Seven former Ohio State students and student athletes who have accused Dr. Richard Strauss of sexual abuse shared their stories with the Board of Trustees Friday, and their impressions of how the university has handled the investigation.
Brian Garrett, Steve Snyder-Hill, Mike Schyck, Mike DiSabato and three who asked not to be identified — two identifying as John Doe — gave emotional accounts, with a few choking up during their comments.
“Many of the victims here today are meeting for the first time,” Garrett said. “But we share a common bond in that we were all sexually assaulted by Dr. Richard Strauss.”
Strauss, who died in 2005, is accused of sexually abusing hundreds of former students athletes and students during his time at Ohio State from 1978 to 1998. He also ran a private clinic from 1996 to 1998 where other claims have alleged to take place.
At an update provided by the law firm leading the investigation on Thursday, Perkins Coie, former U.S. attorney Markus Funk said that while many of the victims did not know each other before 2018, the stories of abuse were consistent throughout the interviews.
Funk also said the group has interviewed 150 former students who gave first-hand accounts of Strauss’ abuse.
The Board listened intently to the testimonies of the accusers, allowing them to speak for more than 40 minutes, going past the 20 initially requested by Garrett and granted by the Board.
Michael Gasser, chair of the Board, spoke after the victims finished their accounts and said their testimonies were “extremely powerful and deeply troubling.”
“Rest assured this Board is not dismissing you. We are committed to doing the right thing,” Gasser said. “This investigation will be over soon, and we look forward to the Board coming up with the appropriate response and action at that time.”
Garrett, a former Ohio State nursing student who said he was abused at Strauss’ private clinic in 1996, told trustees that the university has failed the accusers.
“The university Board of Trustees has the power to back up the university’s words with actions,” Garrett said. “The Board of Trustees has power to own the responsibility for what happened to us. By using this power, it will allow us to start the process of healing and start to move forward.”
Garrett said the university could have done more to listen to the complaints filed against Strauss while he was still employed by Ohio State.
“My situation was 100 percent preventable,” Garrett said.
After his own account, Garrett read a letter from an anonymous former student athlete who shared his experience with Strauss during his first year at Ohio State.
“Instead of dealing with academics, practice, new friends and college life, I dealt with shame, guilt, depression and worthlessness,” the statement said.
Snyder-Hill, a former student who said Strauss abused him in 1995 and is in the Army, said he feels the university silenced his voice on this issue, and that is not the university he knows.
“The Army teaches us honor integrity and courage,” Snyder-Hill said. “I used to feel like that OSU had honor, integrity and courage as well, until they turned their back on us.”
Snyder-Hill said in his testimony that he filed a complaint to Ohio State shortly after the abuse by Strauss occurred and received a letter — which he brought with him to the meeting — which he said shows that he was lied to by the university.
“In that letter, basically I was lied to three times, because it said they never had a complaint about Dr. Strauss in 1995, even though they now know there were complaints back to 1970,” Snyder-Hill said.
Twenty-three years later, Snyder-Hill said the university continues to be dismissive of the accusers.
“They are using language like ‘we are trying to find out what may have happened’ and ‘who may have known,’” Snyder-Hill said. “I can’t tell you how troubling and traumatizing that is for us. To invalidate us by using that language.”
DiSabato, a former student wrestler who said he was abused by Strauss, said that the university continues to silence victims.
“The university’s soul is at stake,” DiSabato said.
One of the victims who chose not to identify himself said during his time on the wrestling team, he was assaulted six to seven times over three years and did everything he could to avoid seeing Strauss.
“I tried to go to my family physician so I didn’t have to see Dr. Strauss, but I couldn’t avoid physicals at the beginning of the season, injuries during practice. I felt like I was trapped in a system,” the former student athlete said.
The Strauss accuser who first identified as John Doe said that up until he learned of the investigation in June, he thought he was Strauss’ only victim.
“It was as if a geyser of emotion had erupted,” he said. “I realized that all of these years have incubated the trauma. Many of my life’s decisions had been made with the heavy burden of this memory.”
The other Strauss accuser who identified as John Doe, who was a former Ohio State hockey player, read from a prepared statement and said he was afraid of ever getting hurt or sick after his experience with Strauss.
“I remember praying that I would never get seriously injured or sick enough to have to see him again,” he said. “During that entire year, I was living in fear [that he would be] given the opportunity to sexually assault me once again.”
Mike Schyck, who said he was abused by Strauss over an eight-year period during his time on the wrestling team, said that changes can be made at Ohio State so this doesn’t happen for the next generation, starting with educating people to know that they have the ability to stop this kind of abuse from happening.
“I think that was the problem for us 30 years ago. We didn’t have a voice or a even choice to say no,” Schyck said.
The second John Doe said his interview with Perkins Coie investigators made him emotional as he reflected on the abuse by Strauss and confused by the university’s response to the accusers at the time.
“To this day I am very disappointed with the university I love so much,” he said. “I cannot begin to understand how a university with Ohio State’s prestige and resources during that time could be fully aware of the sexual assaults that were occuring and not respond.”