For decades, Dr. Richard Strauss preyed upon young men at Ohio State University — watching them shower and groping them during medical exams – but administrators failed to put a stop to sexual abuse, seven men told OSU trustees on Friday.
Strauss, who died by suicide in 2005 in California, was a faculty member, student health center physician and athletics doctor from 1979-98 at OSU. The statements on Friday marked the first time victims were able to publicly put their allegations in front of OSU power brokers.
“I have lived with it for a quarter of a century and for all of that time I believed I was his only victim,” said one man, who said he was assaulted four times at the health center. “The board must realize that the damage has been corrosive. It has burned its way through our lives.”
The man said he stayed quiet because of shame and fear.
“There hasn’t been a single day since it happened that I haven’t thought about it,” he said. “It has festered and rotted alone in the corners of my mind since the 90s. It constitutes extreme damage, extreme harm.”
Others echoed those feelings.
“Like my fellow survivors, I still wake up with a start every now and then, seeing Dr. Strauss’ face,” said one victim, a wrestler who quit the team.
A former Buckeye hockey player said Strauss assaulted him during his senior year, and he reported it to a respected athletic trainer but that the complaint went nowhere.
“Your comments are extremely powerful and deeply troubling. Rest assured this board is not dismissing you,” said Ohio State Board of Trustees Chairman Michael Gasser. “We are committed to doing the right thing. This investigation will be over soon and we look forward to the board coming up with the appropriate action and response at that time.”
Ohio State announced an investigation in April, and the Ohio Attorney General hired Porter Wright Morris & Arthur to represent the university. Porter Wright, in turn, hired Perkins Coie, another firm, to conduct an investigation that uncovered 150 first-hand accounts of abuse by Strauss. Perkins Coie told trustees this week that the victim accounts are largely consistent with one another.
Brian Garrett, a nurse who said he was groped by Strauss during a medical exam for a heartburn complaint, organized the victims to make statements.
“Yes, we were 18, 19, 20, but we were still children, we were somebody’s child. This is a national story and it’s not going to go away and the entire country is watching,” Garrett said. “I just want to say one last thing: we’re tired of words. We don’t want words. We want actions going forward.”
Garrett, of suburban Columbus, said he doesn’t have much faith in the Perkins Coie investigation, which has cost more than $1.5 million so far and is expected to conclude next month.
“I don’t think it’s truly independent investigation because Ohio State is paying for it and they get to control the information,” he said.
Former Buckeye wrestler Michael Schyck, a two-time NCAA All American, said Strauss abused him during exams and he watched athletes in the locker room showers on a regular basis.
“We were all exposed to Dr. Strauss through physicals, check ups, visits for an injury or ailment. And coaches and administrators knew,” he said.
Schyck, who grew up north of Ann Arbor, decided to attend Ohio State because of its coaching staff, including U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana.
“Did Jim Jordan know?” he said. “Look, being a part of our locker room, it’s hard not to know.”
Jordan has repeatedly said he didn’t know of abuse allegations, and if he had, he would have done something about it. Jordan worked as an assistant wrestling coach from 1986-94, overlapping with Strauss.
Some of the men spoke at the board meeting without revealing their names while others went on the record. This news organization does not identify victims of sexual assault without their consent.
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