San Jose State Swimmers Tell How They Blew the Whistle on Trainer’s Alleged Sexual Abuse

The sexual abuse scandal that has rocked San Jose State athletics first came to the surface in 2009 with an offhand comment during a van trip to a swim meet.

“Scott’s a creep,” one swimmer, then a sophomore, recalls saying of athletic trainer Scott Shaw. “Your hip hurts and his hands are in your pants.”

The remark stunned coach Sage Hopkins, who was sitting nearby, as did the swimmer’s next statement, an indication the behavior was common. “Everyone says that; it’s a known fact,” she said.

Those words began a powerful personal journey for the woman, now 30 and telling her story for the first time, as a few weeks later she became the first known athlete to complain to the university about Shaw’s actions. But she did not take that step alone — ultimately 16 fellow athletes also came forward, reciting strikingly similar accounts of treatment sessions in which Shaw went underneath their clothing to touch breasts and groin areas even when their injuries were to hips, knees and shoulders.

Yet as the woman and three other swimmers relayed to the Bay Area News Group, their efforts led only to a seemingly cursory review by the university, which allowed Shaw to continue in his job for more than a decade longer before a second investigation triggered his resignation in August 2020.

Their interviews illuminate the inexorable, degrading nature of Shaw’s alleged abuse. But they only deepen the mystery surrounding the scandal that has now led to a central question: Why didn’t San Jose State do more about Scott Shaw, far sooner than it did?

“I felt pretty helpless,” said one of the swimmers, Caitlin Macky, now 32. “I did everything that I could do. They didn’t believe me, or they didn’t do anything about it.”

Macky and former swimmer Kirsten Trammell agreed to be named for this story. The Bay Area News Group is not identifying the first complainant and another at their request.

University officials declined to comment for this story, instead referring the Bay Area News Group to their statements in a mid-April website post that includes brief overviews of the two conflicting investigations, without explanation.

Shaw has been unwilling to comment and has not provided the name of his lawyer. Hopkins, who has a whistleblower lawsuit against San Jose State, has also declined interview requests.

The women who shared their stories are among a dozen who have filed legal claims with the California State University system as a precursor to a civil lawsuit.

Although the first investigation in 2009-10 concluded Shaw’s “pressure point therapy” was a legitimate treatment for muscle injuries, an independent review has since substantiated the women’s accounts. The latter report, announced in April, found no therapeutic justification for touching the women in their private areas.

San Jose State President Mary Papazian apologized to the swimmers in April when announcing the reversal of the original findings. She also said the university started a third review to determine the adequacy of the 2009-10 investigation and how the university responded to its conclusions.

The accounts of the four women who spoke to the Bay Area News Group help clarify some of those events while also providing the first public look at how the scandal began.

For Macky and some other swimmers, the truth began to emerge shortly before the fateful van trip in the fall of 2009, when a handful of teammates fell into conversation about the trainer in the locker room after a practice. As they told their stories, they understood — some for the first time — that Shaw was an abuser, Macky said.

Macky’s experiences with Shaw had begun in 2008, when the then-freshman swimmer was dealing with rotator cuff problems and he lifted her sports bra to place electronic stimulation pads near her breasts. Once, he touched her nipple. She avoided his treatments after that.

But early in 2009, a knee injury led her to return. This time, she said, the trainer put the stimulation pads close to her pelvic line. Macky asked Shaw why it was necessary to start so far above the knee. He replied that the muscle extended through her entire leg.

During the second knee treatment, Macky said the trainer went underneath her underwear and touched pubic hairs.

“That’s when I knew, nope, that shouldn’t be done,” she said. “My knee is down there. I don’t understand you needing to go into my underwear.”

The four women interviewed for this story initially said nothing about Shaw’s inappropriate touching. They kept telling themselves that Shaw was an expert who knew what he was doing.

One recalls thinking it must be OK for Shaw to slip his hands under her bra since he did it in a training room with others present. Another remembers noticing with growing unease that a female trainer, Shawna Bryant, never touched the athletes the way Shaw did.

“We were all trying to navigate whether what was being done was inappropriate and how we felt about it,” said Trammell, 31, a freelance writer in San Diego who served as captain of the SJSU swim team for three seasons.

Thinking about it now, Trammell shudders at her naiveté. She recalls getting treatments on Fridays, alone in a room with Shaw, with the lights off.

“And this guy is putting his hands down your pants,” Trammell said. But at the time, “no one really wanted to dive into it.”

That changed when Hopkins addressed the team after the swim trip and asked his athletes to tell him about Shaw’s treatments. Two dozen swimmers gave their coach private accounts on Dec. 8 and Dec. 9, 2009, according to Hopkins’ notes and emails obtained by the Bay Area News Group.

