Ohio State Finds 177 Cases of Abuse of Former Students

Report finds that university employees knew about the abuse by a doctor and failed to act.

May 17, 2019
 

At least 177 former students at Ohio State University were abused by a doctor at the institution, an independent investigation commissioned by the university has concluded. The report was released Friday morning.

The abuse was by Richard Strauss, who was employed by the university as a doctor from 1978 to 1998. Strauss died in 2005.

Ohio State missed the chance to prevent much of the abuse, the report found. "University personnel at the time had knowledge of complaints and concerns about Strauss’ conduct as early as 1979 but failed to investigate or act meaningfully," said a statement from the university. "In 1996, Ohio State removed Strauss from his role as a physician in both the Department of Athletics and Student Health Services. His actions were reported to the State Medical Board of Ohio that same year. The report found that the university failed to report Strauss’ conduct to law enforcement. He was allowed to voluntarily retire in 1998 with emeritus status."

Ohio State currently faces three lawsuits from abuse victims.

The number of abuse victims and the failure of the university to prevent abuse are both consistent with long-term abuse by doctors at Michigan State University and the University of Southern California.

The abuse at Ohio State was all of male athletes. The executive summary of the investigation report says that Strauss's abuse ranged from "overt," such as "fondling to the point of erection and ejaculation," to more "subtle acts." The latter category includes requiring students to strip naked when there was no medical need to do so, or asking questions about students' sexual practices. Typically, the report found, the abuse "escalated over time." The university released the report with names redacted and a warning that the report contains explicit descriptions of sexual abuse.

Ohio State's president, Michael V. Drake, issued a letter to the campus Friday.

"The findings are shocking and painful to comprehend," Drake wrote. "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. This independent investigation was completed because of the strength and courage of survivors. We thank each of them for their willingness to share their experiences."

Drake noted that the university has adopted many additional safeguards to prevent abuse in the years since Strauss was employed there.

"Issues of sexual misconduct and abuse challenge our society in real and important ways. We will continue to work to ensure that Ohio State is at the forefront of addressing these critical issues and enhancing the safety and well-being of our community," Drake said.

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