Stevie Gould was just a high school sophomore when he agreed to work a sting operation with police officers to take down the coach who had sexually abused him for years.
Gould, Marin County, California’s top high school tennis recruit, met Normandie Burgos when he began training at the Burgos Tennis Foundation clinic in May 2012. Burgos was “certified as a trainer at the highest levels” by the USTA (United States Tennis Association), and was beloved by the tennis community, so much so, they turned a blind eye to his previous firing from Tamalpais High School due to allegations of sexual misconduct involving five students and losing his teaching credentials. He was tried in 2010 on two charges of sexual battery, but a deadlocked jury failed to convict him.
Gould quickly became one of Burgos’ favorites, and the recipient of free tennis shoes, rackets and lessons. The kind gestures turned into sexual advances and then abuse that continued for nearly two years. When Gould noticed Burgos’ showering the same attention on another vulnerable student, he knew it was time to come forward. He told his parents first, which he would later say was “by far and away the hardest” part.
When he went to the police, Richmond Lt. Matt Stonebraker asked if Gould would help them take down his abuser. Gould agreed. Undercover officers played tennis nearby while other officers kept watch from afar. It wasn’t until the second meeting with Burgos that Gould, who was wearing a wire, finally got the coach to admit the abuse.
Burgos was arrested and later convicted of 60 charges of child molestation. He was sentenced last August to 255 years in prison.
But Gould felt the USTA should have been held accountable. So, in June, he filed a lawsuit in Alameda County against the USTA for not protecting him and other teenaged players from the sexual predator. Gould is also using the opportunity to help remove the stigma associated with sexual abuse.
“As embarrassing as it might be for a teenage boy to admit he’s been taken advantage of, if I can do [speak out publicly],” he told the Marin Independent Journal, “then any young boy or girl can at least go to their parents or law enforcement, or anyone they trust, really, and not feel ashamed to speak out about their abuse.”
Sexual assault, sexual abuse, rape and sex trafficking are catastrophic acts that wound those who are victimized for a lifetime. This conduct is so atrocious that survivors not only have to overcome physical injuries, they are also left to suffer from substantial psychological and emotional injuries. Survivors often need to seek therapy to overcome the traumatic experience associated with sexual abuse and routinely incur lost wages or loss support associated with their terrible ordeal. The perpetrators of this type of conduct can be arrested and prosecuted with criminal charges; however, criminal proceedings do not award financial damages to victims. Fortunately, in many instances, Survivors may also be able to file civil claims to recover significant financial compensation as damages.