Beth Rose says she last spoke to Rick Butler in the middle of the night, on the phone.
She said she called him in the mid-1990s from a bar, when the career of the dominant youth volleyball coach seemed to be falling apart. Rose never played volleyball, but she lived with Butler in her mother’s apartment in Carol Stream when she was a teenager a decade earlier.
When she learned Butler had been accused of sexual abuse by three former players, she decided she had something to say to him.
New abuse allegation against Coach Butler surfaces
“I said, if he ever touches another girl, I’ll totally come forward,” Rose said.
Now Rose, who lives in Norridge, has become the first alleged victim of sexual abuse by Butler to come forward in decades. She joined his original three accusers in granting interviews — two of them on camera — to the Chicago Sun-Times this year.
Rose’s allegations date back to 1983 and don’t specifically relate to Butler’s coaching career, but they might ultimately lead to his expulsion from USA Volleyball, the sport’s national governing body.
Butler “adamantly” denies Rose’s account of their relationship, according to a statement from his attorney.
Rose’s name appears in a Dec. 20, 2016, complaint by USA Volleyball that aims to expel Butler from its ranks. She said she also has filed an affidavit in the case. She gave the Sun-Times permission to identify her and explained that sexual-abuse survival is a struggle “I don’t know that men understand.”
“We never get rid of it,” Rose said. “It’s in there, and it makes you feel dirty all the time . . . It’s shame.”
The USA Volleyball legal filing that names Rose also identifies a woman who alleges Butler made inappropriate comments toward her and used over-the-top coaching methods.
That woman declined to be interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times and asked that her name not be published. The USA Volleyball document also references a fifth alleged sexual abuse victim who “elected to remain silent.”
“Mr. Butler’s sexual relationships with minor girls clearly does not conform to normally accepted behavior, likely violated applicable criminal laws, and constituted physical or verbal abuse in violation of the USAV Participant Code of Conduct in effect at the time,” USA Volleyball lawyer Steven Smith wrote in the document.
Butler, 63, has never been criminally charged. Through his attorney, Terry Ekl, Butler issued a statement, saying he has “never sexually abused any individual.” Butler said he has passed five polygraph tests in which he denied Rose’s claims and others.
The document that named Rose only publicly surfaced because of Butler’s unsuccessful lawsuit against USA Volleyball that sought to stop the new expulsion efforts. In his statement, Butler said the document had been amended by USA Volleyball four times.
Rose, 51, is the daughter of Butler’s former business partner, Kay Rogness, whom Butler has long blamed for allegations that have dogged him.
Rogness said she learned of her daughter’s alleged abuse three years after it happened. Though it “horrified” her, she said it wasn’t her sole motivation for pursuing Butler. And even if it was, it shouldn’t matter.
“This is about what Rick Butler did to the young ladies that he was coaching when they were underage,” Rogness said.
Unlike most people in this saga, Rose saw volleyball as “just a game” even though she lived with her mother and Butler, whose lives were consumed by the sport. She said Butler called her “cottage cheese legs,” and she avoided him as much as possible.
Claims of drunken, underage sex
One night, when she was 16 and Butler was in his late 20s, Rose said she came home from a party upset about “typical teenage drama.” She said Butler offered her a drink, and she consumed “half a bottle of vodka.”
“I was so drunk I literally had to put my feet on top of his feet in order to walk,” Rose said.
Butler had sex with her that night in his bedroom, Rose alleges. She said she woke up the next morning “shell shocked.” They crossed paths in the kitchen the next morning. She said she was “literally shaking” and spilled a glass of milk, but she said “he didn’t say a word; he just left.”
Butler finally brought it up to her later, but she said she wound up getting drunk and having sex with him again. Then, she said, “I moved out.”
Rose said she didn’t speak with Butler again until that phone call she placed in the 1990s. She said she called him from a bar at about 2 a.m. after looking up his number through 411.
“I just said, ‘This is Beth,’ and he was just very silent,” Rose said. “And I’m like, ‘you know who this is right?’ And he said, ‘yes.’”
Rose said she was “shocked that he didn’t hang up.”
Butler was silent, she said. And, in the end, she hung up first.
Rogness, Rose’s mother, parted ways with Butler decades ago. But they’re not finished with each other.
Within the last year, Butler has accused Rogness of an “orchestrated campaign” to smear his reputation. And Rogness has said, “it’s more accurate to say that Rick Butler is engaged in an orchestrated campaign to deflect the attention from what he did to anyone or anything else.”
Butler started Sports Performance Volleyball, now based in Aurora, with Rogness in 1981, records show. She ran the program for a year in 1985 when Butler left to take assistant coaching jobs at Western Michigan University and the University of Southern California.
Rogness left the club in 1988, after Butler’s return, to attend law school in Colorado, according to a lawsuit filed by Butler in the 1990s. Butler offered to buy her share of the business, and they spent a year negotiating terms. Amid the negotiations, Rogness sent Butler an August 1989 letter threatening to “dismantle” the club, Butler claims.
“When all the dust settles and the ashes are cleared away, we’ll see who lost the most,” Rogness wrote, according to Butler’s lawsuit.
Butler declines to discuss accusations
Rick Butler declined to be interviewed for this series. But in 1995, he uttered words that he’s probably still saying today, noting that he “lost 14 years of dignity” and was being unfairly targeted because of his success.
“I still have to wake up every day to the fact that I am going through something that doesn’t even resemble justice, and I am being judged on 1995 standards for allegations from 1981, 1984 and 1987,” Butler said at a hearing before USA Volleyball.
USA Volleyball banned Butler from its organization “for life” after that hearing. In 2000, it let him back in.
By doing so, Butler said it “remedied the injustice.”
But to Rose and Butler’s other accusers, justice has not been served — hence their efforts to speak publicly about what happened to them in hopes that USA Volleyball and other sports organizations will ban him from coaching.
“Even if Rick gets in trouble finally and pays the price, I’m waking up tomorrow the same person. It’s not a relief. It doesn’t make it right,” said Christine Tuzi, a former player for Butler who claims he sexually abused her. “I’m still going to have my days where my husband can’t touch me because I feel dirty. None of that goes away. That stays.
“I’m 50. I stand in front of the mirror sometimes and I have to say, ‘It’s not my fault’ — I am 50. That sucks.”
READ MORE IN THIS SERIES:
Rick Butler’s full statement in response to sexual abuse accusations