Suits: Ex-trainer sexually assaulted Butler players

INDIANAPOLIS — Three Butler University women’s soccer players filed federal lawsuits Wednesday alleging the team’s former athletic trainer sexually assaulted and groomed multiple players on the team.

Michael Howell allegedly committed the assaults and other sexual misconduct over several years, the lawsuits said.

The alleged acts occurred in Butler’s training room, offices and buses and in Howell’s private hotel rooms during away games, the complaints said, while Howell was under the supervision of Ralph Reiff, Butler’s senior associate athletic director for student-athlete health, performance and well-being.

The lawsuits were filed against Butler University, Howell and Reiff.

Instead of athletic massages that should have lasted only 10 minutes and been directed at a specific area, Howell would give full-body massages in a private room that could last hours, the complaints said.

Further, Howell told the women he had “files against all the players and would use them if they ever said anything bad about him,” the lawsuits allege.

“If I go down, you all go down with me,” the lawsuits allege he told them.

The lawsuits said Reiff “never inquired, investigated, raised questions about the safety of the female athletes or followed safety protocols.”

Butler issued a statement saying in part “the health, safety, and well-being of our campus community is always our top priority.”

“In late September 2021, student-athletes on the women’s soccer team reported misconduct by Michael Howell, an assistant athletic trainer. Upon being informed of the allegations, the University promptly notified law enforcement, removed Howell from campus and suspended him from his job duties, pending further investigation. After a thorough investigation and hearing, the trainer was found responsible for violating University policies, and he was then terminated in summer 2022,” the statement said.

Howell could not be located for comment Wednesday evening. The Indianapolis Star said Reiff did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

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