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Kylie McKenzie: Jury awards  million in damages to tennis player in sexual assault case
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Kylie McKenzie: Jury awards $9 million in damages to tennis player in sexual assault case

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McKenzie will compete in a tournament in Sao Paulo, Brazil in March.



CNN

A jury has awarded $9 million in damages to a tennis player after a court ruled that the United States Tennis Association (USTA) failed to protect her from sexual abuse by a coach.

Kylie McKenzie, a 25-year-old American tennis player, filed her lawsuit in March 2022 in the US District Court in Orlando, Florida, suing the USTA and USTA Player Development Incorporated, alleging that her former coach, Anibal Aranda – who in had been employed by the organization at the time – “sexual assault and abuse committed” against her.

McKenzie and her attorneys also accused the USTA of “gross negligence” by “hiring yet failing to properly supervise Coach Aranda, despite his known history of sexual predation being so reckless or deficient in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference for life. safety, or rights of” McKenzie.

During a 2022 press conference, McKenzie said the incident affected her performance on the field, as she faced anxiety, panic attacks and depression as a result of Aranda’s actions.

“My confidence and self-esteem were gone,” McKenzie said, “both on and off the field.”

On Monday, a jury awarded McKenzie $3 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages.

USTA spokesperson Chris Widmaier told CNN in a statement that the organization would appeal the decision and said they are “sympathetic” to what McKenzie endured.

“The court found that the USTA was liable because one of its employees – a non-athlete – had an obligation to report her own experiences with this coach to the USTA, an incident that was not known until the USTA removed the coach. This creates a new and unreasonable expectation for victims, one that will deter them from coming forward in the future,” Widmaier said.

According to The Athletic, Aranda has denied inappropriately touching McKenzie.

Michael Chow/The Republic/USA Today Network

McKenzie speaks at a press conference in Arizona in 2022.

When contacted by CNN, McKenzie’s attorney, Robert Allard, criticized the USTA’s handling of the case, saying they “just didn’t get it.”

“I am convinced that the only way to make real change at USTA, as at USA Swimming, is a complete overhaul of leadership, from the CEO to the conniving and heartless lawyers. Given what is at stake, I personally will not rest until this is done.”

“I couldn’t be happier with the result. I feel validated,” McKenzie said in a statement to CNN. “It was very difficult, but I now feel that it was all worth it. I hope I can be an example for other girls to speak out, even when it’s hard.”

Considered one of the rising stars in American tennis, McKenzie moved to the USTA facility in Orlando at the age of 19.

Soon after, Aranda began coaching McKenzie. McKenzie claims that Aranda made comments about her physical appearance, inquired about her personal life and would incite inappropriate physical contact with her.

In October 2018, Aranda stood directly behind McKenzie during what he said was a serving drill “so that his entire body was pressed against her back and butt, and then he grabbed her hips with his hands,” according to the lawsuit.

As McKenzie practiced loading the serve motion, Coach Aranda’s fingers moved lower and lower along her groin and underwear line with each repetition as his body pressed tightly against her. With each repetition of the serve, Coach Aranda pressed harder and harder against the plaintiff’s body, to the point where the plaintiff would almost tip over and lose her balance,” the lawsuit states.

John Raoux/AP

Anibal Aranda is on display at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Florida in 2017.

In her filing, McKenzie alleged that Aranda placed his hand on her thigh at the end of a practice session in November 2018, before sliding his hand under a towel on her lap and rubbing her crotch over her clothing.

After reporting the alleged incident, Aranda was investigated by the US Center for SafeSport – an independent non-profit organization tasked with protecting athletes from emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

According to the lawsuit, the investigation revealed that Aranda groped an employee — referred to throughout the filing as “Jane Doe” — during a night out in New York in 2015, “grinded” her on a dance floor and then “rubbed her vagina.” , on the outside of her clothing.”

The investigation revealed that Aranda followed Jane Doe out of the club before trying to get into a taxi with her, the complaint said. The employee never reported the incident. Aranda was subsequently fired by the USTA after the investigation was completed. He was employed by the USTA for seven years.

The Center for SafeSport declined to comment when contacted by CNN.