COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Sexual assault victims of former Ohio State University doctor Richard Strauss are outraged as the university is trying to block the admission of a sexual abuse study in court.
More than 200 of victims have Title IX cases against OSU pending in federal court. Hundreds more settled with the university.
Ohio State publicly apologized to the Strauss survivors back in 2019, after the release of a massive Perkins Coie law firm report. The university paid $6 million for the independent study that documented 20 years of abuse. Now, OSU is trying to block admission of its own study in court.
In May 2019, then-university-president Michael Drake joined the board president to apologize to Strauss survivors and admitted the university's "fundamental failure" in investigating complaints from students and staff.
The report from Perkins Coie involved interviews with hundreds of students, coaches, trainers, medical professionals and university leaders who suspected, or even knew, what Dr. Strauss was doing to young men over a 20-year period.
“They knew seven years before I landed at the Ohio State University, they knew about him,” said Al Novakowski, a former OSU hockey player. “I can forgive a lot of things… but I’ll never forgive them for knowing.”
He said he can't forgive them now for trying to block admission of that extensive Perkins Coie report – the document that let the world know what had happened.
Novakowski was an 18-year-old hockey phenom from Canada when he was recruited by Ohio State in 1988. He said he was molested by team doctor Strauss, just days after arriving on campus.
After being sent a report on the culture of cover up at Ohio State in 2020, he realized he was not alone, and for the first time admitted he had also been drugged and raped by Dr. Strauss.
“Everyone's got their own story and their own their own memories of what happened and three years ago when [Colleen] and I first talked, I couldn't mention the word rape or abuse or fondled or any of those things without breaking down,” Novakowski said. “Over the last three years, I've learned to be strong, I've learned to not be ashamed.”
He also learned that at least two of his hockey teammates, a friend on the volleyball team and a friend on the football team are among the victims.
Some contacted him privately, thanking him for standing-up publicly for victims, and now for questioning OSU’s effort to block its own report -- making the court case longer and more expensive.
“I am so disappointed in the Ohio State University. I am so embarrassed by their lack of empathy and their lack of trying to get to the truth,” Novakowski said.
In a statement to NBC4, an Ohio State spokesman pointed to the arguments made in its court filing, saying it "respects" the findings and conclusions in the Perkins Coie report, but because of the challenges of the time passage and unavailability of witnesses and material, it is impossible for the report to be a complete factual record for litigation purposes. And that the plaintiffs are each required to establish the record and proof of their individual allegations.
An attorney for the plaintiffs said they are optimistic the court will recognize the report for what it is: an independent investigation of decades of abuse that OSU failed to investigate or stop.