Sexual abuse victims of a now-deceased Ohio State University team doctor spoke out to the school’s trustees in a hearing last week.
Richard Strauss served Ohio State athletes and students as a team doctor and at his off-campus office for two decades, with only a single documented complaint from 1995. But a growing list of alumni have come forward in recent years alleging numerous incidents of sexual misconduct from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s. Strauss committed suicide in 2005.
All of the athletes were male and described encounters with the doctor that included uncomfortable propositions and unnecessary groping—all under the guise of medical care. Many of the more than 150 plaintiffs in two separate lawsuits claimed they voiced their concerns to university staff but saw no follow-up from campus officials. The lawsuits against the university allege that more than 20 school officials and staff, including two athletic directors, knew of concerns about how Strauss treated young men but did not stop him.
Seven sexual abuse victims, three of whom spoke anonymously, gave statements to the board and university officials Friday. “I realize that all those years I have incubated the trauma,” said one former student identified as John Doe. “Many of my life’s decisions have been made with the heavy burden of this memory. … My life would have taken a completely different path, a path that would have been my choice. So the board must realize that the damage has been corrosive. It has burned its way through our lives.”
The university recently hired an outside firm to investigate the accusations after initially attempting to dismiss the lawsuits due to the amount of time since the alleged abuse.
The plaintiffs’ goal is “to encourage people that there is an avenue to have their story told, to help contribute to the fight to change this practice and this policy of indifference,” said Jack Landskroner, one of their attorneys. —Laura Edghill