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Sexual abuse accusers, lawyers calling on Ohio State for action in Strauss case

The flames in the ongoing sexual assault scandal at Ohio State keep re-igniting. Lawyers and survivors demanded action after a report was released Friday by the university.  (Ohio State University via AP, File)
The flames in the ongoing sexual assault scandal at Ohio State keep re-igniting. Lawyers and survivors demanded action after a report was released Friday by the university. (Ohio State University via AP, File)
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The flames in the ongoing sexual assault scandal at Ohio State (OSU) keep re-igniting. Lawyers and survivors demanded action after a report was released Friday by the university.

They raised questions about the OSU commissioned report about the school’s conduct over the past several decades, and in 2018-2019.

“Now that the report is out, and only scratches the surface, but as bad as it is, it's a dumpster fire for OSU," said Scott Elliot Smith, lawyer for some of the survivors following a conference call Tuesday with journalists and attorneys from across the country. "What they need to do is step up."

The survivors supporting the action are part of about 60 men seeking to hold OSU accountable through a lawsuit to “force reforms that will prevent similar systemic abuse in the future,” according to Smith.

“My only intention in this thing is to make sure nobody goes through what I did,” said Strauss accuser Steve Snyder-Hill. “I was stuck in a box for 24 years and forgotten about. I can’t imagine that there aren’t more people sitting in boxes that OSU has not come forward with. I feel like nothing has changed and they they need to stop distancing themselves from the OSU of then. Instead of telling us we aren't those same people, they need to tell us what they are going to do to protect kids today.”

Snyder Hill, who's mentioned as student B in the report, said until Friday he never knew there was a student A, who reported sexual abuse by Strauss three days before he did.

Here are the five specific demands the survivors made of Ohio State:

  1. OSU must release records revealing the total number of male students that Dr. Strauss examined during his time at OSU. Given the length and perceived scope of Strauss’s abuse, the 177 survivors interviewed for the report is likely only a small portion of those impacted, with the actual number reaching into the hundreds and possibly even a thousand or more.
  2. OSU must publicly encourage all survivors of Dr. Strauss’ abuse to come forward in whatever manner they feel most comfortable, whether publicly or anonymously.
  3. OSU must release the names of the coaches, assistant coaches, trainers and other employees and administrators who knew about Strauss’s conduct while it was going on and failed to stop it. The report notes that more than 50 members of the OSU Athletics Department “corroborated these student accounts.” The public and the OSU community in particular have a right to know who these individuals are.
  4. OSU must release specific information on the other places where Dr. Strauss worked and saw patients. For example, the report references a local middle school, a local high school and a local Diocese in which Strauss treated young men, but it fails to identify any of those institutions.
  5. OSU must put forth by June 15 – the date of its first mediation session with the survivors who have come forward – a concrete proposal laying out both how OSU will help provide some measure of justice to the survivors and what reforms it has and will put in place to prevent this from happening again.

"We've been working to support the survivors of what is now clearly a case of systemic sexual abuse and neglect," Adele Kimmel, senior attorney for Public Justice, a non-profit said. "We want to help compel Ohio State to take concrete steps to prevent this from ever happening again.”

On the conference call Tuesday was Ron McDaniel, a former OSU scholarship tennis player. McDaniel said 30 years ago, he got his first introduction to Dr. Strauss and got sick with bronchitis.

“My coach sent me to go see him and that was the most uncomfortable medical exam I've ever had for bronchitis," he said. "When I went back to report what happened to my coach, she kind of laughed and said 'well, welcome to Dr. Strauss.'”

Ohio State declined our request for an interview on Friday, Monday, and again Tuesday. They sent some key points by email that were outlined in previous news releases.

According to OSU, Perkins Coie worked with Ohio State to release regular investigation updates to the public over the past year in order to empower others to determine whether they would want to come forward. As part of that process, OSU broadly communicated about the investigation, contacting 115,000 alumni and former student-athletes and reaching an additional 147,000 people through university-wide notifications.

Ohio State leaders said they urged anyone who has experienced sexual misconduct while at the university — and in an incident involving another student or university employee — to report to the Office of Institutional Equity, the university’s anonymous reporting service or law enforcement.

The university is covering the cost of professionally certified counseling for those affected by Strauss. The counseling is offered through Praesidium, a nationally recognized leader with extensive experience in providing confidential and sensitive support services. No contact with Ohio State is required, and Praesidium will not share information with the university. Affected individuals can engage in counseling for as long as needed. For those who have received counseling as a result of Strauss’ actions, the university will reimburse those costs through Praesidium.

Ohio State said they have established multiple programs to address sexual misconduct and abuse.

“These include the implementation in 2016 of mandatory sexual misconduct prevention education for incoming students. The university expanded this requirement in 2018 to all students, faculty and staff. This fall, Ohio State will survey students, faculty and staff as part of an institution-wide initiative on shared values. Additionally, a redesign of the Human Resources service delivery model — part of a university initiative to improve multiple business functions — will include a more integrated approach for all HR decisions, including those related to issues of sexual misconduct involving faculty and staff.

The university has also made these improvements in key areas to ensure policies and procedures support the safest possible environment:

  • Athletics: Additional options for reporting misconduct have been established in the Department of Athletics. Training on incident reporting requirements has been expanded to athletics compliance, and medical and student-athlete support services staff. Other actions include prohibiting public access to locker rooms and training facilities, enhanced chaperone policies and providing student-athletes access to multiple physicians.
  • Medical center: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s concern-reporting protocol was enhanced to encourage the reporting of incidents and underscore that retaliation is prohibited. Enhancements were also made to specific policies concerning sensitive medical exams of all patients, including student-athletes.”

Ohio State and survivors are scheduled to go to mediation in a Cincinnati court on June 15.


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