Five former Ohio State wrestlers have filed suit against their alma mater, accusing the Columbus-based university of failing to protect them from Richard Strauss, the now-deceased team doctor who they claim molested them for years, NBC News reports.
Learn More: Ohio State sexual abuse lawsuit
Strauss died of suicide in 2005, after serving as a team doctor at Ohio State for 20 years. In that time, two new class action lawsuits say, Strauss molested varsity student-athletes from at least 14 different sports.
Described as a creepy “predator,” Strauss reportedly showered with young male athletes multiple times a day “for no reason,” perched himself on a stool to ogle showering students and fondled his male patients during medical examinations, often while he was erect.
Yet Strauss was never fired. Multiple former students say they complained about Strauss’ conduct to school officials, but their complaints were covered up.
The lawsuits, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, seek damages for physical and mental injury. The damage amount asked for has been left unspecified.
Continue Reading: Ohio State Ends Sexual Assault Unit Amid Concerns Of Failed Reporting
In April 2018, Ohio State reopened an investigation into Strauss’ misconduct. Investigators say they have already interviewed over 150 witnesses and are looking into the possibility that Strauss treated high school students as well.
In a statement released on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, Ohio State representatives confirmed that the school had received reports of misconduct from male student-athletes in at least 14 sports, along with several complaints from students at the university’s health services office.
The school also appeared to admit that mistakes had been made in the past, writing, “we are aware of reports that individuals at the university did not respond appropriately during that era.” Between the 1970s and 1990s, the plaintiffs contend, Strauss subjected male athletes from at least 14 sports to "excessive and medically unnecessary fondling, touching and groping." The doctor was "quietly" allowed to retire in 1997, after Ohio State finally opened an investigation into Strauss' conduct.
Leading the charge against Ohio State is Michael DiSabato, who wrestled at Ohio State from 1987 to 1991. DiSabato says he was inspired to step forward after watching the Larry Nassar scandal in USA Gymnastics from afar.
“As a father, as a citizen, as a human being with a moral compass,” DiSabato told the Columbus Dispatch, “it was my duty to bring this to the attention of not only my teammates but also the university, the values of which I hold dear to my heart – people, tradition, excellence.”
Dr. Strauss resigned from his position at Ohio State in 1997, after the school caved to pressures and held a hearing on the sexual abuse complaints against him. He did not face any disciplinary action, the lawsuits claim.
Strauss worked at the university for 20 years, from 1978 to 1998. He began molesting students soon after he started there, according to the new lawsuits, subjecting young athletes to “excessive and medically unnecessary fondling, touching and groping” during his medical exams.
Over the years, coaches and school administrators received numerous reports of Strauss’ alleged sexual abuse, but did nothing, the lawsuits claim. The class actions name multiple university officials as having heard first-hand reports of sexual abuse.
In 1978, the lawsuits say, one student took his report to the school’s health center. In the mid-90s, at least two wrestling students reported Strauss’ abuse to Andy Geiger, Ohio State’s athletics director at the time. Another report went to Russ Hellickson, the school’s former-wrestling coach.
Even Jim Jordan, now a State Representative for Ohio, is named in the lawsuits. The plaintiffs say Jordan, who once served as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State, was aware of Strauss’ misconduct, but concealed the abuse to protect him.
One wrestler, Dunyasha Yetts, even says he reported a case of molestation directly to Jim Jordan. Yetts’ account of events was corroborated by a second former wrestler.
Jordan has repeatedly denied knowing about any abuse, but the wrestlers don’t find his denial credible because they discussed the molestation frequently in the locker room.
Throughout these years, the five wrestlers, all named as John Doe in court documents, say Ohio State failed to uphold its duty to properly investigate the complaints and stop Richard Strauss from molesting innumerable students.
The men “say they want to see anyone who ignored concerns about Strauss held accountable and hope to make sure something similar doesn’t happen to others,” the Cleveland Daily Banner writes.
In light of these shocking lawsuits, our experienced sexual assault attorneys have opened a full investigation into Ohio State's sexual assault response and prevention policies. In both lawsuits, former student-athletes accuse Ohio State officials, administrators and coaches of facilitating rampant sexual abuse through the concealment of evidence and downplaying of sexual assault reports. If true, these allegations must be met with swift and strong action.
Our dedicated personal injury attorneys are here to help. To further our investigation, we're reaching out to the people who are affected most by this issue. Were you or a loved one sexually abused while training in Ohio State's wrestling program?
We want to hear from you. Some assault survivors may be eligible to pursue financial compensation and accountability by filing a private civil lawsuit. Learn more about your legal options in a free consultation now.