06
March
2020
|
14:00 PM
America/New_York

Ohio State announces settlement of 11 of 18 lawsuits brought by survivors of deceased sex abuser Richard Strauss

University remains committed to settling outstanding claims as soon as possible

The Ohio State University announced today that it has reached a monetary settlement with survivors in 11 of the 18 lawsuits pending against the university regarding claims related to Richard Strauss, a university-employed physician from 1978 to 1998. Strauss died in 2005.

An independent investigation launched by Ohio State determined that Strauss abused students for more than 20 years and the university administration failed to appropriately respond at the time.

The 11 lawsuits represent nearly half of the individuals who have brought claims against the university. The parties participated in a confidential mediation overseen by the federal court and will be completing the final procedural steps in the process in the coming weeks. Ohio State continues to participate in the mediation process with the survivors involved in the seven remaining lawsuits.

“Strauss’ conduct was reprehensible, and the university’s failures at the time are completely unacceptable,” said President Michael V. Drake. “While nothing can undo what happened here years ago, today’s university has a responsibility to support our former students and alumni, and this initial settlement is another important step in the process of restorative justice.

“Our focus has always been and remains on the survivors. They have our sincere appreciation for coming forward. We know that this takes great courage. Without them, the truth would have remained unknown.”

Funds in the settlement will be allocated on an individual basis based on the harm and damages experienced by each survivor. A special master, independent of the university and trained in sex abuse trauma, will oversee the settlement process.

Further details regarding the settlement will be available as the legal process moves forward.

“After extensive negotiations, we were able to reach a settlement on behalf of our clients,” said attorney Rick Schulte, lead negotiator for the plaintiffs’ firms. “The bravery of our clients is humbling. We are pleased that Ohio State stepped forward and did the right thing. This settlement will help our clients move forward with the healing process.”

No taxpayer, tuition or donor funds will be utilized. All funds for individual survivors of Strauss related to this settlement will draw from existing institutional discretionary funding.

The Strauss matter was brought to light by the university, which launched and announced publicly an independent investigation of Strauss’ abuse after one survivor came forward in April 2018. After a year-long investigation by the independent law firm Perkins Coie, the university issued a 180-page report detailing acts of sexual abuse against at least 177 former students. The report concluded that university personnel at the time failed to adequately respond to or prevent Strauss’ abuse.

The report was released in May 2019 along with all relevant public records on the university’s Strauss investigation website. Please know the report contains explicit descriptions of sexual abuse.

As part of the Perkins Coie investigation, the university reached out broadly to 115,000 alumni and former student-athletes who attended Ohio State during Strauss’ employment and to 147,000 current students, faculty and staff to inform them of the investigation and encourage them to share any information they had with the independent investigators. The university kept the community informed throughout the course of the investigation, creating a website for documents and updates, providing periodic public reports on the progress and publishing the findings of the independent investigation and all relevant public records online.

Since February 2019, Ohio State has covered the cost of professionally certified counseling services and treatment for anyone affected by Strauss, whether counseling and treatment occurred in the past or is needed at any point in the future. To connect with these services, or if individuals are at all uncertain about how to proceed and have questions, please contact Praesidium at 888-961-9273 or visit https://website.praesidiuminc.com/wp/osu/.

The university continues to commit resources to prevent and address sexual misconduct. Read more on these efforts — including policies, programs, staffing and tools — here.

“We must always be vigilant,” Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce A. McPheron said. “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our community. As Buckeyes, we want to be leading these efforts. These are more than just words — they define our values.”

Anyone who has experienced sexual misconduct while at Ohio State — and the incident involved another student or university employee — is encouraged to report to the Office of Institutional Equity, the university’s anonymous reporting service or law enforcement.

Those who have experienced sexual misconduct outside of Ohio State should contact local law enforcement. Additional resources include:

  • If you reside in the Columbus, Ohio, area, advocates from SARNCO can assist you in reporting, explain the investigation process and accompany you to any meeting. SARNCO’s confidential, 24/7 support hotline is 614-267-7020.
  • If you do not reside in the Columbus area, you can contact the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline, a confidential, 24/7 resource, at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). You can also visit the website to chat live with a representative. Advocates will help you find a resource in your community.

Current Ohio State students seeking additional support services can contact the Office of Student Life’s Counseling and Consultation Service while faculty and staff can access support resources through the Employee Assistance Program.

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