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A group of Ohio State University (OSU) alumni recently filed a lawsuit against the University for failing to protect them from being sexually assaulted, abused, molested or harassed by OSU physician and athletic team doctor, Dr. Richard Strauss.

The initial lawsuit was filed on behalf of 10 former students, but more plaintiffs have joined the case since then, bringing the number now closer to 40. This is one of two lawsuits OSU is defending, concerning claims against Dr. Strauss with the other being a recently filed class action lawsuit.

Doctor Allegedly Abused University Students for Decades

According to the complaint, OSU learned about Dr. Strauss’s inappropriate sexual conduct as early as his first year of employment there, yet failed to take meaningful action to protect students. Instead, the doctor stayed on for a 20-year tenure at the university, despite the fact that administrators, coaches, physicians, and other employees were repeatedly informed about his sexual abuse of students.

The plaintiffs claim the doctor misused his position of trust and confidence to sexually abuse male students and student-athletes repeatedly from 1978 through 1998. His actions allegedly included fondling the students’ testicles and penises, digitally penetrating their rectums, touching them in other inappropriate ways, asking them inappropriate sexualized questions, and making inappropriate comments about their bodies.

His behavior was such a common topic of conversation that he gained several nicknames, including “Dr. Jelly Paws” and “Dr. Cough.”

OSU Has a History of Failing to Protect Students from Sexual Predators

The plaintiffs also assert that not only did OSU fail to act to protect the students, they actually facilitated the abuse. They give the example of a student lodging a complaint against the doctor for inappropriate sexual touching and comments, but the Director of Student Health Services responded only by telling the student that no one had complained about the doctor before and that the doctor had stated the examination was medically appropriate.

The plaintiffs add that the University’s failure is not limited to Dr. Strauss’s abuse, noting that there were at least two OSU employees since Dr. Strauss “who are alleged to have systematically committed sexual abuse and/or facilitated rampant sexual harassment—a former Director of OSU’s marching band, Jonathan Waters, and assistant diving coach, Will Bohonyi.”

As another example of OSU’s negligence, the plaintiffs state that in 2014, after OSU investigated a complaint against Jonathan Waters, the University found that there was a “sexually hostile environment for students in the marching band of which the University had notice and failed to adequately address.”

The University adopted a new plan after that and promised to do better in the future. But instead, after receiving a report in 2014 about assistant diving coach Will Bohonyi, the University sent the victim home from the meet, and failed to address the hundreds of nude photographs of the victim that the coach had forced her to take at age 16.

Ultimately, according to the plaintiffs, OSU succeeded at keeping Dr. Strauss’s two decades of abuse quiet until this year. All of the plaintiffs allege they were sexually abused and/or harassed by the doctor, and seek compensatory damages.

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