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Following Strauss Report, DeWine Proposes Lifting Statute Of Limitations For Rape

Ohio Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine reviews his prepared comments ahead of a primary election night event, Tuesday, May 8, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio.
Bryan Woolston
Associated Press
Ohio governor Mike Dewine.

Gov. Mike DeWine has signed an executive order establishing a group to look into how the State Medical Board handled allegations of sexual abuse by former Ohio State doctor Richard Strauss. 

An investigative report released Friday found Strauss had sexually abused at least 177 male students over two decades at the university, including athletes of multiple sports and patients at the Student Health Center.

At a press conference Monday, DeWine said “we should all be disgusted” by what Strauss did. He said he wants this working group to provide answers about what the State Medical Board knew, when they knew it and how they handled it.

The report found Ohio State personnel heard complaints about Strauss’ conduct as early as 1979 but failed to act until 1996, after several students reported sexual misconduct at the health center. Strauss was subsequently removed from the Athletics Department and health center, but remained a tenured faculty member until his voluntary requirement.

The State Medical Board conducted its own investigation into Strauss in 1996, but declined to take any disciplinary actions. During the completion of the independent report, the Medical Board demanded that details of its past investigation be redacted from the public report.

DeWine says that Strauss' suicide in 2005 means the doctor can't be held accountable, but that learning the facts might prevent a repeat. He’s also calling on lawmakers to lift the statute of limitations in criminal cases for victims of rape, and reconsider limitations for other sex crimes as well.

“The nature of sexual assaults and the impacts they have on victims is different than other crimes," DeWine says.

There's legislation in the Ohio General Assembly with the same intention, but for civil cases. State Rep. Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville) proposed a bill aimed directly at allowing Strauss accusers to sue Ohio State. Dozens of men have already filed lawsuits against the university, and their cases are headed to mediation.

In a statement Monday, Ohio State president Michael Drake said the school still seeks permission to share the redacted portions of the report.

"We share Governor DeWine’s concern and compassion for survivors of sexual abuse and applaud the administration’s efforts to strengthen sexual misconduct reporting to law enforcement," Drake writes.

Brian Garrett says he was abused by Strauss in an off-campus clinic the doctor set up after being suspended by Ohio State. Though Garrett said the report gives “validation” to accusations from survivors, he still has questions.

“Why didn’t the Ohio State Medical Board? Why didn’t Ohio State report him to the police immediately? Why is a physician or person in power treated differently?" Garrett asked during DeWine's press conference.

As part of the comprehensive investigative, the outside law firm Perkins Coie conducted about 600 interviews. The report found Strauss' conduct was an “open secret” on campus.

"We find that there were multiple people who over many, many years failed to meet their minimum responsibilities to ensure student safety, and this is inexplicable and inexcusable in my book," Drake said in an interview Friday.

Ohio State has referred the report to Columbus Police, the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office and the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.
Gabe Rosenberg joined WOSU in October 2016. As digital news editor, Gabe reports breaking news and edits all content for the WOSU website, as well as manages the station's social media accounts.