US campus doctor tied to decades of student sexual abuse

Ohio State tallies 177 male victims of Richard Strauss amid ignored complaints

May 20, 2019
Ohio State University stadium

A doctor at Ohio State University sexually abused at least 177 male students over a two-decade career despite long-running complaints, a year-long investigation has concluded.

The doctor, Richard Strauss, engaged in a pattern of creating bogus medical rationales for sexually abusing the men, including some members of Ohio State’s elite football programme, according to the inquiry commissioned by the university.

Some students raised complaints as early as 1979, the report found. But Ohio State leaders took little heed and allowed him to treat patients until 1996 and to keep his status as a tenured professor until he voluntarily retired in 1998. He died by suicide in 2005.

“The findings are shocking and painful to comprehend,” the Ohio State president, Michael Drake, wrote to the campus community as he shared the $6.2 million (£4.9 million) report by the Perkins Coie law firm of Seattle.

The case raises similarities to that of Larry Nassar, the Michigan State University doctor sentenced to hundreds of years in jail after his own multi-decade career of molesting at least 250 young women and girls.

As was the case with Dr Nassar, Professor Strauss was described as having avoided repercussions for so long out of a combination of factors that included victim embarrassment and poor institutional oversight.

The report commissioned by Ohio State said that the university’s students and athletics staff joked about abusive procedures in which Professor Strauss examined patient genitals for conditions that included damaged ears and strep throat. Such cases reached the point where Professor Strauss regularly showered with male athletes and performed oral sex on one in the guise of an exam, the report says.

The report describes repeated official failures to confront him, including one team coach whose preventive action consisted of declaring “very loudly, such that he believed Strauss could hear him”, that abusive exams should stop.

Ohio State is facing at least three lawsuits filed by victims in federal court.

paul.basken@timeshighereducation.com

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