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Alleged victim of Maine West hazing speaks out

Thursday, January 03, 2013

One of the victims of an alleged hazing incident at Maine West High School spoke out publicly for the first time.

He and three other soccer players have filed suit against the coaches and staff for allegedly allowing members of the soccer team to be beaten and sexually assaulted.

The alleged abuse still haunts this former Maine West student.

"You know, you wake up, lay in bed, and just think about what you've been through in life," the anonymous plaintiff said. "It's always first thing that comes to mind, it's like what happened to me?"

We've hidden his face and altered his voice. The plaintiff is one of four plaintiffs now suing the school district and staff members.

He was a 14 year-old freshman in the fall of 2007 when he claims he was attacked on the Maine West campus by older players during a team run.

"They took me down, tackled me, ripped my pants down, tore my boxers, sodomized me with fingers," he said.

After the incident allegedly happened a second time, he said he quit the soccer team but didn't tell anyone why, partly because he felt shame and partly because he felt his coach knew all about it.

"I'd see my coach wink either before or after it happened," the plaintiff said. "Coach was definitely in on it."

The school board voted in December to fire soccer coach Michael DiVincenzo. He has been suspended without pay while the appeals process plays out.

The district said four other coaches have also been reassigned or let go.

"I won't be satisfied until I know that everybody at the top who knew about this or should have known about this has been disciplined also," the plaintiff's attorney Tony Romanucci said.

Maine West Principal Audrey Haugan is not facing disciplinary action. The lawsuit alleged that Haugan ignored a parent's warning about abuse in 2008.

"We know now that the principal was aware of activities going on as far back as 2008," Romanucci said. "And we know that principal didn't report and didn't do enough to stop this activity happening, that it had to surface again in 2012."

"It happened to me, and I don't want it to happen to anybody else. That's my main thing," the student said.

In a written statement Thursday, the school district said it was never informed of any abuse involving the student who spoke out.

The lawsuit currently has four plaintiffs but their attorney says he's been contacted by dozens of other families.

Since a separate allegation surfaced last fall, the district says it has launched an investigation and required athletes and coaches to sign a no-hazing pledge.

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