After the individual interviews, the coach called the swimmers together again and asked if anyone would file a complaint, some of the women recalled. The sophomore swimmer said she felt compelled to do it “because it was my big fat mouth that said it” first.

Others decided to come forward as well. “I felt like I should speak up if there were other girls on the team who experienced it as well,” said one of the women who requested anonymity.

Within days of the initial complaint, the school’s Office of Equal Opportunity was involved. By Dec. 14 an official from the office, Rosalina Calderon, asked Hopkins in an email for the women’s contact information.

The four women have only vague memories of talking to investigators in late 2009 and early 2010. Three of them said they met officials at the University Police Department. None of them remembered the names of the investigators or much about what was asked.

But the first complainant distinctly recalls sitting in a conference room at the police station telling officials about being massaged close to her nipple when the investigators asked, “That’s it?”

Said the woman: “I feel like they wanted me to say he raped me.”

The woman said the interview lasted a little more than 15 minutes.

There was no follow-up contact with investigators, the women said, and they were never informed of the outcome of the probe. Some said they put the incidents behind them after that.

“I trusted the university had handled it,” said one former swimmer who is now living in the Sacramento area. She had been 17 at the time of Shaw’s touching — like the others, she said he put his hands under her sports bra and in her pants — and under the law could have filed a report alleging abuse of a minor. But she said no one told her of that option.

Other swimmers realized, as time went on, that nothing would come from their decision to inform the university about Shaw. Hopkins knew it as well; he told his swimmers not to see Shaw for treatment, the women said.

On its website, San Jose State says that a former athlete, as well as Shaw and administrators with a “need to know,” were informed of the conclusion in 2010 that Shaw’s training methods were legitimate. No appeals were filed, the university said.

For many of the women, it was difficult to let go of what had happened. Trammell said she became numb during the confusing time and often wondered if she were to blame for Shaw’s actions. She now suspects the handling of the case contributed to her decision not to report being raped in 2010, around the time of the investigation.

Macky said she buried her feelings about Shaw, but they came flooding back in 2018 after a swimmer mentioned the trainer’s name when Macky returned to the San Jose State pool for a visit.

She decided to cooperate with a second investigation in 2019-2020, a review that was launched after Hopkins — who had kept up a lonely crusade against Shaw — sent a 300-page dossier of his notes about the case to the NCAA and the Mountain West Conference.

That move appears to have forced the university’s hand. Officials from San Jose State’s Title IX office began contacting the original complainants early in 2020 to discuss the Shaw allegations, and most decided to come forward. The women said they felt more confident their words would be taken seriously in the era of #metoo.

Some of them also said it made a difference speaking to investigators in the wake of the Larry Nasser case. Nasser, the former Michigan State physician and USA Gymnastics national team doctor, was accused of sexually assaulting hundreds of young athletes. He pleaded guilty in 2018 to abusing 10 minors and is serving a 175-year sentence.

In the past year, some of the former San Jose State swimmers also talked to investigators from the FBI and the Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights. In response to a Bay Area News Group report in May that the FBI had acknowledged its investigation, the university recently posted on its website that it is cooperating with a criminal probe into sexual misconduct and a civil review of San Jose State’s Title IX compliance.

Shaw, 54, has never been arrested or charged in connection with the case. He is certified through Dec. 31 with the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer, a national not-for-profit agency. California is the only state that does not regulate athletic trainers.

In May, the school relieved Marie Tuite of her duties as athletic director after four years on the job and reassigned her to a fundraising role with a 20% pay cut.

Tuite apologized to the athletes in a statement announcing her reassignment.

Macky said the university’s recent response to the case has felt disingenuous because it required so much effort from Hopkins just to get school officials to review the original investigation.

“It just feels like saving face,” Macky said. “The people in charge who are supposed to be leading the charge on this are completely dropping the ball.”
A former San Jose State University swimmer, who is publicly talking about sexual abuse allegations against the university’s former athletic trainer, is photographed on June 21, 2021, in San Jose, in the reflection of her swim goggles she used while at SJSU. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

The original complainant, who lives in San Jose, said she was inspired to tell her story to this news organization after Shaw, in a brief interview in April at his San Jose home, said: “there is more to the story.” (He has not talked since.)

“What’s more to that story?” the woman said. “Did I ask for it as a freshman who felt like she had no voice? I didn’t say my nipple hurt at all. I said my shoulder hurt. I don’t understand how that goes to my nipple.”

She cannot reconcile why university officials did nothing for a decade.

“If they would have only listened to me, listened to us,” she said. “That’s 10 years of women being assaulted that they could have avoided.”


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