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Report Finds Ohio State Mishandled Strauss Abuse Complaints

Ohio State University’s response to allegations and complaints of sexual abuse against one of its former doctors was not appropriate, a report from independent investigators has revealed.

The investigation, started by Perkins Coie in April 2018, concluded that Dr. Richard Strauss sexually abused at least 177 former students during his employment with the university from 1978 to 1998.

Strauss committed suicide in 2005.

The report confirms that university officials had information about Strauss’ misconduct as early in 1979, but did not investigate his actions and failed to report his misconduct to law enforcement.

“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 — for example, requiring a student-patient to strip completely naked to purportedly ‘assess’ an orthopedic condition, or asking probing questions about a student-patients sexual practices or performance,” the report says.

Strauss was removed as a physician from the university in 1996 after he was reported to the State Medical Board of Ohio. He was allowed to voluntarily retire in 1998 with emeritus status.

“On behalf of the university, we offer our profound regret and sincere apologies to each person who endured Strauss’ abuse,” Ohio State president Michael V. Drake wrote in a message to the community.

“Our institution’s fundamental failure at the time to prevent this abuse was unacceptable — as were the inadequate efforts to thoroughly investigate complaints raised by students and staff members.”

Portions of the report referring to the medical board’s investigatory file on Strauss have been redacted after the Ohio State Medical Board filed a brief against the university’s move earlier this month to make the information public, citing a violation of state law and the medical board’s confidentiality rules.

Last year, more than 100 former students, including members of the men’s wrestling team, reported firsthand accounts of sexual misconduct committed by Strauss. Earlier this month, five former students filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio alleging the university of not doing enough to prevent incidents of sexual assault from taking place on campus.

The university contacted more than 115,000 alumni and former student-athletes and reached out to an additional 147,000 people through university-wide notifications to learn more about the alleged incidents involving Strauss.

“The findings of the report have shaken us to our core,” Michael J. Gasser, chair of the Board of Trustees, said. “The university is committed to supporting the safety and well-being of our entire community. The lessons of the past will continue to inform our efforts today and well into the future.”

In response to growing criticism of its handling of the complaints, the university has announced various new initiatives including creating a centralized report and response office to respond to sexual and gender-based harassment, implementing mandatory sexual misconduct prevention education for incoming students as of 2016, and providing certified counseling for those affected by Strauss.

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