Lawsuit: USA Fencing Failed to Protect Teen from Abuse

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A federal lawsuit alleges that USA Fencing, the national governing body for the sport, failed to protect a Tennessee teen from abuse over a two-year period. 

The lawsuit was filed by a girl and her parents last month and lists USA Fencing, the girl's former coach Robert Piraino, and the Music City Fencing Club as defendants.

According to ESPN, Piraino, 38, was indicted last year by a grand jury on 108 counts of alleged sex crimes involving the girl, authorities have said. He is currently lodged at a Nashville jail.

The lawsuit claims that Piraino began pressuring the girl for photos when she was just 13, eventually offering financial compensation when she refused. The girl eventually sent Piraino dozens of photos of herself naked and in "semi-naked in sexually suggestive positions," according to the lawsuit. Piraino's behavior eventually escalated to inappropriate touching.

The lawsuit alleges that USA Fencing should have done more to prevent abuse of the girl, who is now 16, saying she has "has suffered serious and severe emotional injuries as a result of Defendants' negligence, including anxiety, depression, stress, grief, humiliation, and loss of innocence."

USA Fencing spokesperson Bryan Wendell said the organization could not comment on pending litigation, but it does make safety a priority for participants.

"USA Fencing conducts annual background checks and requires annual SafeSport training for all our USA Fencing member coaches as part of our SafeSport and Minor Athlete Abuse Prevention Policies," he said in a statement. "We also communicate with our membership how to report potential acts of misconduct, and we take all reported allegations seriously."


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