February 9, 2022
A Terrifying Reality
As students head off to college, they are moving to new places, meeting new people, and having new experiences. A college campus is supposed to provide a sense of community and safety, however for many college students these spaces become a place where they fall victim to sexual abuse. It is reported that 13% of all college students experience rape or sexual assault. Sadly, the numbers may be higher as students often do not report these attacks to law enforcement.
Recently, the University of Michigan reached a settlement to pay out $490 million to thousands of students who reported that they were sexually abused under the care of Robert Anderson, an athletics physicians at the university. The school has also set aside an additional $30 million for future claims. Concerns about this abuse were known by officials of the university and it was determined that there were many opportunities to stop this abuse, over the course of Anderson’s 37-year career, however the school never took appropriate action.
This is not an isolated case. This settlement and reports of on campus sexual abuse by university staff members are not unique, in fact in the past 10 years there have been several major cases and settlements against universities. In many instances, the staff members were doctors or coaches.
- In 2012, former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing young boys who came to the university to play football. In 2013, Penn State University paid around $60 million to 26 victims.
- In 2018, Michigan State University reached a $500 million settlement with the victims of Lawrence Nassar, a former physician at the university and doctor for the U.S.A. gymnastics team.
- Since 2020, The Ohio State University has paid over $46 million to more than a hundred individuals who were sexually abused by Richard Strauss, a doctor in the university’s athletic department.
- In 2021, the University of Southern California reached a $1.1 billion settlement with the hundreds of victims of George Tyndall, who was a gynecologist at the university.
- More recently, and less than a month after the settlement by University of Michigan, UCLA agreed to a settlement of $243.6 million with over two hundred victims who were sexually abused under the care of former UCLA obstetrician-gynecologist, James Heaps.
These reports are appalling and universities must take action to prevent and address sexual abuse on and off campus. A college campus should be a place students feel welcomed, recognized, and safe. It is crucial that perpetrators of sexual abuse and, the institutions which employ them are held accountable.
A Wide-Reaching Issue
Although college-age students are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse, it affects every community and demographic. According to RAINN, an American is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds. In the United States, it is reported that 1 out of 6 women and 1 out of 33 men have been the victim of rape. These numbers are higher for those who experience sexual abuse other than rape. Those in the LGBTQ+ community and people of color are disproportionately affected by sexual abuse.
Other institutions are not immune. There are countless reports of sexual abuse spanning across high schools, religious organizations, sports teams, and in the work place.
Although a settlement may be a starting point in acknowledging the suffering that victims experience and will continue to deal with for the rest of their lives, much more is necessary to address the deeper issues. It must be ensured that violence like this never occurs and that perpetrators are held accountable. Everyone can play a role in supporting survivors and putting a stop to this violence.
Grieco Law has years of experience advocating for and helping victims of sexual abuse. If you or a loved one needs representation, we can help assist you in evaluating your legal options and in choosing the right path forward. Do not hesitate to reach out to our firm for a free consultation.
Please contact us today to find out how we can help you.