RAW Trainer Charged with Sexual Assault: Pleads Not Guilty 

Sarah Rodriguez, Editor-In-Chief

In Fall 2022, Mercury News broke a chilling story on California State University, East Bay’s very own Erik Nicoletti, a fitness trainer at the Recreation and Wellness Center (RAW) on campus. Court records indicate that Nicoletti was accused of sexually assaulting a student on campus grounds and was charged with two felonies: one count of sexual battery by restraint and false imprisonment, and one misdemeanor count of sexual battery. 


Behind locked doors, Nicoletti allegedly kissed, inappropriately touched, and forcibly used a vibrating wand on the genitals of a female student under the pseudonym of “Jane Doe” in court filings. Stunned and in shock, she “felt restrained due to the physical size difference between [her] and [Nicoletti], [with Nicoletti] falsely acting in a professional capacity,”2 reported UPD Officer Jonathan Duong in a probable cause statement. 


Since the initial accusation resurfaced, similar instances have been brought to light by multiple victims. 


Another female student shared a remarkably similar experience. Dating as far back as Spring 2019, the student’s first inappropriate encounter with Nicoletti occurred during an all-girls spin class on campus. 


Before he secured his status as full-time faculty with the university, Nicoletti taught on campus as an occasional substitute instructor. The student attended two of Nicoletti’s classes while her original trainer was out sick. In the session, she noted that the trainer made rather frequent “adjustments” to students, touching their chest and hips to fix their peddling stance. 


However, the following week during an all-girls session, Nicoletti was described as being more “hands-on” with the students in a literal sense. During the class, “he started touching people more inappropriately… he would adjust people’s hips and his hands would be there for a really long time,” she recalled. As an attendee, the student was appalled as she watched Nicoletti make repeated “adjustments” to her fellow female students; “I saw him touching everyone sexually and [thought], no, it’s not right.” 


Making his way around the room, Nicoletti then approached her: “When he tried touching me, it was right underneath my breast and he said ‘oh you need to stand up more,’ that’s when I told him, ‘could you just tell me verbally and I can do it…please don’t touch me.’” 


After the class ended, Nicoletti approached the student and her friend. In an attempt to reconcile the student-teacher relationship, Nicoletti tried to justify himself by saying, “I didn’t know [because] no one else said anything,” she recalled.


The conversation then shifted to a more casual tone. Nicoletti attempted to spark a playful conversation between the student and her friend, asking the pair about their hobbies and interests. He then invited the two women to attend summer training with him then proceeded to ask for their cellphone numbers. 


Nicoletti then pivoted the conversation and asked whether they were into fitness, to which they expressed that they both regularly instruct and attend dance classes. “Can you show me a few moves?” Nicoletti responded, making an effort to dance with the student. Although she declined, instead of stopping, “he then did the same thing with my friend … touching her hips and moving her,” she added. Uncomfortable and in shock, the two were frozen. 


“My friend did salsa [dancing], so he tried doing salsa with her,” however, the student noted that, with this particular dance style, “the hands aren’t supposed to be so much so on the hips but his hands kept going further down,” she recalled. As she watched Nicoletti’s wandering hands, she quickly came up with an excuse that would allow the two to exit safely. “I was trying to get her out of the situation… so things wouldn’t escalate further.” Fearful that Nicoletti might return to instruct again, the two stopped attending the classes altogether. 


In short, the incident that these two women endured and the disturbing actions that Nicoletti displayed—are intolerable. 


A male student, who was enrolled in Nicoletti’s fitness classes during the Fall 2021 semester, shared his uncomfortable exchanges with the trainer. He first met Nicoletti in his “Body Sculpting” class and later attended his Yoga and Bootcamp sessions. 


As an active member of Nicoletti’s classes, the student noticed numerous alarming patterns in the trainer’s behavior with other students. “Specifically towards girls in his class…I noticed how he was being too friendly, even asking about their major, what they like to do, their hobbies, and how their classes were going,” he said. 


In their first interaction outside of class, Nicoletti approached the student and invited him to schedule a check-in or one-on-one session. “I think because I was very active in his classes, he wanted to be more engaged with me…in fact, too engaged,” recalled the student. After agreeing, they had a total of two check-ins: “We did it behind closed doors in his office, where nobody could see us…it all felt very odd.” 


During the check-ins, the student reported that Nicoletti would encourage him to take progress pictures, in which the trainer would photograph him shirtless. He noted that Nicoletti only scheduled and conducted the check-ins twice. After the progress pictures were captured, he never heard from the trainer again. 


When the news surfaced regarding the trainer’s behavior, the student noted that he and his fellow male peers were, unfortunately, not surprised; “This was bound to happen.” It was evident that with each class, Nicoletti’s inappropriate behavior towards his students had developed into a pattern. 


Scarlet Schwenk, former Managing Editor at The Pioneer, shared her own disturbing experiences with Nicoletti. Within the three classes that Schwenk attended, she noted the overall sense of discomfort that the trainer evoked through his improper contact with students. 


Throughout the three sessions, “Erik had first groped my underboob under the guise of ‘assisting’ me in stretching, making comments about my appearance, and paid me more attention than my peers,” she explained. In her final session, Schwenk noted that the trainer was persistent, inviting her to stay behind; “He kept asking me to stay after to practice ‘partner yoga’ after everyone left the room. I had already expressed discomfort to my boyfriend, who then suggested he pick me up from the class, so he did.”  


In this case, the student was able to remove themselves from the situation to prevent further action on Nicoletti’s behalf. As expressed in ‘Jane Doe’s’ first-hand account, this is not always the case. 


Referring to Nicoletti’s case, Schwenk explained: “The terrifying part is that the girl who reported the incident has the exact same story as I. Erik has a pattern: abusers typically do. Had I not left that class when he pressured me to stay behind, I assure you further harassment would have occurred.” 


With this, the question remains: How might victims of such behavior ensure that action is taken on their behalf? East Bay’s solution: turn to Title IX. 


Despite being a resource that claims to protect victims of sexual harassment and violence, they often fail to elicit a sense of urgency. Upon interviewing sources, multiple students claimed to have filed Title IX reports in the past, only to be met with inaction on the university’s behalf. 


Regarding her incident with Nicoletti, Schwenk explained: “Lack of reporting on my end was due to a lack of urgency from the Title IX office when a previous incident was reported. I had received no message, no assistance, just radio silence from the office despite a report made from a faculty member on my behalf.”


How can students hope for a safer campus when the supposed “protectors” lack the urgency that is necessary to take action on their behalf? A look at Nicoletti’s timeline alone is evidence of this in itself. With the first recorded incident dating as far back as 2019, is it without a doubt that Nicoletti’s horrendous behavior is not a mere occurrence, but a long-stemmed pattern of sexual harassment? If this is truly the case, then why is the university administration taking action three years later?


The recent accusations against Nicoletti were only a result of one individual’s experience being made public, yet in this article alone are the stories of four. From the first incident to the last; there is no limit to the potential atrocities that might have ensued in secret. As Nicoletti takes the stand and pleads “not guilty,” it is with confidence that I assure you, he will be watched by the eyes of many. 


The incidents that continuously occurred within the walls of our campus are not only a testament to the moral corruption that exists in the world but also the damage that can ensue when the voices of our student community lack the attention they rightfully deserve. 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not reflect the opinions or views of The Pioneer Newspaper or its members.