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KU 'Deeply Troubled' By Preliminary Look At Massage Therapist Who Worked With Women's Teams

Nomin Ujiyediin
Kansas News Service

The University of Kansas said Thursday that it’s “deeply troubled” by an internal investigation into a massage therapist who was recently charged with sexually assaulting a child, and had worked with some women’s sports teams since 2015. 

Chancellor Douglas Girod and Athletics Director Jeff Long made the announcement in a news release, and did not specify which women's sports.

“Though still in the early stages” of an internal investigation, “we are deeply troubled by what we have learned so far,” the news release said. The school is “providing support to our student-athletes, parents and staff who have been impacted by this therapist’s association with the university.”

The school’s release did not name the man. But the Lawrence Journal-World reported on Sunday that 48-year-old Lawrence masseuse Shawn Patrick O’Brien was charged with indecent liberties with a child younger than 14 in his home. The affidavit obtained by the newspaper said the incident occurred in 2013, but the child didn’t tell a state social worker until 2018.

The Kansas News Service asked whether players had previously made complaints about the massage therapist to the university and what the school had learned during its investigation that was troubling. A spokeswoman said in an email that the university was "unable to share additional information at this time" and that more would be shared "as appropriate, and at the conclusion of our review." 

O'Brien's attorney, Philip Sedgwick of Kansas City, Kansas, told the Kansas News Service on Thursday that he had no comment.

Other universities have faced scandals regarding medical staff and athletes, notably Michigan State, where a doctor who also worked for USA Gymnastics admitted sexually assaulting female patients for decades, and Ohio State, where a physician sexually abused male student-athletes.

Erica Hunzinger is the news editor for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @ehunzinger.

Corinne Boyer covers western Kansas for High Plains Public Radio and the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @Corinne_boyer or email cboyer (at) hppr (dot) org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

Erica Hunzinger is the news editor for the Kansas News Service.
Corinne Boyer is a reporter for the at High Plains Public Radio in Garden City, Kansas. Following graduation, Corinne moved to New York City where she interned for a few record labels, worked as a restaurant hostess and for a magazine publisher. She then moved to Yongin, South Korea where she taught English and traveled to Taiwan, Thailand, Belgium and South Africa. Corinne loved meeting new people and hearing their stories. Her travels and experiences inspired her to attend graduate school. In 2015, she graduated with a Master of Science in journalism degree from the University of Oregon. She gained her first newsroom experience at KLCC—Eugene’s NPR affiliate. In 2017, she earned the Tom Parker Award for Media Excellence for a feature story she wrote about the opioid epidemic in Oregon. That year, she was also named an Emerging Journalist Fellow by the Journalism and Women Symposium.
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