A former NC State soccer player is suing the school after he says he was sexually abused for years by the team’s ex-director of sports medicine.
The lawsuit, filed by Benjamin Locke on Tuesday, accuses Robert Murphy Jr. of improperly touching his genitals “during roughly 75 to 100 massages” that he said he later believed lacked “legitimate” medical necessity.
The alleged abuse began in 2015 when Locke came to the school as a 17-year-old and soon after had surgery to address a shin injury.
According to the suit, Murphy texted Locke the day after surgery and prescribed a plan to have him take a shower at the university’s athletic facility.
Murphy then picked up Locke, helped him get undressed and stood about five feet away from his as he showered.
Locke told The Raleigh News and Observer that he thought the situation was odd but trusted Murphy.
NC State trainer allegedly sets up prostate exam
That summer, Locke began experiencing groin pain and reported it to Murphy in August. For the next 14 months, according to the suit, he was treated for a groin injury with massages and wraps.
The injury wasn’t improving, and Locke eventually saw a doctor, who diagnosed him with a sports hernia.
The suit alleges that the 14-month delay allowed Murphy “months of daily opportunities to further abuse Locke.” The suit also states that instead of having Locke see a hernia specialist, Murphy instead set up a prostate exam, which he watched.
The suit also states that Murphy would comment on Locke’s sex life, put condoms in his backpack and touched other athletes’ genitals.
NC State launches Title IX investigation
Locke contacted university police this past January, and the school launched a Title IX investigation.
The suit states that during that investigation, Locke learned former head coach Kelly Findley allegedly told a senior athletics official in Feb. 2016 that Murphy was “engaging in contact with male student-athletes that he believed was consistent with ‘grooming’ behavior.”
Murphy was placed on administrative leave in January when the school launched the investigation, and has since left the university due to an “involuntary separation,” though the reasons have not been disclosed.
A letter sent to Locke from the university said the investigation ultimately determined that “a violation would have been substantiated via the preponderance of the evidence standard” if Murphy remained at N.C. State.
Locke was also told, according to the News and Observer, that the statute of limitations for what were misdemeanor crimes he alleged had happened had expired.
Locke receives “wake-up call” after transferring
The lawsuit later states that Murphy at one point admitted to investigators that he touched Locke’s genitals with his bare hands, but later declined additional interviews.
Seth Blum, Murphey’s attorney during the investigation, told the AP that Murphy performed “appropriate medical procedures that may have included some pro forma touching, but nothing that was ever of a sexual nature.”
Locke, who never played for N.C. State, eventually transferred to Lipscomb. Working with trainers there, he said, was a “complete wake-up call.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages, as well as asking the school to “identify and notify” any other potential victims over the past decade.