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Anderson accuser with cancer plans to stick with protest outside UM president's home

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Clarification: This story has been updated to more specifically explain Chuck Christian's unwillingness to undergo prostate exams in the years after he was allegedly assaulted by former UM doctor Robert Anderson.

Chuck Christian left Boston on Tuesday with a change of clothes in his car and his daily regimen of 30 pills and a shot to alleviate the pain from cancer that is spread throughout his body.

He arrived at the University of Michigan 15 hours later early Wednesday to join Jon Vaughn, who has been camped outside the home of UM President Mark Schlissel for 10 days.

Vaughn's protest is aimed at getting Schlissel and the board of regents to meet to discuss the alleged sexual abuse by the late Dr. Robert Anderson of  Vaughn and hundreds of others.

Sexual abuse survivors of University of Michigan Dr. Robert Anderson, Michigan State University Dr. Larry Nassar and Ohio State University Dr. Richard Strauss protest Saturday outside of UM President Mark Schlissel's house. Anderson victim Jon Vaughn, top row, middle, has been camped out the president's home for 10 ten days. Chuck Christian, another Anderson victim, bottom left, is joining Vaughn for the protest.

Christian, 61, a UM tight end from 1977-81, alleged last spring that he was assaulted by former university Dr. Robert E. Anderson, who's accused of sexually assaulting scores of male patients. Anderson gave Christian four prostate exams during his sports physicals while he played football for UM in the 1970s. He said the trauma led him to avoid allowing other doctors to give him a prostate exam until more recently when he was diagnosed with late-stage cancer.

Christian has prevailed over his doctors' predictions that he would die three years ago, though he has come close.

Christian said that he only planned to stay with Vaughn though the weekend. But he said Sunday he plans to stay for the long haul with Vaughn after his wife encouraged him, and he spoke with many students who disclosed their experience with sexual assault at UM.

Now, there are two men who say they were sexually assaulted by Anderson protesting outside Schlissel's house.

"We are not just speaking about the Anderson case," said Christian. "We can't do anything about that. What we can do something about is what is going on with young people right now at UM because there is rape culture here. ... We are here to put a nationwide spotlight on the Michigan leaders. We are really going to see if Michigan is the leaders and best."

Vaughn said he is glad to have Christian join him.

"Chuck’s my man," Vaughn said. "I love him like a brother. Couldn’t have asked for anyone better."

Days before Vaughn started his protest, Schlissel announced he would leave the presidency in June 2023, one year before his contract ended. 

Vaughn now says that is not soon enough.

"He hasn’t been doing anything productive to make the students feel safe on campus," said Vaughn. "Let’s get him out of the way and go after the puppet masters here, the board of regents."

UM officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

When asked Friday if Schlissel was going to meet with Vaughn and others, UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the president was in a "tough spot" since mediation is underway with 850 accusers of the doctor and the court has asked both sides to not talk about the process.

On Sunday night, Fitzgerald added that the university is "working every day to make our campus safer for every member of our community."

"We have made several key hires for the newly formed Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office and more positions are being posted," he said. "These new staff members will help us transform our approach to sexual misconduct prevention, education and adjudication. We also are working toward fair compensation for the Anderson survivors through the confidential, court-supervised mediation process that is continuing."

Vaughn, 51, a UM running back from 1988-91 and professional football player, started his protest in front of Schlissel's house on Oct. 8. It is unclear how long he will camp outside the president's home.

He said he has talked with hundreds of people since he has been camped out, and has had many conversations with students and others about the climate on campus.

Last week, more than 100 allies, including victims of the now-imprisoned Larry Nassar, joined Vaughn in a show of solidarity.

This weekend, a victim of the late Ohio State University Dr. Richard Strauss joined Vaughn and Christian. Strauss is accused of sexual abuse by more than 500 male athletes while he was the team physician at the university from 197898.

Rocky Ratliff, a lawyer who said he was abused by Strauss and is also representing 49 men in the case, said more victims plan to join Vaughn and Christian. He said he brought his family to Ann Arbor because he thought it was important to show support for the men who experienced similar abuse.

"These guys want social change for current and future students," said Ratliff.

Trinea Gonczar, a Nassar victim, also has joined Vaughn several times.

"Being a survivor is not easy," said Gonczar. "I just want to recognize my privilege because I'm white and I'm a woman and I received a settlement. Most survivors don't get justice. They don't get money. They have to walk around every day with their perpetrator walking free."

Vaughn is a Black man, Gonczar noted, and she wonders every time he leaves there if he might be in fear, and worries what police might do if they find him.

"He's just a survivor, and he's mad and he's suffering," Gonczar said. "I really hope every day he is OK."

Christian doesn't know how long he will be camping outside Schlissel's house. But his wife is mailing him more medicine. Otherwise he said he would be in a lot of pain and wouldn't be about to get his 6'3", 250-pound body out of the air mattress that he is sleeping on inside a tent.

He plans to go back to Boston for a doctor's appointment on Nov. 12. His prostate-specific antigen levels are elevated.

But after his doctor's appointment, Christian said he plans to return, especially after one student told him that the former athletes' presence is the first time she felt safe on campus.

"This is so much bigger than Anderson," Christian said. "They are dropping the ball when it comes to the safety of these young people."

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com