Ohio State: 100 ex-students report sex misconduct by doctor
By Kantele Franko
COLUMBUS — More than 100 former students have provided firsthand accounts of sexual misconduct by the now-dead Ohio State University team physician at the center of an ongoing investigation, the university said on Friday, July 20.
Over 200 former students and university employees have been confidentially interviewed by independent investigators reviewing allegations against Richard Strauss involving male athletes from 14 sports as well as his work at the student health center and his off-campus medical office, University President Michael Drake said.
Those allegations range from 1979 to 1997, during most of Strauss’ two decades on the faculty and medical staff. Many of the accusers who have spoken publicly allege Strauss groped them or conducted unnecessary genital exams.
“We are grateful to those who have come forward and remain deeply concerned for anyone who may have been affected by Dr. Strauss’ actions,” Drake said. “We remain steadfastly committed to uncovering the truth.”
Ohio State has urged anyone with information to contact the Seattle-based law firm Perkins Coie’s investigators, who are looking into the allegations, what university officials knew and how they responded to any concerns about Strauss. They also are reviewing whether Strauss examined high school students.
The university announced the investigation in April after allegations about Strauss were brought forward this year.
The school said investigators are accepting anonymous reports and noted that they aren’t proactively reaching out to potential victims because they want to avoid re-traumatizing anyone who doesn’t want to revisit such an experience.
The university said investigators plan 100 or more additional interviews. Those who say they’ve been interviewed include wrestlers who say they were groped during physicals and a former student who says he witnessed and experienced sexual abuse in one day while working at Strauss’ off-campus medical office in the mid-1990s.
Also interviewed was Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, who denies some wrestlers’ claims that he knew about abuse when he was an assistant coach at Ohio State from 1987 to 1995.
The head coach back then, Russ Hellickson, similarly has said he would have reported any abuse if he had been aware of it.
Former athletes say they verbally raised concerns about Strauss as early as the late 1970s.
His employment records released by the university referenced no reprimands or disciplinary action over any such concerns, but Ohio State has a record of at least one documented complaint against Strauss. Paperwork from 1995 shows a then-director of the student health center said a student’s complaint about being inappropriately touched by Strauss during an exam was the first such complaint he’d received.
The documentation that ex-student Steve Snyder-Hill obtained from Ohio State this week shows he complained about Strauss by phone — not by letter, as he’d recalled — and heard back from the director, Ted Grace. Snyder-Hill said he was told that Strauss denied his allegations.
“I want to assure you that we had never received a complaint about Dr. Strauss before, although we have had several positive comments,” Grace’s letter said.
Grace now leads student health services at Southern Illinois University. He declined to comment through a spokeswoman there.
Strauss killed himself in 2005. His relatives have said they were shocked by sexual abuse allegations against him.
Strauss’ personnel file at Ohio State indicates he previously did research, taught or practiced medicine at Harvard University, Rutgers University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Washington and the University of Hawaii. Most of those institutions say they have little record of Strauss, and none has said any concerns were raised about him.
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University shares updates related to ongoing Strauss investigation
Investigators have now interviewed over 200 former students and staff
COLUMBUS — The Ohio State University shared an update today (July 20) on the continuing, independent investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct raised against Richard Strauss, a former university-employed physician from the mid-1970s to the 1990s. He died in 2005.
“We are grateful to those who have come forward and remain deeply concerned for anyone who may have been affected by Dr. Strauss’ actions,” said Ohio State President Michael V. Drake. “We remain steadfastly committed to uncovering the truth.”
On April 5, Ohio State announced the initiation of the investigation into Strauss. Since that time, the independent investigators at Perkins Coie LLP, an international law firm with expertise in these matters, have completed interviews with more than 200 former students and university staff believed to have information concerning the allegations involving Strauss.
This includes confidential interviews with more than 100 former students who report firsthand accounts of sexual misconduct committed by Strauss.
Investigators expect to conduct more than 100 additional interviews and remain in regular communication with the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office.
The allegations date from the period 1979 to 1997 and were reported confidentially to the investigative team by former students engaged in university athletics, including varsity men student-athletes in 14 sports, and by former patients of Student Health Services. In August 1996, Strauss established a private medical office in Columbus outside the university setting, where individuals have reported that additional acts of sexual misconduct occurred. Perkins Coie is also investigating whether, and to what extent, Strauss may have examined high school-aged students during his time at the university.
The university continues to encourage anyone with information about incidents relating to Strauss and his time at Ohio State to contact investigators at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The identity of those who contact Perkins Coie will be treated with the utmost confidence and sensitivity permitted by law, and individuals may report anonymously if they wish.
The independent investigative team is using the most trauma-informed approach to an investigation of this type, which does not include reaching out to prospective victims directly due to the concern of re-traumatizing those who may have been affected and do not wish to revisit the experience. Perkins Coie has worked with Ohio State to release regular updates to the public in order to empower others to determine whether they want to come forward.
As a result, Ohio State has broadly communicated about the investigation, contacting more than 115,000 alumni and former student-athletes and reaching an additional 147,000 people through university-wide notifications. A university website houses information about the ongoing investigation, including resources for people who have experienced sexual misconduct.
The Ohio State University remains actively committed to uncovering what may have happened and what university leaders at the time may have known. The university will continue to provide updates as the independent investigation progresses and report the outcome upon its completion.