Gov. Mike DeWine called for lifting the statute of limitations in cases of rape and sexual abuse in response to the report surrounding former Ohio State University team doctor Richard Strauss.
According to a report released Friday by the university, Strauss, who killed himself in 2005, abused at least 177 male students over his two-decade career at the state’s flagship university, where he worked from 1978 to 1998.
The report describes Strauss’ sexual abuse as an “open secret” among coaches, trainers, and other doctors, The Ohio Star reported last week.
DeWine was particularly concerned about what the State Medical Board of Ohio knew, when they knew it, and what they did about it.
“The question that we are faced with is this: did the State Medical Board of Ohio take appropriate action regarding Richard Strauss? What did they know? When did they know that? What did they do about it?” DeWine said during a Monday press conference.
“We should all be disgusted. Every Ohioan should be disgusted and should be angered by what has happened. Not only by the horrific and vile acts perpetrated by Richard Strauss, but also they should be angered that complaints and reports about this sexual abuse were not reported to Ohio authorities by the athletic department or Ohio State University Student Health Center until 1996—more than 15 years after the first reports were in fact received,” the Republican governor continued.
As a result, DeWine announced a new executive order that will “establish a working group housed in the Ohio Department of Public Safety to review the complete Strauss report, including redacted information as it relates to the State Medical Board of Ohio.”
“This group will review the Medical Board’s actions or inactions and ensure the Medical Board’s policies and procedures are adequate to address complaints of sexual abuse raised against doctors,” DeWine explained.
He later called on lawmakers to lift the statute of limitations for victims of rape and sexual abuse.
“How furious would the public be today if this man was still alive and could not be prosecuted? I think people would be furious. We know from all the evidence, all the studies, that many times victims never come forward. Many times they can’t come forward. The laws should be different in regard to the statute of limitations for sexual assault than it is for other crimes,” he said.
The Ohio House is currently considering a bill, House Bill 249, that would allow Strauss’ victims to sue the university, though DeWine declined to comment on that bill Monday.
“Now, while Richard Strauss is dead and obviously cannot face justice for his crimes, we can use this tragedy as an opportunity to review Ohio’s current laws and to take steps to change the culture and how we respond to allegations of sexual abuse,” DeWine said.
“I would just ask members of the General Assembly, what would you tell your constituents today—or what would you tell your constituents tomorrow—if we come upon another tragedy like this where we have a monster who has been doing things like this and he’s alive, but … we can’t prosecute?” he concluded.
Watch the full statement:
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Image “Governor DeWine” by The Ohio Channel.