(May 20, 2019) An Ohio State University doctor sexually abused more than 177 male student athletes in a 20-year reign of perversion which OSU stands accused of being aware of and failing to stop. Suicided sex abuser Richard Strauss worked as a doctor at Ohio State University for twenty years. Today, OSU is being sued by more than 50 former student athletes for the dead man’s alleged sex crimes.
20+ Years of Sex Abuse
For nearly two decades at Ohio State, Strauss sexually abused at least 177 male students, according to an exhaustive independent investigation commissioned by the university. Most of the sex abuse occurred under the guise of providing students medical treatment.
“Doctor” Strauss worked at OSU from September 1978 through March 1998, primarily with the Athletic Department and the Student Health Center. The investigation found that university personnel became aware of Strauss’ abuse as early as 1979.
However, the report reads, “[D]espite the persistence, seriousness, and regularity of such complaints, no meaningful action was taken by the University to investigate such concerns until January 1996,” when they were first elevated to officials beyond Student Health or the Athletics Department.
Strauss was finally suspended from working as a treating physician at OSU in 1996. The university finally removed from its departments, but to its crying shame still kept him on as a tenured faculty member. The doctor voluntarily retired in 1998 with “emeritus” status from the university, and finally killed himself in 2005.
OSU President’s Apology
In a message emailed to the OSU community this year, university President Michael Drake wrote: “The findings are shocking and painful to comprehend.”
Mr. Drake, who became OSU’s president in 2014, added: “On behalf of the university, we offer our profound regret and sincere apologies to each person who endured Strauss’ abuse. 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.”
Drake said OSU would “take additional action as appropriate,” and that the school has begun the process of revoking Strauss’ emeritus status.
A Strauss Survivor Speaks
A survivor of Struss’ abuse, Kent Kilgore, said in a statement to the AP: “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.”
OSU said it launched the independent investigation in April 2019 after a former student came forward with allegations of abuse and “indicated … there may have been others who experienced sexual misconduct by Strauss.”
The investigation carried out by the law firm Perkins Coie was led by a former federal prosecutor and a former federal government ethics attorney. Both had experience in investigations involving male sexual abuse survivors.
The law firm interviewed 520 people, among them the 177 men who said they had been abused by Strauss.
The report of 230+ pages contains a long list of former students telling painful stories of Strauss abusing them as they saw him for medical care. In many cases, as with members of the wrestling team, they had only Strauss to see, as he typically managed to have himself assigned as the sole medical shepherd for all-male teams.
At least 50 former OSU athletes have filed lawsuits against the university for allowing Strauss to prey for 20 years on young athletes, long after the first disturbing reports of his perversions began to surface. Given the sheer numbers of abuse reports and the rumors which swirled around Struss for years, it appears that OSU knew or should have known it had a serial sex predator on its hands, yet the university failed to protect the students in its charge.
Instances of Abuse
The report says Strauss’ abuse often involved “routinely touch (a student’s) genitals at every visit, regardless of the medical ailment presented, including for a sore throat.”
The report states that members of 15 university athletic teams were abused. Strauss’ most frequent target was wrestlers – 48 of them – according to the report, with the abuse often escalating over multiple visits.
Other student athletes said Strauss would frequently shower with teams. He appeared to loiter and stare at naked students in locker rooms, making many uncomfortable.
A former soccer player told investigators Strauss would sometimes run a single lap just as the team was finishing up practice. The report says, “The student noted that it was a commonly-held perception among the players that Strauss was exercising as a pretext to shower with the team, and the student-athletes would try to shower as quickly as possible.”
Dozens of OSU staff coaches or trainers told investigators they had been aware of rumors and complaints against Strauss. The abuse was so well known that some students thought it was simply accepted by other OSU staff.
OSU Doctor’s Perversions an Open Secret
The report states: “Many of the students felt that Strauss’ behavior was an ‘open secret,’ as it appeared to them that their coaches, trainers, and other team physicians were fully aware of Strauss’ activities, and yet few seemed inclined to do anything to stop it.” Some students said they had the impression the well-known abuse was a form of hazing or a rite of passage.
The university took disciplinary action against Strauss only after a series of student complaints in the mid-1990s. But even after that belated action, he was allowed to open an off-campus private men’s health clinic near the university. He continued to abuse patients there while keeping his title as a tenured faculty professor.
Ohio State Doctor sexually abused male student athletes
Gabe Rosenberg and Adora Namigadde of WOSU reported: “At least 50 students have filed lawsuits against Ohio State, arguing the university knew about and declined to act in response to complaints about Strauss. Their case is headed to mediation.”
Brian Garrett, one of the lead plaintiffs, said in an interview last week: “It’s what we’ve been saying. They’ve failed to act, investigate or act, and now we have validation.”
WOSU said OSU has referred the report to Columbus Police, the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.