Attorneys: Ohio State needs to reveal who knew about abuse
Toledo, Ohio – Administrators at Ohio State University should release the names of all coaches, trainers and personnel who knew of but failed to act on complaints about a now-dead team doctor who sexually abused male students for nearly two decades, said attorneys for some of the victims.
They also are calling on the university to give them a specific plan by June that shows how Ohio State will deal with future sexual abuse allegations and how it will make sure this never happens again.
The attorneys, who represent nearly 60 men who say they were abused by Dr. Richard Strauss, want Ohio State to reveal more about what it knows, including details about his work with high school athletes and at summer camps run by the school.
Those demands are in response to a report released Friday that found Strauss sexually abused at least 177 male students from the 1970s through the 1990s. They included athletes from at least 16 sports at Ohio State as well as students treated at the campus health center and his clinic near the university.
Numerous university officials had heard complaints or concerns about Strauss over the years but did little or nothing to stop him, according to the report compiled by investigators from a law firm the university hired.
That includes 22 coaches who corroborated victims’ accounts of Strauss’ abuse, the report said. University officials at the time would have been obligated to report felony offenses to police, according to Sarah Ackman, a legal adviser to Gov. Mike DeWine. The governor said that did not appear to have happened. On Monday, he ordered a review of the state medical board’s handling of the case.
“Why are they anonymous?” asked attorney Ilann Maazel in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday. “It’s astounding the number of people who knew and who did nothing or almost nothing.”
Among the coaches at Ohio State during Strauss’ time was Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, an assistant wrestling coach from 1987 to 1995.
The Ohio congressman has repeatedly denied allegations made by some former wrestlers who have said he knew about allegations that they were inappropriately groped.
Jordan’s name isn’t mentioned in the report, which said investigators didn’t find documentary evidence that any coaches at Ohio State were aware of the complaints. The report also said it couldn’t make conclusive determinations about each allegation about the former coaches.
A spokesman for Jordan said the report showed he didn’t know about the abuse.
Maazel said the report “only scratches the surface” because Strauss would have seen thousands of athletes and students during his career and that it’s likely there are many more victims who have not come forward.
“If the university wants to come clean, tell us how many people Dr. Strauss had access to,” Maazel said.
Many former students told investigators that Strauss’ behavior was an “open secret.” He eventually was let go as a team doctor and physician at the student health center but retired with honors from a faculty position. He later killed himself at age 67 in 2005.
No one has publicly defended Strauss. His family released a statement Monday that said it was heartbreaking to read about pain so many people have suffered for decades.
“Our deepest condolences go out to the abuse survivors and their families for the trauma they have endured,” the statement read.
Ohio State President Michael Drake said last week there was a “consistent institutional failure” at the school. He also apologized and commended victims for their courage.
But Drake also tried to distance Ohio State from what happened more than two decades ago. “This is not the university of today,” he said.
On Monday, he said in an emailed statement that the university has added multiple safeguards against sexual assault over the past 20 years, including mandatory reporting and training.
Adele Kimmel, an attorney for some former students, said the university has not done enough yet for the victims, who need to hear a detailed plan about what additional reforms will be put in place. She wants that done by mid-June when attorneys will sit down with the university for mediation.
“It better be the gold standard given what has happened,” she said.
Steven Snyder-Hill, one of the men who has come forward, said he has been disappointed by how the university has tried to distance itself from what happened.
He also said he had to wait until Friday – the day the report was released – to receive records he requested last year from Ohio State about a complaint he made against Strauss in 1995 after being examined at the student health center
Those records showed he wasn’t the only one to complain about Strauss even though the then-director of the student health center told him they heard nothing but positive reports about the doctor, Snyder-Hill said.
“It feels like they’re treating me the same as they did then,” he said.