When Kent Kilgore found out an independent investigation determined Ohio State knew about Richard Strauss’ abuse, his first response was that “they finally got him.”
However, Kilgore, a former swimmer at Ohio State and an early victim of Strauss, said his relief was soon mixed with long-held feelings of regret when he learned the extent of the athletes abused.
Former university physician Strauss sexually abused at least 177 male athletes during his 20-year tenure at Ohio State while he served as a team doctor for 17 varsity sports, physician in the Student Health Center as well as an off-campus clinic, according to the investigative report released Friday. The independent investigation into Strauss concluded that university administrators knew of Strauss’ conduct and failed to act.
Ohio State announced in February that it would cover the costs of professionally certified counseling services for students who attended Ohio State during the Strauss era. The university is also engaged in mediation with the victims who filed the lawsuits regarding the university’s inability to act on Strauss’ behavior.
“Why I didn’t yell and scream and make a mess of it at the time when he did what he did to me, I still can’t answer that to myself,” Kilgore said. “I say it almost every day: ‘Why? Why didn’t you do something? You could’ve stopped this.’”
While Kilgore said he felt sorry for what the other athletes endured and “haunted” for not speaking up, Brian Garrett, a former Ohio State nursing student and victim of Strauss, said he felt angry at the university’s mishandling of the situation. His excitement following the headlines about the report turned to anger when he discovered the extent of Strauss’ abuse and the university’s knowledge at the time.
“As all the victims and myself started reading the report, we became more frustrated and angry because the abuse and the cover-up back then was even worse than we thought,” Garrett said.
University President Michael V. Drake said last week that the investigation shows how many Ohio State employees failed to meet their “minimum responsibility” during Strauss’ tenure.
“This issue was a place where the university fell short of its responsibilities to our students,” Drake said. “We will go forward as we digest the report to do all that we can to be appropriate.”
Although there was an initial sense of excitement that the report validated their experiences, both Kilgore and Garrett said they felt frustrated at the amount of students Strauss abused and Ohio State’s lack of response, both during Strauss’ tenure and today.
Kilgore said he wasn’t worried about the investigation because he knew what the investigators would find. He said he felt like the report outlined “the full truth,” but he said he couldn’t bring himself to read all 180 pages.
“I read a couple of the instances of what he did and that was enough for me. I don’t need to see that,” Kilgore said. “I know what was going on.”
Garrett said he was surprised to learn that the university was aware of Strauss’ off-campus clinic after he was suspended in 1996, as he had suspected that Strauss hid the clinic from the university. Strauss opened an off-campus men’s clinic in 1996 that specialized in sexually transmitted diseases and urological issues, for which he received assurance from the associate vice president of the university that it would not conflict with his tenured position, although Strauss was under investigation at the time.
The report does not indicate any contact with the police regarding Strauss’ behavior, and Garrett said that shocked him. Kilgore said the number of Strauss’ victims — at least 177 students — made him feel “heavy.”
Kilgore said that Ohio State is “doing the minimal response” to the situation in light of the report, adding that therapy is the “smallest possible” thing the university could be doing. Garrett also said that Ohio State is “trying to escape responsibility.”
University spokesman Ben Johnson provided a list of ways the university is seeking to improve the situation for the victims and current students, including counseling for Strauss victims; the development of the new Title IX office, the Office of Institutional Equity; and the institution of mandatory sexual misconduct training for students, faculty and staff.
The report names several administrators who received complaints about Strauss’ abuse and failed to act, some of whom refused to be interviewed for the investigation. Kilgore said these former administrators are “afraid of accountability.”
“We had to endure Dr. Strauss. We had to endure him. Don’t hide. Don’t run and hide. We’re not going anywhere,” Kilgore said.
Former University President E. Gordon Gee said in a statement that he has no memory of Strauss. According to the report, Strauss sent letters to Gee appealing his termination.
“As has been conveyed to the investigators at Ohio State, I have no recollection of Dr. Strauss or any reports regarding him. I have always taken any allegations brought to my attention very seriously and will continue to do so,” Gee said.
Dr. Ted Grace, the former director of Student Health Services, declined to comment to The Lantern on Strauss.
Johnson said in an email that the university is aware of one person named in the report who still works at Ohio State.
“We continue to review the report and will take additional action through our normal HR process as appropriate,” Johnson said.
A bill was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives Monday with the support of Governor Mike DeWine that would waive the civil statute of limitations for the Strauss victims. Garrett said if there is a chance that the civil statute of limitations could be opened for the victims, he wants to hear from the administrators named in the report.
“All of the victims want to put all of these people on the stand,” Garrett said.