Tennis Player Sues USTA And KC Racquet Club Over Sexual Abuse By Her Coach
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what happened to me. I believe that will be the case for a long time, and maybe even for the rest of my life.”
A once top-ranked high school tennis player is suing the United States Tennis Association and the Kansas City Racquet Club for allegedly failing to prevent her tennis coach from sexually molesting her.
Adrienne Jensen, who is now in her mid-20s, moved to Kansas City in 2009, when she was around 15 years old, to train with Rex Haultain, a coach from New Zealand who worked at the racquet club.
Jensen says Haultain “methodically groomed and manipulated” her, first by texting her and later by exposing himself to her, demanding nude pictures from her, pressuring her to have sex with him and ultimately penetrating her.
In February 2013, a grand jury charged Haultain with knowingly soliciting sexually explicit material from a minor via text messaging. In October 2013, Haultain, then 56, pleaded guilty to one count of soliciting child pornography and was sentenced to 78 months in federal prison.
The indictment did not identify Jensen as Haultain's target, but an FBI news release concerning his plea referred to incidents now described in her civil lawsuit against the organizations.
The release said that Haultain admitted he told a teen he was coaching that she sexually aroused him and that he showed her a picture of his penis on a cellphone while they were traveling to a tournament in the summer of 2010 .
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what happened to me,” the release quoted the unnamed victim as saying. “I believe that will be the case for a long time, and maybe even for the rest of my life.”
Haultain was released from prison in March 2019, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate locator. Jensen’s lawsuit says he was deported to New Zealand. He is not named as a defendant in her civil lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages and an order directing the U.S. Tennis Association to adopt policies to prevent sexual abuse.
An official of the U.S.T.A. said the organization does not comment on pending litigation. A spokesman for the Kansas City Racquet Club, which is in Merriam, Kansas, said the club was owned by Gold’s Gym when the incidents described by Jensen occurred and has gone through several ownership changes since.
“He wasn’t employed by us,” the spokesman said, referring to Haultain.
Kansas City Racquet Club is now owned by Genesis Health Clubs.
The U.S.T.A. is the national governing body for tennis and is responsible for certifying coaches in the United States. The organization has a “Safe Play” program that prohibits child abuse and sexual misconduct and requires coaches’ criminal backgrounds to be checked.
Jensen’s lawsuit, however, says that the Safe Play database does not contain a list of banned coaches and that a search for Haultain’s name in the database yields no results.
Jonathan Little, an Indianapolis attorney who represents Jensen, said the U.S.T.A. and other sports federations have buried sexual abuse in their ranks for decades.
“They failed to promulgate the policies and procedures that would have protected Adrienne and other athletes,” Little said. “And that failure led to Adrienne’s injuries that never should have happened.”
Earlier this year, a lawsuit filed against the U.S.T.A. in California alleged it should have known that another tennis coach was an accused child molester before it certified him.
The plaintiff in that lawsuit, identified only as W.S., alleged that the coach, Normandie Burgos, molested him when he was just 13 years old. The teen trained under Burgos.
Burgos was sentenced in August 2019 to 255 years in prison for molesting W.S. and another teen. W.S.’s lawsuit says that Burgos was allowed to become a U.S.T.A. coach even though he’d been stripped of his California teaching credentials in 2011 for sexual misconduct.
In Jensen's lawsuit, she describes an escalating series of demands from Haultain, who she says subjected her to emotional abuse and caused her at one point to have thoughts of suicide.
The suit says Jensen at first thought highly of Haultain “and wanted to whatever she could to please him.” It says she “feared her performance would fall off if she stopped training” with him.
“Coach Haultain continued to mentally break Ms. Jensen down,” the suit alleges. “He would alternate between yelling at Ms. Jensen and then ignoring her. He would scream at Ms. Jensen, tell her she was pathetic, not good enough, and a disgrace before banishing her to a different court as a way of punishing her. Then, he would text her at night acting as if he had not spent the day verbally and emotionally abusing Ms. Jensen.”
Little, Jensen’s attorney, said that Jensen was suing now because it had taken this long for her to come to terms with what happened.
“With survivors of sexual abuse, the brain handles trauma differently for everybody, and it takes people awhile to deal with the ramifications,” he said. “You’re a young athlete and you’ve invested all your time, effort and energy into your sport. And the person that you believe is helping you is really exploiting you … It takes a long time to come to terms with that and you have to be out of the sport to really deal with it.”
Jensen was a top-ranked high school player in Iowa and went on to play tennis for the University of Iowa. Little said she’s now starting nursing school.
Jensen filed her lawsuit in Jackson County Circuit Court in June, but the U.S.T.A. moved it to federal court in Kansas City last week.