The January 2019 arrest of Stockton Swim Club Coach Shunichi Fujishima has exposed yet another youth athletic organization that ignored its duty to protect the children in its care.
Fujishima, 23, faces criminal charges that he had unlawful sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old girl he was coaching at the Stockton Swim Club. The club is now listed as “permanently closed” on the social media site Yelp.
Fujishima was also charged with committing lewd and lascivious acts upon a child and possession of child pornography. He remains incarcerated in the San Joaquin County jail on $1.8 million bond.
“Our plaintiff is a minor sex abuse victim, so we’re protecting her privacy by listing her as ‘Jane Doe’ in the lawsuit,” attorney Robert Allard said. “She’s traumatized by everything that’s happened, so we’re making sure she gets counseling and any other help she needs.”
The lawsuit also names Pacific Swimming, which is the regional swim committee that falls under the jurisdiction of USA Swimming – the sport’s National Governing Body.
The lawsuit says Stockton Swim Club and Pacific Swimming officials ignored the “red flags” of sexual abuse that Fujishima exhibited even though they had supposedly been trained to recognize them under the auspices of the Federal Child Abuse Reporting Act.
The Grooming Process Leading to Sexual Abuse
The abuse began in February 2017 when Fujishima instructed “Jane Doe” to lay down on the pool deck “with Board members, parents, officials and/or other coaches present, to give her abnormally long massages during which he touched the sides of her breasts.”
In June, Fujishima started texting the 12-year-old photos of his penis.
In November, he kissed her while she was cleaning up the pool deck.
All of this constitutes what experts say is “grooming” behavior that sexual predators use to manipulate their victims and the people around them.
Cerri, Boskovich & Allard victim advocate Jancy Thompson sees that happening in Stockton.
“We’ve heard some parents say they’d trust their children with Fujishima – even after he was arrested,” Thompson said. “That’s pretty typical because sexual predators groom both victims and adults to trust them, to like them.”
Fujishima’s grooming behaviors were the lead-up to a brutal sexual assault that occurred in March 2018.
“Fujishima assaulted plaintiff, pushing her up against the wall, kissing her and attempting to pull her swimsuit aside to touch her vagina,” the lawsuit says. “The presence of two other swimmers allowed plaintiff to escape, and she went to the pool deck crying, upset and alone.”
An assistant coach who saw Jane Doe crying didn’t bother to ask what was wrong.
And all the while Fujishima was assuring Jane Doe that what he was doing was “normal and okay.”
Could it be collusion?
A few months after the March 2018 assault, Fujishima began living at Jane Doe’s house because the above-mentioned assistant coach was living in Fujishima’s condo.
The Stockton Swim Club Board of Directors convened a special meeting to talk about the Fujishima living situation because they thought it could cause problems with USA Swimming.
Instead, the lawsuit says, “Fujishima threatened to remove the Board members if they caused problems for him.”
His influence was such that our young swimmer was permitted to hangout in the coaches’ lounge when other swimmers were forbidden to do so.
That’s one reason why the lawsuit maintains that Fujishima’s “favoritism” toward Jane Doe was “common knowledge” among swimmers, club officials and parents.
Then things got worse.
In July 2018, Fujishima drove Jane Doe to a swim meet in San Jose where he took her on a dinner date and had her sleep in his hotel bed with him.
At least one board member was aware of the sleeping situation and others witnessed massages and “open displays of affection” during the swim meet.
So, Fujishima’s horrific behavior was tolerated by the very officials whose job it was to protect young swimmers. It didn’t matter that the previously mentioned assistant coach saw text messages from Fujishima that addressed Jane Doe as “babe.”
Nor did it matter that the father of another swimmer complained to the assistant coach and a Board member about Fujishima’s texting.
It didn’t matter that the public massages and body pressing continued for months, and Fujishima was so bold that he lured our young Jane Doe to his vehicle for sex in the Swim Club parking lot.
It didn’t matter that Pacific Swimming and the Stockton Swim Club are governed by California laws and USA Swimming rules that protect swimmers’ safety.
None of this mattered because they were negligent, plain and simple.
Their negligence is even more alarming when you learn that Swim Club officials failed to address complaints of another coach having inappropriate relationships with minors.
They didn’t report any of this to law enforcement authorities and now Jane Doe is suffering the harm, both mentally and physically.
But our young victim hopes what happened her doesn’t happen to anyone else. So, Pacific Swimming-affiliated clubs in the Stockton area would be required to implement sex abuse training programs if her lawsuit succeeds.
Pacific Swimming is the second largest swimming association in the U.S. It oversees more than 120 swim clubs in Northern California and Nevada, representing approximately 16,000 swimmers.
If your child has been sexually abused by a swim coach or any adult, please contact our law firm for help. We have represented numerous child sex abuse victims. Call our office at 408-289-1417.