Culture of cover-up: Decades of red flags in Strauss abuse cases

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Hundreds of student-athletes, patients and students participating in medical studies were sexually abused by an Ohio State University physician.

The abuse went on for decades, shrouded in silence, with victims apparently too intimidated or ashamed to report it. Now, there are shocking new revelations about the number of people who were in a position to stop the abuse, but didn’t.

The first red flag was raised less than a year after OSU hired Dr. Richard Strauss.

“I thought I was the only one because that’s what they told me,” said Stephen Snyder-Hill. He was told that lie in 1995.

It’s hard hard to believe that back in 1979, a student trainer first questioned by the new university doctor insisted on doing an aggressive groin exam on a wrestler who was being treated for cauliflower ear.

A report details a field of red flags. More than 300 men have come forward, claiming they were groped, molested and even raped by Dr. Richard Strauss.

“I question whether they were silent. And I think some of them told who they thought they could tell: their coaches, their teachers, the director of student health,” said Snyder-Hill.

It’s a shocking list of people who heard about Strauss and did nothing.

At least:

  • 5 physicians
  • 6 assistant athletic directors
  • 1 athletic training director
  • 4 athletic trainers
  • 18 student trainers
  • 4 student health officials
  • 22 coaches
  • 2 athletic directors

All were identified in the Perkins report as people with knowledge.

The report concludes:

Additionally, from Strauss’ earliest involvement as a team physician at OSU, it was broadly known within the Athletics Department that Strauss showered alongside the male students at Larkins Hall—a practice unique to Strauss among the other team physicians and a practice that the student athletes repeatedly complained about to their coaches.

Perkins Report, page 2

By 1994, so many young men on the fencing team complained to coach Charlotte Remenyik about Dr. Strauss molesting them, that she went to the Medical Director, who in turn wrote to the Senior Associate Athletic Director. The fencing coach complained specifically that:

Strauss was performing improper or unnecessary genital exams on her male student-athletes, in addition to watching the student-athletes while they showered.

Perkins Report, page 92-93

Still, nobody stopped him.

More than a year later, Stephen Snyder-Hill was molested and then told he was the only known victim.

“How did that make you feel, the doctor who was trying to make you go away was lying to you?” asked NBC4’s Colleen Marshall.

“That part is infuriating, but you have to think psychologically, when you put this stuff away 24 years ago, I thought I did everything I could to protect people, to do the right thing,” said Snyder-Hill.

Snyder-Hill, identified as Student ‘B’ in the Perkins report, was assaulted by Strauss on January 5, 1995. The report reveals Student ‘A’ was molested by Strauss two days earlier, Student ‘C’ one day later.

The university would not comment for this story because of lawsuits filed by hundreds of men. University President Dr. Michael Drake has made carefully worded public statements acknowledging university officials made mistakes back then.

“Their apology referenced at least four or five times “the university from years ago,” really adamant to make sure that language was in their apology to us. Strauss’ family apologized to us. his wife who he divorced in the 70s and his son apologized and said they regret we went through this. Not once did his wife say, ‘hey I divorced him,’ but that’s not what Drake did. I just wish the university, Ohio State University and the president had the integrity of Strauss’ ex-wife,” said Snyder-Hill.

It’s difficult to argue against the idea that the current OSU administration inherited this nightmare. The university itself launched the investigation, paid $6 million for the Perkins Report. It’s offering counseling for the victims.

Nobody in university leadership now was at Ohio State during the two decades Strauss was abusing students.

Because of the statute of limitations, the university likely has no legal obligation to respond at all. But, OSU has said it is committed to a financial settlement.

How that will happen and how the fallout from the culture of cover-up is also coloring the career of Congressman Jim Jordan will be the focus of our report Thursday at 11.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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