COLUMBUS, Ohio — For the first time, Ohio State’s President and the Board of Trustees heard first-hand from former students who said they were sexually assaulted decades ago by Dr. Richard Strauss. They shared anger, pain and frustration. The board members heard about the shame, guilt, and depression some still are feeling.
Brian Garrett, a former nursing student requested the permission for survivors to speak to trustees. Garrett said the trustees had the opportunity to understand the human component of what happened. “I could not get the image of the predator’s face out of my head. Him standing over me, while he sexually assaulted me in that clinic,” Garrett told the trustees.
Another survivor, Stephen Snyder Hill showed the trustees the complaint he filed against Strauss at the student health center during the eighties. Hill, an Army veteran of two wars said he always thought OSU shared his values.
I used to feel like OSU had honor, integrity and courage as well. Until they turned their back on us. The guy molested me. And you will never understand what it feels like to be in that situation unless you are there.
Strauss, who committed suicide in 2005, is the subject of a university-led investigation, as well as a U.S. Department of Education probe.
“That doctor is dead now. OSU robbed me of my ability to ever have closure with him. I can never confront him again. I will never have the opportunity to,” Hill said.
Former OSU champion wrestler Michael Schyck is now a wrestling coach himself. Schyck said, “I feel shame for not having a voice when I was going through all this. I kind of have some unwanted stuff in my belly over this. I want it to go away. I don’t know how that is going to happen.”
Ohio State President Dr. Michael Drake said they are committed to understanding the conduct of Strauss. The victims said they want OSU to admit what they knew and when they knew it.
A university-led investigation has been underway for seven months after whistle-blower Mike DiSabato brought the abuse to a national stage.” Our soul, The Ohio State University’s soul is in your hands,” he said.
Seven men talked to the trustees for about 40 minutes. They hope their words will have an impact on the decision-makers. There are two lawsuits brought against the university due to alleged abuse by Strauss.
Investigators have conducted more than 440 interviews of people who said they were molested by Strauss during medical exams.
Strauss worked as a team doctor and in the student health center between 1979 and 1998. He then opened a health center off campus.
While some speculate that the victims are trying to cash-in, the survivors said they want to stop sexual abuse on college campuses.
“Money is not what we are trying to get out of this. Money is what the lawyers talk about. That is their world. My job. Their job. Is to get change. Get closure to this,” said Garrett.
Board President Michael Gasser said the comments were “powerful and troubling,” and that the university is “committed to doing the right thing.”
“I urge you to use the voice you have as trustees to make this right.
The victims need a voice. We need a voice. A resolution. Support to heal from this and ensure it never happens again,” Schyck said.
The university said they will finish fact-finding by the end of the year, and will have a final report by the first semester of 2019.
“I look forward eagerly to the completion of the investigation so that we may begin the next steps in the healing process. At it’s conclusion we are committed to responding appropriately and effectively,” Drake said.