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A pair of cheerleading twins have accused their coach of sexually abusing them, a lawsuit alleges.

Hannah and Jessica Gerlacher, now 22, allege in the civil suit that former coach Jason McCartney started to abuse them seven years ago when they were just 15 years old.

They allege their coach Jason McCartney repeatedly fondled and groped them at Cheer Athletics gyms in Frisco and Plano, Texas, US.

The lawsuit, filed in Travis County on Monday, alleges that McCartney abused the sisters under the pretense of "spotting" as he assisted them during difficult moves.

Both allege McCartney touched their breasts, crotches, and bottoms and pushed his erection against them during the training sessions.

The twins say in the suit they now look back knowing the spotting was not for their safety but "for his own sick pleasure".

McCartney also instructed Hannah to sit on his lap and fondled her genitals, the suit claims.

"What happened to Hannah and Jessica as minors is inexcusable. They’ve had to deal with a lot of pain and trauma that they’ve had to hide," Andrew Dao, an attorney for the twins, told NBC DFW.

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The women, who have more than 66,000 followers on Instagram, said they came forward with the allegations to encourage others to speak up if they have faced sexual abuse.

In a statement issued on Monday, the sisters wrote: "The silence surrounding abusive coaches, and the failures of gyms like Cheer Athletics and USASF to protect minor athletes has to stop.

"We have gained strength from watching women in gymnastics speak out about abuse, and we are here to stop a similar culture in the sport of cheerleading."

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They are seeking $10 million (more than £7 million) in damages.

The US All-Star Federation, which governs all-star cheerleading and dance in the United States says they have taken "significant steps" to respond to misconduct allegations, the Daily Beast reports.

"We deplore any instance of sexual misconduct or harassment of our members, and we have taken significant steps to respond to reports of misconduct and to make it clear that there is no place for sexual predators in the cheer and dance community," they said in a statement said.

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Jody Melton, a representative of Cheer Athletics, told NBC DFW the company is investigating the allegations and said they had not been made aware of them "during [the Gerlachers] years as athletes or in the nearly six years since they left the program".

Mr Melton said: "Cheer Athletics remains steadfast in its commitment to athlete safety, including any improper contact between athletes and coaches and has an established track record of taking swift action to address such allegations, including making mandatory reports to law enforcement.

"Cheer Athletics will continue its investigation into the Gerlachers’ allegations as more information is provided, and will vigorously defend itself to the extent any such claims are found to be without merit."

If you or somebody you know has been affected by this story, contact Victim Support for free, confidential advice on 0845 30 30 900 or visit their website, www.victimsupport.org.uk.

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