I don’t understand this story at all.
Richard Strauss, a now-deceased doctor who worked at Ohio State University, sexually abused at least 177 male student athletes and probably more during his two decades at the institution. Yet the worst consequences he suffered was a short suspension. When he retired, Ohio State gave him an honorary title.
Many, many administrators, coaches and students knew about the ongoing abuse, which included fondling athletes’ genitals, performing sex acts on them and making lewd comments during exams. According to an investigative report released last week, none of them took decisive action. Of the 177 victims, 153 were student athletes or students affiliated with athletic programs at Ohio State, including 48 members of the wrestling program, 16 from gymnastics, 15 from swimming and diving, 13 from soccer, 10 from lacrosse and seven each from hockey, track and field and baseball.
Some students told officials about Strauss, who killed himself in 2005 (GOOD), but the complaints were ignored. The report on the investigation,conducted by the Perkins Coie law firm concludes that Strauss’s abuse was an “open secret” on campus and athletes came to accept it as a form of “hazing.”
I repeat: I do not understand this at all.
The victims were not young women who may have been intimidated by an older male authority figure, as in the case of Larry Nassar at Michigan State University, who excelled at molesting female gymnasts. Strauss’s victims were all young men, and often very large young men—as you can see by the numbers, wrestlers were a favorite target. The report indicated that his victims were reluctant to come forward, fearing the stigma regarding male sexual assault.
Inside Higher Ed’s experts say that the public often doesn’t take sex abuse allegations by men as seriously as those of women because men are assumed to be ready to resist, and defend themselves. OK, but NO male athletes resisted or complained sufficiently to stop this perv before his 20 years of distinguished service were up? I don’t get it. “The power of these stereotypes was particularly strong given the victims were athletes,” says the publication. Again, OK—but stereotypes exist for a reason. I can name at least ten former college athletes I know well who I am quite certain would have broken the arms of any doctor—or anyone—who tried to molest them in an examination. None of the 177 victims were like them? Had Strauss invented a Submissive-O-Meter?
Christopher Anderson, a trauma expert and member of the Board of Directors of MaleSurvivor, a nonprofit supporting male sex assault victims, said, “There are major differences in the stereotypes and assumptions made about male victims. Among these, perhaps the biggest difference is the perception that any man who was abused must be weak, vulnerable, less of a man. In addition if the perpetrator is male, then toxic prejudice and homophobia can be a major stigma leading many victims to stay silent.”
Yes, yes, I agree. Fine. But a 100% successful record of molesting young male athletes without significant consequences is incredible.
The fact that athletics staffers and students knew of the abuse and were mostly silent makes the Penn State athletic department’s cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s child abuse on campus seem like it was relatively normal. At Ohio State it took nearly 20 years for complaints of Strauss’s abuse to extend beyond the athletic department, sparked by several egregious incidents in the late ’90s.
The report puts the word “investigations” in quotes because two Ohio State inquiries appear to have been perfunctory at best. After the second investigation in 1996, Strauss was stripped of his duties in athletics and the health center but—Head explosion zone ahead warning!-— was allowed to retain his status as a professor until his retirement in 1998, when he was granted an emeritus title. How can this possibly be justified or explained?
I don’t understand.
The university now says it will remove the title. That’s nice. I’m sure the doctor’s corpse will be crushed by the rebuke.
Ohio State never reported Strauss to the state medical board., so after he left the athletic department he continued to abuse the young men who came to his clinic.
In a typical account from a former student reported to investigators, the victim reported that Strauss spent more than five minutes inspecting his genitals, then asked the student out to dinner, a common practice for the doctor, the investigation found. When the student had another visit—why in the world would he submit to another visit?—Strauss touched him with the intent to try to make him ejaculate. During yet another examination, when the student had a sore throat, Strauss fondled him again, and during the last appointment, Strauss performed oral sex on the student and took off his pants, which the student believed was so the student could reciprocate.
The student never reported the behavior, noting that “student athletes were generally expected to be the ‘manliest of men,’” the report states.
Sorry, I don’t find that a credible explanation.
The report states that Strauss showered with players, sometimes for up to 45 minutes at a time, rubbing his genitals. Right. Move along, nothing to see here. Hazing, you know.
“When his behavior was reported, it seemed not to matter,” says Inside Higher Ed. “When another former student injured himself during his sophomore year, the student told another physician treating him about a prolonged examination that involved Strauss touching his genitals. The physician asked the student to repeat the story to the head team physician, and the student told investigators both men looked concerned. But neither seemed to do much with the information. Strauss called the student later that night to check in on his injury but did not bring up the student talking to his colleagues.”
Do I see how Strauss could get away with these crimes with some athletes? Of course. But all of them? I don’t understand.
Experts like Debra Warner, a professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, explains that reports likely took so long to surface because society shames men who are vulnerable. The public, she says, wrongly considers men as hunters, protectors and not those who can be the victims of sexual violence.
That’s feminist political spin, and an endorsement of a cultural rejection of traditional male values. It does not explain the fiasco.
“To say that they have been assaulted and victimized in any way shape or form, they are afraid about what everyone will think about them, that it will impact their future and their survival,” Warner said. That’s funny: if I were being molested by an alleged doctor, I would consider that my survival, and that of my fellow students, depended on doing everything in my power to stop him, and warn them. I cannot believe that my reaction is unique.
The university’s president, Michael V. Drake, issued an apology letter to the campus, writing in part:
“On behalf of the university, we offer our profound regret and sincere apologies to each person who endured Strauss’ abuse. Our institution’s fundamental failure at the time to prevent this abuse was unacceptable — as were the inadequate efforts to thoroughly investigate complaints raised by students and staff members. This independent investigation was completed because of the strength and courage of survivors. We thank each of them for their willingness to share their experiences.”
At this point, I have more questions than conclusions.
- It seems impossible that the campus culture that allowed this to continue so long didn’t have other terrible consequences in other areas. What were they?
- If Ohio State had developed such a sick and toxic culture that someone like Strauss was allowed to thrive, what was unusual about that institution that spawned it?
- If the answer is nothing, than isn’t it reasonable to assume that other universities are similarly corrupt? Or is the entire university system in the U.S. corrupt?
- Has our hero-rejecting culture programmed students to avoid conflict and to believe that the duty to warn others and the duty to confront wrongdoers is no longer a cultural imperative?
- The fact that Ohio State finally investigated the case of an abusive doctor who has been dead for 14 years does not fill me with confidence that the culture on campus that permitted these crimes has some how been reformed and cured. Why would it?
- This was a multi-lateral ethics breakdown on every front—the perpetrator, the athletic department, the administrators, the students, even the victims. I assume that it will be treated in academia as some kind of weird outlier, with no greater significance except that feminist will use it to tut-tut our society and lecture us that we should encourage men to embrace their vulnerable, feminine side. I do not understand this story, but I also strongly suspect that it provides a clue to how little colleges and universities deserve the trust society places in them.