A third lawsuit filed against Ohio State University alleges that university officials knew about sexual abuse by former physician Richard Strauss but failed to stop it, and even facilitated it.
The lawsuit was filed late Thursday in federal court in Columbus on behalf of 10 victims, including former Ohio State student Steve Snyder-Hill.
Other plaintiffs include Ronald McDaniel, a member of Ohio State’s tennis team from 1981 through 1986, and David Mulvin, a member of Ohio State’s wrestling team from 1975 through 1979. The lawsuit also lists seven other former Ohio State students as plaintiffs, all listed as “John Does.”
The lawsuit alleges that each of the 10 plaintiffs suffered sexual abuse by Strauss, the now-deceased doctor at the center of an independent investigation. Students informed numerous Ohio State officials about the abuse but the university did not take action to stop him, the complaint says.
The suit alleges Ohio State violated federal Title IX policies when it failed to respond to allegations of Strauss’ abuse and seeks unspecified damages.
In addition to Snyder-Hill’s formal complaint about Strauss in 1995, the lawsuit alleges that students specifically informed a track and field coach and a tennis coach that Strauss’ examinations made them uncomfortable.
Neither coach took any corrective action against Strauss, the complaint says, and one coach regularly joked about Strauss and even “threatened student-athletes that they would have to see Dr. Strauss, if they did not do what the coach asked,” the complaint said.
One unnamed plaintiff, a former member of Ohio State’s tennis team, was abused by Strauss numerous times, the first of which occurred when the plaintiff was a minor, the complaint says.
The complaint outlines various abuse by Strauss — that he “fondled students’ genitalia, often without gloves,” that he “performed unnecessary rectal examinations and digitally penetrated students’ anuses,” and that “he moaned while performing testicular exams.”
The lawsuit, pointing to a 2014 complaint about a "sexualized culture" within Ohio State's marching band, a separate sexual abuse lawsuit against Ohio State and its former diving club coach Will Bohonyi and the recent closure of Ohio State's Sexual Civility and Empowerment center, alleges a "culture of institutional indifference" at Ohio State "to the rights and and safety of its students."
The plaintiffs have struggled to come to terms with abuse by a health-care provider, the complaint said.
“Although Dr. Strauss’ victims felt that his exams were medically inappropriate and deeply uncomfortable, many of them did not realize these exams constituted illegal sexual abuse and harassment until after OSU recently publicized its investigation,” the complaint says.
The lawsuit points out that many student-athletes were on full scholarship, making them "particularly vulnerable" to Strauss' abuse.
"OSU's requirement that athletes be examined and treated by Dr. Strauss forced them into an impossible Hobson's choice: either suffer sexual abuse or forego (sic) their scholarships and educations," the complaint said.
Strauss worked at Ohio State from 1978 to 1998. He killed himself in 2005.
“Plaintiffs have filed this lawsuit in the hope that OSU will fulfill its goal of becoming ‘a national leader’ in preventing and responding to sexual misconduct by making the systemic changes needed to ensure that students can obtain their education in a safe environment, free from sexual harassment and abuse by OSU employees,” the complaint says.
Two separate, class-action lawsuits were filed against Ohio State last week on behalf of former wrestlers, also alleging the university knew about abuse by Strauss but failed to stop it.
The lawsuit filed Friday is not a class-action suit, but represents the former students in their individual capacity "as they each seek personal accountability from the University for the damage it caused by repeatedly turning a blind eye to a known serial abuser in its ranks," said Cleveland attorney Jack Landskroner, who is representing the 10 plaintiffs along with Columbus attorney with Scott Smith.
As an independent investigation into the allegations against Strauss continues, Ohio State officials have said the university is committed to uncovering what might have happened during the doctor's employment and what leaders at the time might have known.