Southwest coach charged with sexual relationship with student

Southwest High School wrestling coach Eric John Bettermann, 31, was arrested in late March and charged with having a yearlong sexual relationship with a 16-year-old female student.

According to the criminal complaint by Sgt. David Hansen of the Minneapolis Police Department, the relationship began in March 2002 while the wrestling team was at a tournament in Michigan. After the trip, Bettermann continued to meet with the student at hotels and at his Maplewood home, engaging in sex.

According the criminal complaint, Bettermann admitted the yearlong relationship and told police that he knew it was wrong.

Betterman was charged in Hennepin County District Court with third-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony carrying up to 15 years in prison and up to a $30,000 fine. He was released on $50,000 bail under the provisions that he have no contact with the victim, no contact with minors, no Internet access and must report to law officials twice weekly.

A Hennepin County Attorney official said that although 16 is the age of sexual consent in Minnesota, Bettermann can still be charged because his position as a coach gave him a level of authority over the victim.

Because the Minneapolis Public schools and district offices were on spring break, no one was available to provide Bettermann's employment status. Bettermann does not teach at Southwest.

Bettermann did not return calls by press time.

Jamie Ramola, Community Education Manager for the Sexual Violence Center, 2100 Pillsbury Ave., offers counseling and support services in area schools. She said that these types of sexual-abuse situations are more common than people think. "It's such a taboo in our society, and unless we start talking about it, it will happen more," Ramola said.

She said letting youth know that there are adults they can talk to about dating and sexuality is a big step toward preventing sexual-abuse situations. Ramola said there are also signs and indicators of sexual abuse parents can look for in teens, such as emotional withdrawal, school failure, promiscuity, poor self-image, drug/alcohol abuse and criminal/delinquent behavior.

For more information on sexual violence resources, education and counseling available in the community, contact the SVC at their 24-hour crisis hotline at 871-5111.