, US All-Star Cheer DFederation, and cheers Athletics to be held accountable for the environment that enabled this type of abuse." Their former coach, McCartney, is still reportedly coaching cheerleaders at Cheer Athletics’ Austin location. His bio posted on the Cheer Athletics website sees McCartney talk about how he wants to create a safe space and environment for his trainees. “I want to be able to create a place that provides opportunity, growth, positivity, and experiences,” the post says. “A safe place for young people to authentically be themselves. A place without judgment or fear, a home away from home,” it continues.
Representative of Cheer Athletics, Jody Melton, said that the organization currently has an internal investigation into the allegations, claiming the company had not been made aware of the abuse “during [the Gerlachers] years as athletes or in the nearly six years since they left the program." Melton also testified for the credibility of the organization, continuing: "Cheer Athletics remains steadfast in its commitment to athlete safety, including any improper contact between athletes and coaches and has an established track record of taking swift action to address such allegations, including making mandatory reports to law enforcement. Cheer Athletics will continue its investigation into the Gerlachers’ allegations as more information is provided, and will vigorously defend itself to the extent any such claims are found to be without merit.”