Some Ohio State sex abuse survivors appeal lawsuit dismissal
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The inappropriate behavior of a long-dead Ohio State team doctor went unrecognized as sexual abuse until only recently and hence a deadline for suing the university over the abuse has not passed, a group of survivors argue in appeals of a judge’s dismissals of their lawsuits.
Hundreds of men allege Richard Strauss abused them at campus athletic facilities, a student health center, his home or at an off-campus clinic, and some of those men reported multiple instances.
They say the school failed to stop Strauss despite students raising concerns during his 20 years at the university as far back as the late 1970s. Strauss died in 2005. No one has publicly defended him.
Ohio State says more than 170 total instances of rape and more than 2,600 instances of fondling attributed to Strauss came to light between 2018 and 2020, much of that through a law firm investigation for the university and lawsuits filed against OSU.
Last year, federal Judge Michael Watson dismissed several lawsuits brought by survivors. Watson has said it’s clear Strauss abused hundreds of young men while Ohio State officials turned a blind eye, but ruled the legal window for such claims has passed.
Two appeals filed Wednesday in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals say most victims only recognized they had experienced abuse when widespread publicity about Strauss’ actions emerged in 2018.
“An accomplished sexual abuser, Strauss groomed his victims into believing his examinations were normal and medically appropriate,” according to the appeals filed by attorneys representing 118 victims.
“Many Plaintiffs also alleged that they believed Strauss’ conduct could not be sexual abuse because his invasive exams were common knowledge among their teammates and coaches, and yet Strauss faced no repercussions; OSU granted him nearly unfettered access to students,” the attorneys said.
Ohio State officials contend the university took the allegations seriously, had a law firm investigate, responded with transparency and empathy, made changes to prevent and address sexual misconduct, and tried to do the right thing through settlement offers.
The university has reached settlement agreements totaling $57.8 million with 232 survivors through a mediation process and the university’s individual settlement program, and will continue to cover the cost of professionally certified counseling services and treatment for anyone affected by Strauss.
Three cases filed more recently, involving dozens of plaintiffs, are still pending. Ohio State has argued those should be dismissed, too.