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Report: Ohio State knew school doctor had sexually abused students as early as 1979, but did not investigate

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State University personnel were aware of complaints that a school doctor had sexually abused students as early as the late 1970s, bu...
Ohio State University

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State University personnel were aware of complaints that a school doctor had sexually abused students as early as the late 1970s, but failed to adequately investigate the allegations, according to a new report released Friday.

The report the university released was compiled by independent investigators and details acts of sexual abuse believed to be carried out by the late Dr. Richard Strauss against at least 177 students while he worked at the school between 1978 and 1998.

“The report concludes that 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,” the university said in a statement.

In a message sent to the OSU community, President Michael Drake said the report’s “findings are shocking and painful to comprehend.”

The allegations against Strauss — who died by suicide in 2005 — emerged last year after former Ohio State athletes came forward to claim the doctor had sexually abused them under the guise of a medical examination.

The university announced last April it had hired a law firm to investigate Strauss’ alleged misconduct.

OSU apologizes for ‘fundamental failure’ to act

Ohio Republican Sen. Jim Jordan, a former OSU wrestler and assistant coach, came under scrutiny last year when former teammates said he knew about Strauss’ alleged abuse. Jordan has repeatedly denied having any knowledge of the abuse.

“On behalf of the university, we offer our profound regret and sincere apologies to each person who endured Strauss’ abuse,” Drake said. “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 credited the completion of the investigation to the “strength and courage of survivors” who were willing to share their experiences.

Complaints of abuse persisted for years

The report — compiled by investigators from the law firm Perkins Coie — said Strauss sexually abused “at least 177 male student-patients.”

Some of those victims came under treatment by Strauss because he was a team physician in the OSU Athletics Department, the report said. Others he treated as a physician in the Student Health Center or as part of “other pursuits,” the report said.

Some of the abuse was more obvious and “overt,” investigators found, while some of it was “more subtle” and “masked with a pretextual medical purpose.”

Allegations of abuse were made as early as Strauss’ first year at the school, the report said, and continued throughout the next two decades.

Yet those complaints went no further than the Athletics and Student Health departments until 1996, according to the report. That’s when Strauss was suspended after a student accused him of abuse during an examination at the Student Health clinic.

Abuse on and off campus

OSU “undertook a very limited investigation of Strauss’ complaint history,” the report said. And while it ultimately ended with the doctor’s removal from the Athletics Department and Student Health, “his status as a tenured faculty member remained unaffected.”

The abuse continued at a private “men’s clinic” that Strauss had opened off campus with the approval of the school’s Associate Vice President of Health Sciences and Academic Affairs at the time. According to the report, the clinic specialized in sexually transmitted diseases and urological issues. Strauss was allowed to advertise the clinic in the student newspaper.