Ohio State University faces a class-action lawsuit in an Ohio federal district court that claims the university and several of its high-ranking officials knew, and did nothing about, the sexual abuse of Dr. Richard Strauss.
The lawsuit claims Strauss — who has been accused by several former Ohio State athletes of sexual abuse during his tenure at Ohio State from 1978 to 1998 — sexually assaulted, battered, molested and harassed “potentially thousands” of Ohio State students while he was supposed to be providing many of the students with medical treatment. Strauss died in 2005.
Ohio State is being sued by the group of former athletes for an alleged violation of Title IX, which protects individuals from sexual harassment in school. The suit also claims Ohio State’s failure to stop Strauss from sexually abusing the victims violated the civil rights of the students to be “free from the invasion of bodily integrity.”
With claims of suffering and continued shock and grief, the plaintiffs are seeking compensation from the university “in an amount to be determined at trial,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit was filed by lawyers Rex Sharp of Kansas City, Missouri, Robert Allard of San Jose, California, Steve Estey of San Diego and Jon Little of Indianapolis, Indiana. The athletes — named only as John Doe 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the lawsuit — were all former wrestlers at Ohio State.
“Our investigation has conclusively demonstrated that Ohio State turned a blind eye to Dr. Strauss while he freely used his position of trust and authority to regularly sexually assault, batter, molest, and harass male athletes over the entire course of his career at Ohio State,” Allard said in a statement issued by the group’s spokesman.
Ohio State spokesman Ben Johnson told The Lantern the university is aware of the pending litigation against the school filed by the four former wrestlers. He said the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has appointed Michael Carpenter of Carpenter Lipps & Leland as the school’s legal counsel.
He added the university is “aware of reports that individuals at the university did not respond appropriately during that era.”
According to the lawsuit, a pair of wrestlers reached out to then-athletic director Andy Geiger to complain about “the voyeuristic and lewd conduct” of the men in locker rooms at Larkins Hall, the school’s recreational facility at the time, including Strauss. The lawsuit then states Geiger did nothing despite promising to look into moving the wrestlers out of Larkins.
The Lantern reached out to Geiger, who declined to comment from his home.
The first time a student reported the alleged abuse to Ohio State came in 1978, which was Strauss’ first year employed by the university, the lawsuit states. It described how the student was abused by Strauss and reported it to the Ohio State student health center, but the doctor he reported the abuse to “shrugged him off.”
Though the lawsuit says the exact number of students affected by Strauss is presently unknown, “the exact size of the Class and the identities of the individual members are ascertainable through records maintained by Ohio State.”
Ohio State opened up its investigation into Strauss in April after a former wrestler came forward with allegations of sexual abuse. The investigation has since expanded to cover athletes from 14 different sports.
The spokesman for the lawyers said the group asks any sexually abused athletes or witnesses to contact their firms at 1-800-474-5201 or athleteabuse.com.
Updated at 5:25 with the statement from Ohio State spokesman Ben Johnson.