“As a victim of sexual abuse as a child, I know all too well the pain of experiencing this type of abuse.”
Gabi Butler and La’Darius Marshall have spoken out about their teammate Jerry Harris’ arrest.
Jerry — the breakout star of Netflix’s docu-series about cheerleading called “Cheer” — was taken into custody on a federal child pornography charge on Thursday. The 21 year old was accused of soliciting “sexually explicit videos and photos” from a 13-year-old boy, according to a complaint filed in a U.S. District Court.
“Like most of you, I am shocked, dismayed and deeply saddened by the recent news concerning my friend,” Gabi posted to her Instagram on Friday. “Ever since I heard the news I have gone back and forth between sobbing uncontrollably and trying to wrap my head around why something like this could happen.”
“To be clear, although I have been a close friend and teammate with Jerry, I was never aware of anything like that he has been accused of taking place,” she added. “I believe the protection of children is more important than ever in today’s world.”
La’Darius shared a heartfelt message to his social media account as well, writing, “I feel as though I have had the wind knocked out of me. How could this happen? As a victim of sexual abuse as a child, I know all too well the pain of experiencing this type of abuse and the difficulties it can create for life after such trauma.”
“My heart goes out to all who may be affected by this behavior from adults.”
He went on to implore any adult who is “tempted” to harm a child in such a way to seek “major psychological help.”
And the coach of the Navarro College Cheer team, Monica Aldama, broke her silence on Friday too.
“My heart is shattered into a million pieces,” she wrote on Instagram. “I am devastated by this shocking, unexpected news. Our children must be protected from abuse and exploitation, and I’m praying hard for the victims and everyone affected.”
Jerry faces a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years.
“We are grateful that the U.S. Attorney and the FBI have taken swift action to protect children by investigating, arresting and charging Jerry Harris,” a statement from the alleged victim’s attorneys read. “We urge the authorities to undertake a thorough investigation of the United States All Star Federation, Varsity Spirit, and Cheer Athletics to determine which of their executives, employees, and representatives could have stopped Harris’ abuse and failed to do so.”
In a lawsuit filed this week, the alleged victims also accused Harris of child sexual exploitation and abuse.
On Monday, a spokesperson for Jerry told TMZ, “We categorically dispute the claims made against Jerry Harris, which are alleged to have occurred when he was a teenager. We are confident that when the investigation is complete the true facts will be revealed.”