A longtime Ohio State University doctor sexually abused at least 177 students over the course of two decades, according to a year-long independent investigation released Friday.
Dr. Richard Strauss served as a clinical and medical faculty member at the school from 1978 to 1998, which included a stint as the athletics team physician from 1981 to 1995. Strauss died in 2005.
Independent investigators at the law firm Perkins Coie concluded university personnel were aware of complaints and concerns about Strauss’ conduct as early as 1979, yet failed to investigate or take action at the time. OSU conducted “a very limited investigation” of Strauss following a student complaint in 1996, which resulted in him being removed from athletics and student health, but he nevertheless remained a tenured faculty member.
“Strauss’ acts of abuse ranged from the overt — such as fondling to the point of erection and ejaculation — to more subtle acts of abuse that were masked with a pretextual medical purpose,” the report found.
In at least one instance, Strauss allegedly sexually abused a 14-year-old wrestler and other male students at a Catholic high school in Columbus, where he claimed to be conducting a “body fat testing study” to determine how wrestlers’ bodies changed throughout the season. Many of the tests required the students be nude.
One former student told investigators Strauss fondled his genitals as part of the test and may have digitally penetrated his rectum. He said Strauss would spend two to three hours at a time watching male students in the high school locker room.
The Diocese of Columbus conducted a separate investigation into Strauss’ conduct at the high school after being made aware of the allegations. One former student recalled Strauss “showered with the students and stared at the students while showering,” both at the high school and at OSU.
Last year, several former wrestlers accused Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) of ignoring the sexual abuse while he was a wrestling coach at the school. Jordan claimed vindication while speaking to reporters on Friday, though his accusers still maintain he knew.
Twenty-two former OSU coaches told investigators they were aware of complaints and rumors about Strauss from the 1970s through the 1990s. Jordan was a coach from 1987 to 1995.
Jim Jordan knew, they all knew, and they did nothing. Former OSU wrestler Mike DiSabato
One of the accusers, Mike DiSabato, told NBC on Friday that he believes Jordan willfully ignored Strauss’ conduct.
“Jim Jordan knew, they all knew, and they did nothing,” he said.
In an email to students and staff Friday, OSU President Michael Drake apologized to survivors for the “institution’s fundamental failure” to prevent the many instances of abuse, which he called “shocking and painful to comprehend.”
As part of its response, the school has agreed to pay for counseling for those affected, and it has increased options for reporting and responding to misconduct allegations across campus ― including a specific program within the athletics department itself.
It’s unlikely survivors will deem OSU’s response adequate. The school is currently in mediation in an attempt to resolve two lawsuits brought by dozens of survivors, according to local outlet WKYC.
“We hope that the report will force OSU to take responsibility for its failure to protect young students,” Steve Estey, an attorney in one of the cases, said in an emailed statement to HuffPost. “If OSU refuses to take responsibility then we will continue with civil litigation and put this in front of a jury for the community to judge their actions.”
This article has been updated with information about Rep. Jim Jordan.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.