A former Ohio State team doctor sexually abused at least 177 male students from 1979-96, according to an investigative report released Friday.
The abuse included athletes from at least 16 school sports teams and also encompassed other students who saw Dr. Richard Strauss at the school’s student health center and an off-campus clinic.
According to the report, the school “had knowledge” of sexually abusive treatment from Strauss as early as 1979, “but reports about Strauss’ conduct were not elevated beyond the Athletics Department or Student Health until 1996.”
Strauss died in 2005. He was employed by the university from 1978-98 but was suspended from his work as a treating physician in January 1996 after a patient accused Strauss of fondling him during a genital examination. Strauss continued in his role as a tenured faculty member, though. The school said it has initiated the process to revoke the faculty emeritus status that was conferred upon Strauss.
“On behalf of the university, we offer our profound regret and sincere apologies to each person who endured Strauss’ abuse,” Ohio State President Michael Drake wrote in a message to campus community on Friday. “Our institution’s fundamental failure at the time to prevent this abuse was unacceptable – as were the inadequate efforts to thoroughly investigate complaints raised by students and staff members.
“This independent investigation was completed because of the strength and courage of survivors. We thank each of them for their willingness to share their experiences.”
According to the report, “Strauss’ acts of abuse ranged from the overt – such as fondling to the point of erection and ejaculation – to more subtle acts of abuse that were masked with a pretextual medical purpose – for example, requiring a student-patient to strip completely naked to purportedly ‘assess’ an orthopedic condition, or asking probing questions about a student-patient’s sexual practices or performance.”
The report was the result of a yearlong investigation by the law firm the Perkins, Coie LLP and involved interviews with more than 500 former students and university employees.
“Dreams were broken, relationships with loved ones were damaged, and the harm now carries over to our children as many of us have become so overprotective that it strains the relationship with our kids,” Kent Kilgore, one of the victims, said in a statement.
Three groups of plaintiffs have sued Ohio State, and the school says it’s actively participating in a mediation process.
“We hope that the report will force OSU to take responsibility for its failure to protect young students,” Steve Estey, an attorney representing some of the victims, said in a statement. “If OSU refuses to take responsibility the we will continue with civil litigation and put this in front of a jury for the community to judge their actions.”
While some former Ohio State wrestlers have said that Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, must have known about the situation during Jordan’s tenure as an assistant wrestling coach from 1987-95, the report doesn’t mention Jordan or any Ohio State coaches by name.
“We’re glad it’s done and we’re glad the university, for those individuals who were harmed, we’re glad the university has agreed to pay for counseling. But it confirms exactly what I’ve said all along: that I didn’t know any type of harm to athletes,” Jordan said Friday. “If I did, I would have done something about it.”
Asked if the report provided some closure for Jordan and his alleged role in the controversy, the lawmaker said, “I thought it was closed for me a long time ago and you guys know me – if I thought one of our athletes was being harmed, I’ve taken on the FBI, I’ve taken on the IRS, John Boehner – I’d have done something. But yeah we’re glad that the report’s done and that people who need counseling and want counseling, the university’s going to pay for that.”