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Strauss victims protest before Ohio State-Michigan game Saturday, seek transparency and justice from university

The Lantern
Protesters advocate for Strauss victims outside The ‘Shoe before the Ohio State – Michigan game on Nov. 26. Credit: Christian Harsa | Managing Editor for Digital Content

Victims of former Ohio State physician Richard Strauss stood with signs outside the Ohio Stadium rotunda ahead of Saturday’s game against Michigan to protest the university’s handling of the investigation into the abuse.

Many of the victims are former student-athletes — including Steve Snyder-Hill, who is currently pursuing a lawsuit against Ohio State for its role in the abuse along with over 100 other plaintiffs.

At a game with over 106,000 attendees, the victims held signs calling for changes to Ohio’s statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases as well as for justice and transparency from the university.

“The only thing that people care about is sports,” Snyder-Hill, a victim who attended Ohio State from 1991-2000, said. “We hope to remind them that we’ve been here for five years.”

The protesters canvassed outside the ‘Shoe before kickoff, carrying a sign claiming the university and Ohio’s government “protects sexual predators” instead of students and survivors. They continue to advocate for the change in the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases, which for Strauss victims would be just two years.

“It’s our chance to be able to talk to people and for people to be able to hear us,” Snyder-Hill said.

Strauss was a varsity team doctor and served as a physician at the Student Health Center from 1978-98. An independent investigation in 2019 found that Strauss sexually abused at least 177 student-athletes during his tenure and that university officials were aware of the abuse and failed to prevent or address it.

Strauss died by suicide in 2005.

Marion, Ohio, attorney Rocky Ratliff, who is a victim of Strauss, said he hopes Saturday’s protest leads to increased awareness and changed behavior by the university, as well as a change in Ohio’s statute of limitations.

“I hope that Ohio State will take a leadership role in preventing, eradicating and getting rid of the sexual predators and abusers,” Ratliff said. “Every time someone sees it, they’re more aware that we’re still here.”

Since 2018, more than 500 victims of Strauss — nearly all men — have sued the university for failing to address Strauss’ abuse and harassment.

In September, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a previous dismissal of a dozen lawsuits against the university and enabled victims to argue their cases in court, ruling the two-year statute of limitations doesn’t apply because victims couldn’t have known Ohio State’s role in the abuse until 2018.

A Lantern investigation revealed Ohio State’s administration worked to block legislation to waive the statute of limitations on civil sexual abuse cases for the victims of Strauss.

This discovery was the focus of Ratliff’s sign, which included photos of State Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH-04), University President Kristina M. Johnson andGov. Mike DeWine.

“[Representative] Bill Seitz was a guy that helped kill the bill on the statute of limitations,” Ratliff said. “He takes no active leadership at the Ohio state legislature to help survivors.”

Seitz is the majority floor leader in the Ohio House of Representatives, serving as the Republican party’s leading voice on issues and coordinating legislative strategies.

“Survivors have reached out to Bill Seitz, and Bill Seitz directly forwarded all emails that he received from survivors to Ohio State to try to say ‘here’s what the guys are doing,’ or ‘here’s what they’re planning, or here’s what they’re saying about them,’” Ratliff said.

Johnson apologized to victims of Strauss’ abuse at the Nov. 17 meeting with the university’s Board of Trustees.

“ On behalf of the entire university, I’m deeply sorry,” Johnson said at the meeting. “Strauss’ actions were a betrayal, and the university’s failure to act at that time remains unacceptable.”

University spokesperson Ben Johnson said in an email the university expresses its “deepest regrets and apologies” for Strauss’ abuse.

““The university has reached settlement agreements with more than half the plaintiffs – 296 survivors – for more than $60 million, and all male students who filed lawsuits have been offered the opportunity to settle,” Ben Johnson said.

Tom Lisy, a wrestler from 1986-88, said he and other victims are still a part of the university community.

“We were athletes that competed for this university. That still means something to us,” Lisy said. “We still want to be part of this community, they want to push us aside.”

Lisy said Strauss’ abuse was an open secret among university administration and athletics staff.

“They turned around, and they blamed us,” Lisy said. “They blamed us for not saying something after we’d been manipulated by a predator that they permitted years before I got here –– they could’ve stopped Strauss, and they didn’t.”

Ratliff said justice, to him, means more than just money.

“Justice would obviously be a settlement to the victims, but it would be more than that,” Ratliff said. “It would be change –– creating change for its current student body, future student body, and the world around us.”

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