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*** Victory! Update! *** On September 14, 2022, the Sixth Circuit held that the Ohio State University male students, including student-athletes, adequately alleged that they did not know and could not reasonably have known that OSU had injured them until 2018, when OSU announced it was hiring a firm to investigate Dr. Richard Strauss for alleged sexual abuse. In support of its decision, the Sixth Circuit cited NWLC’s amicus brief, which explained that “recognizing abuse—especially physician-patient abuse—can be even harder in the context of college athletics because of the insular nature of teams, the immense trust and authority placed in coaches, and the culture of college athletics, including the role of coaches and trainers in setting norms.” OSU then asked the Supreme Court to reverse the Sixth Circuit’s decision. On June 26, 2023, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, which locks in the survivors’ victory in the Sixth Circuit. We are so glad that the plaintiffs will be allowed to continue their Title IX lawsuits!
On February 9, 2022, the National Women’s Law Center and Women’s Sports Foundation, alongside our law firm partner Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, filed motions to submit amicus briefs to the Sixth Circuit in Moxley v. Ohio State University and Snyder-Hill v. Ohio State University, bringing along 49 additional advocacy organizations, in support of 118 former Ohio State University (OSU) male students, including student-athletes, who were sexually abused by Dr. Richard Strauss from 1978 to 1998.
Over the years, when Strauss’s victims raised concerns with OSU staff, they were ignored or dismissed or told that the examinations were medically necessary, and OSU coaches even made jokes about Strauss’s inappropriate examinations with OSU athletes. As a result, Strauss’s victims did not understand that they had been sexually abused and that OSU was responsible for not addressing and preventing this abuse. It was not until 2018—when OSU announced it was hiring a firm to investigate Strauss and when Dr. Larry Nassar was convicted of similar abuse at Michigan State University—that they realized Strauss had sexually abused them and that OSU had covered it up for 40 years. However, a district court in Ohio dismissed the OSU survivors’ Title IX claims as untimely, ruling they should have sued OSU within 2 years of the abuse or of their last day at OSU.
Our amicus brief explains that the district court should not have dismissed the OSU survivors’ claims as untimely. Sexual assault is widely prevalent, especially on college campuses, and failure to recognize sexual abuse is also a pervasive and insidious problem. College athletes are often especially vulnerable to being subjected to sexual abuse and failing to recognize it as such because of the intense love and trust they hold for their institutions, their dependence on their institutions for scholarships and other support, the power and authority wielded by team coaches and doctors, and the culture of “toughness” that encourages minimization of discomfort and harassment.