Former Northwestern Cheerleader Says She Was Treated Like ‘Sex Object' at School Fundraising Events
Hayden Richardson, 22, filed a lawsuit against the school, alleging that she was forced to interact with donors who sexually harassed and groped her.
A former cheerleader for Northwestern University said she was “treated like a sex object” at school fundraising events. Hayden Richardson, 22, filed a lawsuit against the school, alleging that she was forced to interact with donors who sexually harassed and groped her.
She says she and fellow cheerleaders were encouraged to act like “temptresses and courtesans.”
“I was taking photos with fans that were grown men, and they would put their hands too low,” Richardson told Inside Edition. “Their inhibitions were lowered, because they had all been drinking, and it was a sexually charged environment.”
Richardson, who cheered for the Wildcats from 2018 to 2020, says her complaints to school officials weren’t taken seriously.
“Our coach condoned that behavior. She put us in these environments, where she knew was going on and she didn't do anything to stop that,” Richardson said.
There have been similar allegations from professional NFL squads.
Last year, a Washington Post exposé focused on the Washington Football Team cheerleaders. More than a dozen women said they endured frequent sexual harassment and inappropriate touching by wealthy owners of luxury suites. The team says it is now working to "create a new culture."
Richardson says similar things were happening at Northwestern, which is located outside Chicago. She’s suing the university, alleging cheerleaders were "presented as sex objects to titillate the men that funded the majority of Northwestern’s athletics programs.”
“Never did I think that I would be interacting with adults that are my father's age, my grandfather's age, and I would be told to say 'go cats' after they sexually touched me,” Richardson said.
Northwestern told Inside Edition that after their own investigation, they determined no laws were violated. But they say they take the allegations seriously and are committed to fostering a safe environment. The cheer coach, who no longer works at Northwestern, didn’t return a request for comment.
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