Ohio State University says it has received nearly 1,500 reports of sexual assault in the last year against a now-deceased doctor who worked at the school for two decades.
Before his death by suicide in 2005, Dr. Richard Strauss worked in the school’s athletic department and student health center from September 1978 to March 1998, primarily treating student athletes, including numerous male wrestlers.
Earlier this year, 177 male victims came forward with sexual abuse allegations against Strauss. Many claimed to have been abused multiple times and said the university knew about the situation but failed to do anything about it.
According to NPR, the school was first made aware of the problem in 1979, but it didn’t act until the almost 20 years later when outside sources got wind of what was going on in 1996. That’s when Strauss was suspended from working as a physician. He retired two years later, in 1998.
Steve Snyder-Hill was one of Strauss’ alleged victims. He told NPR earlier this year, “He proceeded to do a full-body exam, including my genitalia area, which is completely unorthodox because I was there for my chest.”
Others claim Strauss would shower with athletic teams, ogling the naked young men, and he would find reasons to touch their genitalia during medical exams “regardless of the medical ailment presented, including for a sore throat,” an investigative report states.
“Many of the students felt that Strauss’ behavior was an ‘open secret,’ as it appeared to them that their coaches, trainers, and other team physicians were fully aware of Strauss’ activities, and yet few seemed inclined to do anything to stop it,” the report claims.
Over the course of his two-decade career, Strauss abused at least 48 wrestlers, according to the investigative report the university commissioned from an outside law firm, Perkins Coie. Last year, four former wrestlers sued OSU with allegations that the school had willingly ignored their abuse.
The lawsuit and subsequent stream of allegations have also put Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan under scrutiny, as he was the university’s assistant wrestling coach between 1986 and 1994. Jordan has repeatedly said he had no knowledge of any accusations against Strauss.
Investigators and the university’s president have all thanked the men for coming forward with their stories. A task force focusing on sexual abuse has also been established to review sexual abuse cases and find new ways of fostering a culture of awareness at the university.
Meanwhile, family members of Strauss have said they are “shocked and saddened” by the allegations against him and have vowed to cooperate with investigators.