Dr. Richard Strauss was employed as a physician by Ohio State University (OSU) for 20 years, from 1978 to 1998. During that time, Strauss sexually abused hundreds of male students. Now, 162 students will share in a nearly $41 million settlement. OSU admits that the university failed to respond appropriately at the time. Strauss committed suicide in 2005.
OSU is the country’s third-largest university, with a student population of 65,000. The university has approximately 500,000 living alumni. Many of the men abused by Strauss, now in their 40s to 60s, decided to come forward during an independent investigation in 2018-19 because they now had college-age children and wanted to protect them from such predators.
No Meaningful Investigation
Strauss appeared to waste little time after starting his job to begin abusing students. Complaints about Strauss surfaced as early as 1979, but OSU administrators did not conduct any type of meaningful investigation. The first indications of a problem were stories about Strauss conducting “unusually prolonged” examinations of male athlete’s genitals, with no athletic department staff allowed in the room.
In 1996, an investigation finally took place, and Strauss was removed from his position as the team doctor and health center physician. However, he was permitted to keep his tenured post on the faculty. He retired with the honor of emeritus status.
A short while later, he set up a Men’s Health Clinic, putting ads in the student newspaper offering discounts and “prompt” treatment for those with genital problems.
2019 Investigation Results
On May 15, 2019, Perkins Coie LLP released the report on its independent investigation into Strauss’ sexual misconduct while at OSU. According to the report, the vast majority of the sexual abuse took place as part of a student’s medical examination. Strauss was known to have abused at least 177 young men. The survivors of his abuse often said Strauss’ conduct was an open secret, and thought other coaches and staff knew what he was doing.
The survivors interviewed were abused over a 20-year span, but Strauss’ basic modus operandi did not change much over time. He performed unnecessary genital and rectal examinations, with a fair amount of fondling. Most of his victims were members of OSU’s wrestling team.
He liked to shower with the male athletes, which was not something any other OSU team physician did. This was not an occasional practice. According to survivors, Strauss often showered multiple times daily with various athletes. When he was not showering, he was known to pull up a stool and sit and watch the young men rinsing themselves off.
Many gymnasts and wrestlers reported being watched via peepholes in Larkins Hall, the OSU physical education building. These men, among them Strauss, would ogle the athletes in the gym, locker rooms, and showers.
In one instance, a student came complaining of strep throat. Strauss never examined the young man’s throat, but did manage to fondle his genitals. Another young man told Strauss he had never received a checkup from a doctor before. Strauss reportedly put his stethoscope on the man’s penis.
The report’s final tally states that Strauss committed 1,430 acts of fondling and 47 rapes while at OSU.
The Jordan Connection
Ohio representative Jim Jordan was one of the assistant wrestling coaches at OSU during Strauss’ tenure. In July 2018, former team members said that Jordan, as well as another coach, knew of Strauss’ behavior. In fact, it is possible that as many as 20 members of the OSU faculty knew about Straus’ misconduct and did not report it.