Taking Action As To Suspicions Of Student Sexual Abuse

According to the report of independent investigators at Ohio State University, Dr. Richard Strauss (who took his own life in 2005 at age 67), sexually abused at least 177 former students during his employment with the university from 1978 to 1998. More than 500 individuals were interviewed by the independent investigators. They also reviewed documents that dated back to the relevant time period.

The report also stated that other university employees at the time were aware of complaints and concerns about the behaviour of Strauss as early as 1979, but failed to investigate or act on the complaints.

Strauss was removed by the university from his role as a physician in both the Student Health Services and the Department of Athletics in 1996. However, even if his actions were reported to the State Medical Board of Ohio during the same year, the university failed to report his behavior to law enforcement. He was even allowed to voluntarily retire with emeritus status in 1998.

In light of the results of the independent investigation, however, President Michael V. Drake of Ohio State University has apologized via a university-wide message. Michael J. Gasser, Board of Trustees Chair of Ohio State says the university "has been committed to an appropriate response for survivors since allegations were brought to the university's attention in spring 2018." Ohio State has started the process to revoke the faculty emeritus status that was given to Strauss in 1998. The university will take additional action as appropriate.

Three groups of plaintiffs have sued the university. Ohio State News "Independent investigation finds Ohio State doctor Richard Strauss abused students from 1979 to 1998," https://news.osu.edu (May 17, 2019).

Commentary and Checklist

Richard Strauss worked as a team doctor and sports medicine researcher for the Ohio State University during his employment. During the time of ongoing sexual abuse of male athletes, some victims complained to their coaches. Other coaches allegedly "shrugged it off" but there was one wrestling coach who reported the allegations. Unfortunately, the university still failed to take appropriate action.

This is similar to the Sandusky case in Penn State and the Larry Nassar case with the U.S. Gymnastics athletes. All of these perpetrators held positions of trust. They were popular and well-respected. Unfortunately, all three got away with abusing athletes and students for years before reports of the abuse were believed and acted upon.

What can be done to protect students from sexual abuse?

  • Report abuse immediately. Hesitating can put a student in further danger.
  • Be prepared to inform law enforcement of the victim's name and age, the type of conduct involved, and the name of the suspected abuser. Report even if you do not have all this information.
  • If you are reporting based on your own observations, report even if you are not certain, but have a reasonable suspicion or concern.
  • If you are reporting what a student has told you, report everything, no matter what you may think.
  • You do not have to be correct. Allow law enforcement to investigate to determine the facts.
  • Report all student sexual abuse, even if you are not a mandatory reporter.
  • Take all reports seriously and follow each of them with an investigation.
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