Ohio State Sued Over Handling of Sexual Abuse Complaints
Ohio State University is grappling with more lawsuits over its handling of sexual abuse complaints against Richard Strauss, a former university-employed physician from the mid-1970s to the 1990s. Strauss committed suicide in 2005.
According to The Columbus Dispatch, fiver former students filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on Friday, alleging the university of not doing enough to prevent incidents of sexual assault from taking place on campus.
The new lawsuit, filed by three members of the wrestling team and two other patients, alleged Strauss of sexually assaulting and molesting nearly 1,500 to 2,500 male students.
“OSU not only turned a blind eye to it but facilitated the abuse… OSU’s institutional indifference to the rights and safety of its students — who collectively were exposed to decades of sexual abuse by Dr. Strauss — is staggering,” the lawsuit reads.
Last year, more than 100 former students, including members of the men’s wrestling team, reported firsthand accounts of sexual misconduct committed by Strauss. This prompted the university to hire the services of the independent investigators at Perkins Coie LLP.
The university contacted more than 115,000 alumni and former student-athletes and reached out to an additional 147,000 people through university-wide notifications to learn more about the alleged incidents involving Strauss.
“I was always afraid. [Strauss] was the leading doctor on steroid use in the world, and I was always like, he could always say that medically there’s some reason that he needs to spend 15 minutes on my penis,” an athlete who wished to stay anonymous told The Lantern.
“He could have said that and he’s dead now, but that’s what always scared me. But now I’m like, that’s crazy. Especially when that other doctor came in five minutes and checked me out.”
The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) also announced an investigation in August to determine whether the university responded “promptly and equitably” to hundreds of complaints filed by its former students.
The university has maintained that it responded appropriately when the complaints were first brought to its notice.
“We responded promptly and appropriately to the allegations received in April about Dr. Strauss,” vice president Gates Garrity-Rokous said last year. “We are confident in the independence and thoroughness of the investigation we launched then as well as our ongoing commitment to transparency.”
A new centralized report and response office was also opened to respond to sexual and gender-based harassment and to enhance the university’s Title IX programs and procedures.
Earlier this month, the Ohio State Medical Board filed a brief against the university’s move to make public certain confidential information of Strauss found by a medical board probe citing violation of state law and the medical board’s confidentiality rules.