Berg is the Word: Colleges must help victims, not hide cases

first_imgSchools can’t be trusted to self-report accurately because they have an interest in keeping such criminal activity under wraps. If they somehow managed to keep every victim quiet or get every report to slide through the cracks, they wouldn’t have to deal with the massive damage settlements seen in the Nassar case and sure to be doled out in the Strauss case. University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said that, since the investigation was announced in 2018, 22 people have called a hotline to report Anderson’s inappropriate behavior during examinations. A former student reported that Anderson “dropped his pants and asked him to fondle his genitals” during a medical exam in the student’s senior year in the late 1960s, according to ABC 33/40. This is just one example of major sexual abuse scandals surrounding college athletic trainers in recent years. Michigan State paid a $500 million settlement to over 300 victims after physician Larry Nassar, who was also a team doctor for USA Gymnastics, pleaded guilty to charges of criminal sexual conduct and federal child pornography in 2018. In October 2019, Ohio State reported that former athletic trainer Dr. Richard Strauss committed at least 1,429 sexual assaults and 47 rapes during his 20-year tenure from the late 1970s through the 1990s. Universities also need to do more to make it clear to students that they need to report any inappropriate behavior they experience during examinations. A common thread throughout all of these scandals is students being unsure of what to do despite feeling violated. Schools must encourage and empower students to come forward with their stories because suffering in silence does nothing to address the issue and can be seriously harmful to a patient’s mental state. It appears the University knew about Anderson’s misconduct  — most of which was directed at Michigan football players and wrestlers — and covered it up. Instead of firing Anderson when threatened by student reports, Michigan pressured him to step down as Director of Health in 1980. However, Anderson was allowed to stay on as a physician until 2003. Anderson died in 2008. Aidan Berg is a junior writing about sports. He is also a features editor for Daily Trojan. His column, “Berg is the Word,” runs every  other Monday. There are two problems with this approach: First, it’s moronic to think that some victims would come forward believing the story would never come to light. Sexual assault is often a behavioral crime that predators repeatedly commit, so it’s a good bet that more than 22 former students will come forward in the Anderson case. There’s simply no way to hide that behavior forever. In all of these cases, there was evidence that the university either knew about the inappropriate conduct and attempted to cover it up entirely or was slow to act. This is clearly an extremely concerning development, and it begs the question of how many other universities have allowed sexual predators to remain on athletic training staffs.center_img Second, and obviously most important, allowing a known sexual abuser to continue treating student patients goes beyond the usual levels of evil. Enduring sexual assault is often the most traumatic experience of a person’s lifetime, and sweeping the reports under the rug is just about the most abhorrent behavior I can think of. The sports side of this is just one part of a larger issue. The number of people assaulted in any of these examples listed above is mind-boggling, and it’s only possible because university officials knew what was happening and let the abuser maintain their job. It’s sickening to even think about, but unless some sort of change is made, the lies and cover-ups will continue. Perhaps each university should be forced to turn over its patient complaints to an outside organization. That raises privacy concerns, but nothing will change while those holding physicians accountable are still on the university’s payroll. “Follow the money” is a saying in investigative journalism for a reason. Universities hiding reports of sexual assault by physicians goes beyond athletic staffs. Most notably, a judge approved USC’s $215 million settlement with the patients of former gynecologist George Tyndall last month. This is a regular behavior in university administrations across the country, which is truly frightening. Combining the regularity of such scandals with the fact that athletes have to work with trainers nearly every single day to stay in peak condition creates a full-blown crisis that calls for immediate action. That’s not to say that it’s less important when a non-athlete is abused, but being a team physician allows doctors to abuse many students who have to keep coming back for treatment. Universities must be held more accountable for their handling of student patient reports, especially when it comes to sexual abuse.  University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel opened a meeting of the school’s Board of Regents with an apology Thursday afternoon. Several former students had come forward claiming the late Dr. Robert E. Anderson, former director of the University Health Service and football team physician, had sexually abused them during his time at the school.last_img

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