First-person story illustrates long-term impacts of Strauss’s abuse
When I entered Ohio State in the mid-1990s, I was just like many other undergraduates – young and impressionable, but also excited because I believed my path to a successful and fulfilled life would begin with a college education.
I did not have a scholarship, but I did take out loans that I’m still paying back 25 years later.
I’m also still paying a heavy emotional price for my education because the most profound and life-altering things I purchased from The Ohio State University were not found in the classroom, they were found in Dr. Richard Strauss’s exam rooms at the OSU Health Center and later at his private practice.
I was referred to Dr. Strauss for what one OSU doctor described as the “most mild form of genital warts he’d ever seen.”
When I went to see Strauss I told him about my problem and he said he’d have to do a thorough examination to make sure he didn’t miss any warts. He also stated that most patients become erect during the exam, adding that getting an erection didn’t mean I was gay. After removing my clothing, I was instructed to lay on my back on the exam table, and Strauss performed a detailed examination of my genitalia that lasted for about 20 minutes.
I maintained an erection for most of the exam, while Strauss was bent over in a position that put his face in very close proximity to my genitals.
In the end, he applied liquid nitrogen to an alleged wart, adding that he could cure my problem with consistent treatment. Of course, that meant I’d have to see him again.
I did see him a few weeks later and he performed another exam, just like the first, and claimed that he found two additional warts. These warts (that I couldn’t see) were also removed by liquid nitrogen.
In total, I was molested by Strauss four times, the last one being the worst. That time, the doctor placed his hands on my penis, his face close to it, and after several minutes of fondling under the ruse of an exam, he began manipulating me in a masturbatory fashion. I looked down to see his hand moving up and down rapidly. I sat straight up, grabbing for my pants. Strauss pushed me back down and said, “It’s OK. You did a good job. You didn’t cum. Just lay down and let me finish.”
I left immediately.
I must add a note here about my feelings at the time. I realized during the last exam that none of the exams were medically necessary, but always performed for Strauss’s sexual gratification.
I was in shock and disbelief that I would let another man do this to me. I think shame and guilt, and a fear of being called gay, prevented me from reporting what happened.
For 22 years – until June 2018 – I believed that I was the only survivor of Richard Strauss’s sexual assault. Like most other victims in this case I buried his abuse and dealt with the emotional pain alone. I did not tell my family, my friends or even my wife. The traumas turned into demons, and the demons set up camp in my mind, and they haven’t left.
Over the decades, some brave men did try to make the University aware of Strauss’s abuse, but their complaints were met with silence.
This wall of silence allowed the abuse to continue for 20 years and represents an abandonment of the University’s duty to protect students.
So, it’s not surprising that now OSU is choosing to hide behind a statute to avoid dealing with Strauss’s victims. The University has filed a motion to dismiss the Strauss victims’ lawsuit because the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits has passed.
I find this ridiculously offensive.
Essentially, the statute says an adult human in the state of Ohio has just two years to report a sexual assault. Two years to sift through a bevy of emotions or no justice will be done.
This preposterous statute is allowing OSU to continue to hide from responsibility even though authorities knew about Strauss’s abuse as far back as 1978.
Members of the Board of Trustees have seemingly satisfied themselves that men, real men, would never let themselves be abused.
But I know that’s simply not true.
My life’s path eventually led me to a career in law enforcement, where I’ve witnessed all manner of trauma. I can tell the men who sit on the board that “this could have happened to you, too,” and then they would be saddled with the demons shared by many of Strauss’s victims.
There hasn’t been a single day since this happened that I haven’t thought about it. It’s like a festering wound that’s been rotting in the corners of my mind since the 1990s.
And I am angry at my alma mater for allowing extreme harm to be visited upon its students, while pledging that no harm would be done.
So, Strauss is dead and he can’t take responsibility.
OSU refuses to take responsibility.
The only person who has taken responsibility for my abuse is me. And I don’t want it anymore.
I want OSU to acknowledge that the whole Strauss affair could have been prevented if they had just done their duty.
What is duty?
I remember the day I first took the oath of office and swore to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. My Chief pointed to the badge on his chest and asked us what it meant. It meant trust. It meant that by wearing the badge we accepted the responsibility of being beyond reproach. That we would do the right thing against all odds. That we would do our duty.
In that same vein, parents send their children to The Ohio State University trusting that they will be safe. That the University will do the right thing because being a Buckeye means something.
That is OSU’s duty.
They have failed it by choice.
Support survivors of Dr. Strauss sexual abuse by sharing your thoughts with the Board of Trustees. Email board members at: firstname.lastname@example.org