7 universities have joined Ohio State’s fight against survivors in a horrific sexual abuse case
As if the Hundreds of male survivors In the Ohio State University sex abuse case, attorneys didn’t have enough to do billion dollar institution filed a short one this week said seven major Midwestern universities have banded together behind the university to prevent the case from ever going to trial.
On October 3, just a week after Ohio prosecutors filed a lawsuit En-Banc Review— a rare legal practice that some survivors believe was an attempt by the institution to thwart its Title IX lawsuits — they filed a brief note noting that seven Midwestern universities expressed solidarity with the state of Ohio stand. Institutions include: Bowling Green State University, Cleveland State University, Eastern Michigan University, Michigan State University, Oakland University, Purdue University and finally Ohio State’s rival, the University of Michigan. Remarkably, in the last three years, two of these universities –University of Michigan and State of Michigan— have both made national headlines for their own public reckoning with the institutional sexual abuse of student athletes.
The night after the filing, Steven Snyder-Hill, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit and one of the most open survivors of former college physician Richard Strauss’ sexual abuse, posted it to a private Facebook group of fellow survivors. It shocked Rocky Ratliff, an attorney representing one of the other two groups of Strauss survivors, and a survivor himself. “I had to get up at 11:15 a.m. and go to my office to look at the file because I was like, ‘He must be wrong,'” Ratliff told Jezebel.
What does it say that two prominent Midwestern universities—Big 10 competitors, at that—known for their own sex abuse scandals have come to the defense of the state of Ohio?
“What it means to me is that these universities — Michigan State, the University of Michigan, and Ohio State — haven’t learned anything,” Ratliff said. “They spit in the face of the survivors. They have an institution that allowed Larry Nassar and an institution that allowed Robert Anderson and support the institution that allowed Richard Strauss. Honestly, if you want to invite the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church, we’re really having a party.”
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The en banc review was already another surprise for hundreds of men seeking justice against the university since 2019. That same year, a damning report commissioned and published by the university revealed that Strauss — who died by suicide in 2005 —Sexually abused hundreds of male athletes under the guise of receiving medical treatment between 1978 and 1998. The investigation found that he committed at least 1,429 counts of fondling and 47 counts of rape during his tenure. It also noted that “as early as 1979, university staff were aware of complaints and concerns about Strauss’ conduct but failed to investigate or act reasonably”.
Because Strauss’s abuse often occurred during health checks that were mandatory for student-athletes, many of the survivors — including Ratliff — didn’t realize what was happening to them until the 2019 inquest as anything more than an uncomfortable and invasive treatment. In the most recent brief, the university contradicted this September 2022 Sixth Circuit decision that legal action can be taken at any time after the abuse is discovered, arguing instead that survivors should have taken legal action sooner.
“The Sixth Circuit said, ‘discovery counts’, which means if you discovered that [the sex abuse] as an actual injury. Ohio State says if they touched you, you got two years no matter what,” Ratliff explained. “The problem is, in a case like that, how would you know? The doctor himself and other members of the state of Ohio told you that this is a normal exam, right? They don’t even know it was an injury because they say it’s normal.
“Nobody knew about Ohio State’s involvement until this investigation came out, and nobody knew they had been hurt until this investigation confirmed everything,” he continued.
When asked for comment last week, Ohio State spokesman Ben Johnson noted that all survivors were given the “opportunity to come to terms” and that “Ohio State has reached Settlement Agreements with more than half of the plaintiffs, 296 survivors, for more than $60 million.” Meanwhile, Ratliff and Ilann Maazel, another attorney for the survivors, said they paled in comparison settlements in similar institutional sex abuse cases: for example, Nassar and Michigan State University ($500 million), Robert Anderson and the University of Michigan ($490 million), and George Tyndell and the University of Southern California ($852 million US dollars).
When contacted by Jezebel, Johnson responded but offered no university comment on the latest letter. Of the seven institutions listed, a single Purdue representative emailed a statement:
Purdue is steadfast in protecting Purdue students under Title IX from sexual harassment in educational programs and activities. According to the Department of Education, the goal of Title IX is a safe educational environment for students. Diverting Title IX resources to public claims would dilute that focus and fall outside of Congress’s Title IX mandate. For these reasons, Purdue is supporting the State of Ohio and the other Amici in this attempt to ensure that Title IX jurisdiction in the Sixth District respects these principles and concerns.
Attorneys for the Strauss survivors have until October 18 to respond to the brief. A decision on the en-banc review has not yet been made.
https://jezebel.com/7-universities-have-joined-ohio-states-fight-against-su-1849618496 7 universities have joined Ohio State’s fight against survivors in a horrific sexual abuse case