KU investigating massage therapist who may have abused female athletes
LAWRENCE, Kan. — A man recently charged with a child sex crime provided massage services to some University of Kansas women’s athletic teams since 2015, the school’s chancellor and athletics director said.
Chancellor Doug Girard and Athletic Director Jeff Long said in a statement Thursday that they were “deeply troubled” by initial findings of an internal inquiry into massage therapist Shawn O’Brien.
O’Brien, 48, of Lawrence, was charged Feb. 21 with one count of indecent liberties with a child after a girl accused him of touching her sexually seven or eight years ago under the guise of a “massage.” O’Brien also allegedly told her that she shouldn’t tell anyone what happened because he said massages were “really expensive” and she was “lucky” to get one for free.
O’Brien’s contract was nullified and he hasn’t worked with student-athletes since he was charged, according to the statement.
The investigation is in its early stages and will continue, the statement said, and the university is providing support for student-athletes, parents and staff who have been affected by the therapist’s association with the university.
The Lawrence Journal-World reported contracts it received through an open records request showed O’Brien provided massage therapy for women’s basketball, tennis, softball and soccer teams. However, the school officials’ statement did not say which teams had contracts with O’Brien.
O’Brien’s attorney, Philip Robert Sedgwick, did not respond to a phone message Friday seeking comment.
O’Brien until recently was listed as a registered owner of Kamehameha Massage LLC. Girard and Long confirmed in their joint statement that O’Brien has worked as an independent contractor providing massage therapy to some female student-athletes.
They said that upon learning of the arrest the university began an internal investigation, led by an outside entity, into his interactions with student-athletes.
“Though still in the early stages of this process, we are deeply troubled by what we have learned so far,” according to their statement. They did not directly address the extent of their findings.
“We will continue our investigation to further understand the conduct of the therapist and determine who, if anyone, knew of inappropriate behavior that may have occurred,” the statement said.
This is the latest sex allegation involving the athletic department at the University of Kansas. Last year, a former volunteer assistant volleyball coach admitted stealing underwear from women on the team. The judge found his crimes were sexually motivated and ordered him to register as a sex offender for the next 15 years.
The investigation comes amid reports that an assistant hockey coach at the University of Minnesota may have victimized players decades ago and at a time when several men alleging sexual abuse by a deceased University of Michigan doctor have retained law firms that are representing accusers who sued Michigan State University and Ohio State in similar cases.