COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Victims of a now-dead Ohio State team doctor are reacting with shock, grief and anger at investigative findings documenting a heinous pattern of sexual abuse that many of them say they experienced as young men and then worked for decades to forget.
Their reactions follow the university’s release of a report Friday that found Dr. Richard Strauss groped, ogled or otherwise sexually mistreated at least 177 male students. The report could cost Ohio State dearly by corroborating lawsuits brought against it by a multitude of victims.
Former nursing student Brian Garrett said he worked for a short time at an off-campus clinic Strauss opened after he was ousted at Ohio State in the late 1990s. But Garrett quit after witnessing abuse by Strauss and then experiencing it himself.
The investigation, he said, left him angrier than before.
“We knew that it was systemic and it had been reported,” Garrett said Friday. “It’s even more widespread than we knew.”
Garrett thinks the abuse carried out by Strauss across more than a dozen sports and at numerous locations even surpasses that of Larry Nassar, of Michigan State University, who was accused of molesting at least 250 women and girls and is serving what amounts to a life sentence.
“We did not get to put him on trial. The police did not get to investigate. That’s why it’s worse than the MSU case,” Garrett said. “He took the easy way out.”
Strauss killed himself in 2005 nearly a decade after he was allowed to retire with honors. He was 67.
No one has publicly defended Strauss, though family members have said they were shocked by the allegations.
The whistleblower credited with prompting the investigation said in a statement he feels “vindicated” but has mixed feelings about the law firm’s findings released Friday.
Mike DiSabato, a former Ohio State wrestler, met with school officials in March 2018 to discuss the abuse that he and other athletes suffered at the hands of Strauss, prompting the school to hire Seattle-based Perkins Coie to conduct an investigation.
“Although a weight has been lifted off my back, I am deeply saddened to hear and relive the stories of so many others who suffered similar abuse by Dr. Strauss while Ohio State turned a blind eye,” DiSabato’s statement said.
He says the Perkins Coie report gives him “courage and strength to keep fighting to ensure Ohio State is held accountable for the damage and trauma they caused me and my family.”
Attorneys for DiSabato and more than 50 other former Ohio State athletes are preparing to sue the school for damages.
Ohio State President Michael Drake said there was a “consistent institutional failure” at the school, the nation’s third-largest university. He apologized and commended victims for their courage.
Investigators found that Strauss’ abuse went on from 1979 to 1997 and took place at various locations across campus, including examining rooms, locker rooms, showers and saunas. Strauss, among other things, contrived to get young men to strip naked and groped them sexually.
The report concluded that scores of Ohio State personnel knew of complaints and concerns about Strauss’ conduct as early as 1979 but failed for years to investigate or take meaningful action.
The lawsuits against Ohio State are headed for mediation. They seek unspecified damages. Drake said the investigation alone has cost the school $6.2 million.
Separately, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is examining whether Ohio State responded promptly and fairly to students’ complaints. The department could cut the university’s federal funding if it is found to have violated civil rights protections.
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