Ohio State University physician Richard Strauss could have sexually abused thousands of students during his nearly two decades on campus — well beyond the 177 men who talked to investigators hired by the university, according to attorneys representing some of the victims.
“Ohio State needs to come clean on how many male students Strauss examined and may have abused. It is unquestionably far more than the 177 students interviewed for the report. And it could easily be in the thousands,” said Adele Kimmel, senior attorney with Public Justice, which is representing 60 victims.
Plaintiffs in Snyder-Hill versus Ohio State University are demanding that OSU encourage more victims to come forward, disclose the names of coaches and others who knew of the ongoing abuse, release the total number of students examined by Strauss, disclose the names of Columbus area middle and high schools where Strauss conducted research and put forth a concrete plan for giving victims justice and preventing future abuse.
During the course of the investigation, Ohio State contacted 115,000 alumni and former student-athletes and 147,000 students and employees to encourage those who were victimized to come forward.
It also centralized sexual assault and harassment reporting through a single office, implemented misconduct prevention programs, and added mechanisms for reporting misconduct.
On Friday, the university released a $6.2 million, 232-page report by Perkins Coie, a Seattle-based law firm, hired by OSU to conduct an independent investigation into Strauss’ misconduct and who at the university knew about it.
Dozens of coaches, medical personnel and administrators knew of complaints about Strauss but they failed to act on it or report it to police, the report concluded.
“This is the one of the greatest sex abuse scandals in American history,” said Ilann Maazel, attorney for the plaintiffs.
Michigan State University paid out $500 million so far to victims of sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar. When asked what Ohio State’s exposure may be, Maazel said time will tell. “This is a very serious, substantial situation that occurred over decades. And I think everyone knows that, including Ohio State.”
Ohio State General Counsel Chris Culley said last week that the university has alerted multiple insurance carriers it had during Strauss’ tenure.
Investigators, Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio State University officials and others said that sexual abuse, particularly involving male victims, is under-reported and the number of Strauss’ victims is certainly higher than the 177 survivors who were willing to be interviewed by Perkins Coie.
Dayton attorney Michael Wright said he represents about 60 victims, including about 50 former football players, who will file suit later this week. Wright said he doesn’t think any of his clients are among the 177.
Strauss worked as a physician at the student health center, a team doctor in athletics and a faculty member from 1979 to 1998, when he retired with emeritus status. He died by suicide in California in 2005.
While current university administrators say OSU is a different place now than decades ago, men who are suing the university say they still feel mistreated. Steve Snyder-Hill said last year the university withheld documents he had requested involving a complaint against Strauss in the 90s. Brian Garrett questioned why the Strauss’ personnel file released last year by the university didn’t include disciplinary records related to a January 1996 complaint filed by a patient at the student health center.
“The school likes to say that this is ‘a different OSU’ but, until it makes clear and accepts responsibility for the full scope of what happened and how, there is no reason to believe that,” Snyder-Hill said.
Laura Bischoff is our Columbus bureau reporter and covers politics and state government. She keeps a close eye on elected leaders, public employees and taxpayer money. Bischoff tries to write stories that inform voters, hold leaders accountable and strengthen democracy.