01
October
2019
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10:31 PM
America/New_York

Strauss investigation: Ohio State convenes task force, releases previously redacted portions of independent report

Additional athletics records referencing Strauss also made public

The Ohio State University announced today several updates related to the independent investigation of sexual abuse committed by Richard Strauss, who was employed by the university from 1978 to 1998. He died in 2005.

These updates include details of Ohio State’s Task Force on Sexual Abuse, including its charge and members, and the release of several previously redacted portions of the independent investigative report and additional records in which Strauss is mentioned.

“The university remains dedicated to integrity, transparency and trust — values that guide our campus community each day,” President Michael V. Drake said. “This commitment extends fully to the investigation of abuse committed by Strauss.”

To appropriately pursue a remedy with survivors, the university continues to actively participate in good faith in the mediation process as directed by the federal court.

Ohio State is covering the cost of confidential, professionally certified counseling for survivors of Strauss’ abuse and their families. Counseling is offered for as long as needed through Praesidium, a nationally recognized leader in preventing and responding to sexual abuse. Those affected can contact Praesidium online or at 888-961-9273.

Upon learning of allegations from decades ago in spring 2018, the university announced an independent investigation, created a Strauss investigation website, reached out to 115,000 alumni and former student-athletes to ask for their assistance and engaged an additional 147,000 people through university-wide notifications and periodic updates.

In May 2019, Ohio State released the independent report detailing acts of sexual abuse against at least 177 former students by Strauss along with related public records.

The year-long investigation, conducted by the law firm Perkins Coie, also concluded that university personnel at the time had knowledge of complaints and concerns about Strauss’ conduct as early as 1979 but failed to investigate or act meaningfully. Investigation-related materials, including the report, university updates and support resources, can be found on the university’s Strauss investigation website. The report contains explicit descriptions of sexual abuse.

In 1996, Ohio State removed Strauss from his role as a physician in both the Department of Athletics and Student Health Services. His actions were reported to the State Medical Board of Ohio that same year. The Perkins Coie investigation found no evidence that the university reported Strauss’ conduct to law enforcement. He was allowed to voluntarily retire in 1998 with emeritus status. Strauss’ emeritus status was revoked by university trustees earlier this year.

Task Force on Sexual Abuse

The university’s Task Force on Sexual Abuse has been convened to review recent sexual abuse cases and identify educational tools and best practices for fostering a culture of awareness and compliance in higher education. Drake announced the formation of the task force following the university’s release of the independent investigative report. He said the task force will use the information detailed in the Strauss report and other sources to inform a safer future.

Specifically, the task force is charged with:

  • Compiling a background summary of known instances of sexual abuse that have occurred at institutions of higher education, with particular emphasis on those that have become known within the last 10 years
  • Distilling and categorizing common elements or themes that emerge from the historical summary, focusing specifically on identifying and understanding the particular challenges and cultural barriers that may exist in college departments of athletics or in the clinical medical enterprise that could affect sexual abuse reporting
  • Identifying educational tools and practices for enhancing a culture of awareness and compliance
  • Identifying best practices focused on assisting reporting and developing pathways to action on college campuses
  • Identifying best practices regarding sustainable mechanisms for support and recovery

The task force will partner with survivors of sexual abuse to further inform and advance its work — engaging with survivor-focused organizations such as the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) or others.

The task force is chaired by Alan Michaels, JD, professor and dean emeritus of Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law. Additional members include:

  • Brieanne Beaujolais, doctoral student in social work with research interests in gender-based violence, campus sexual assault, intimate partner violence and sex trafficking, Ohio State
  • Regis Becker, board member, U.S. Center for SafeSport
  • Esther Choo, MD, MPH, associate professor of emergency medicine whose research interests include violence, women’s health and gender medicine, Oregon Health & Science University
  • Christine Gidycz, PhD, professor emerita of psychology focusing on sexual assault prevention and risk reduction programs, Ohio University
  • Katherine Lasher, JD, associate vice president for institutional equity, Ohio State
  • Janine Oman, deputy director of athletics overseeing sport administration, sport performance, compliance and human resources, Ohio State
  • Vincent Roscigno, PhD, professor of sociology focusing on inequality, culture and dynamics of workplace bullying and abuse, Ohio State
  • Kimberly Spears-McNatt, chief of police, The Ohio State University Police Division
  • Deborah Tuerkheimer, JD, professor focusing on feminist legal theory and criminal law, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law

Release of previously redacted portions of independent report

The Perkins Coie investigative report now includes some previously redacted information relating to the State Medical Board of Ohio’s investigatory file on Strauss. This information has been made available on the university’s Strauss investigation website.

Nothing in the newly unredacted portions of the report compromises the anonymity of survivors. The university has notified survivors of the release of this information.

Ohio State had advocated with the medical board to be allowed to release these previously redacted portions of the report in May. The university filed a motion in that regard with the federal court. The medical board initially opposed the university’s motion, which was denied by the federal court. In coordination with the issuance of a report from a working group convened by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, the medical board has since waived statutory privilege, a step that allowed Ohio State to release the portions of the report referring to the medical board’s investigatory materials on Strauss.

Consistent with remaining redactions in the medical board file, the names of witnesses from the medical board’s investigation are redacted in the Perkins Coie report to protect their anonymity.

The university remains grateful to survivors and witnesses for their courage in coming forward, Drake said.

“Without their courage, the public would still not know of Strauss’ crimes today.”

Release of additional athletics files

This past summer, after the release of the Perkins Coie report, Ohio State’s Department of Athletics discovered a file of documents containing references to Strauss during a staff relocation from St. John Arena to the Covelli Center.

The university immediately provided the full file to Perkins Coie, which determined that the contents were either entirely duplicative of previously located university records or otherwise did not alter the findings of the investigation. In keeping with a commitment to release university records found to contain Strauss’ name, Ohio State today posted all additional records on its Strauss investigation website.

Also following this discovery, the university’s compliance staff searched St. John Arena to ensure no additional records referencing Strauss had been stored there.

Ohio State leaders urge anyone who has experienced sexual misconduct to report to the Office of Institutional Equity, the university’s anonymous reporting service or law enforcement.

Survivors who have experienced any form of sexual misconduct outside of Ohio State are also encouraged to contact local law enforcement. Additional resources include:

  • If you reside in the Columbus, Ohio, area, advocates from the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio (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.

“We encourage everyone to take an active role in preventing and responding to sexual misconduct and abuse,” Drake said. “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our communities.”

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