COLUMBUS (WCMH) – New and never-before-seen information has come to light in the decades-long case of sexual predator Dr. Richard Strauss, who sexually molested hundreds of young men at the Ohio State University.
The master settlement agreement reached between OSU and about 170 of Strauss’ survivors has been made public through a record request made by NBC 4 to the university.
The agreement lays out a system for paying out about $40 million – an average of $252,000 per victim.
The agreement contains a clause banning media statements or disclosing the terms of the agreement to anyone. There is also a clause that states if the university settles any of the other hundreds of pending claims for a higher amount of money, the university has to pay this group of plaintiffs the same amount.
“When I found out that they knew, when I found out that the OSU board of directors or whoever, the upper echelon knew,” said Al Novakowski, one of Strauss’ victims. “I was beyond. Well, to this day, I cannot, to this moment. Every day, I am thinking, ‘Holy ****, did these people not have kids? Did these people not have hearts or soul?’ There is a special place for these people and it’s not heaven. For those that knew, I mean, they knew.”
Novakowski is still stunned at what he learned one month ago when a friend sent him NBC 4’s coverage on the culture of cover-up at OSU, and other reports on the Dr. Richard Strauss scandal at Ohio State. It was hundreds of men breaking decades of silence about a sexual predator.
“I’ve kept this hidden for 32 years, Colleen,” Novakowski said to NBC 4’s Colleen Marshall. “Thirty-two years of my life, I kept this secret.”
It’s a secret that changed his life.
“Anyone who was groped and touched was a victim that shouldn’t be allowed anywhere, but to be raped by your own doctor, to be drugged and then raped in your own, in your own house, your own apartment, in your own bedroom,” Novakowski said.
OSU commissioned an independent study that concluded hundreds of men had been molested by Strauss, 47 of them raped.
Novakowski is number 48.
He was a member of the Jr. National Championship hockey team in Canada, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Novakowski was heavily recruited by Ohio State. At 18, he had never before had a physical that involved a genital exam.
“I mean, I was thousands of miles away from home,” he said. “First person I encountered in the medical realm at the university is our team doctor. He’s going to check for stuff, he is going to check for stuff. I came out of there going, ‘What the heck was that?’”
He soon learned because Strauss seemed to target him, insisting on repeated invasive exams, or Novakowski would not be cleared to take the ice.
“College hockey is the next step to the National Hockey League, that’s the next step to a pro career,” Novakowski said. “How do I go in to Bill Davies or the trainers or whatever and say, ‘Hey, is this right?’”
The young man from a small town in British Columbia, Canada did not know where to turn.
“I was thrown off from the very beginning, so I never played well,” Novakowski said. “I couldn’t get my head around. I mean, you are dealing with all of this in your head and you are trying to go to school and be an elite athlete and it just started to spiral out of control.”
Novakowski said he started drinking and his game suffered. He had to see the coach when he showed up late for a practice.
“I said down and I said, ‘I am really sorry for being late,’ and he said, ‘You are nothing but a cancer on this team,’” Novakowski recalled. “I said, ‘I beg your pardon,’ and he said, ‘You are a cancer. You are done.’”
His promising hockey career with Ohio State was over, and so was his dream of making the NHL.
The rape by Strauss came months later, and it was not until last month that he learned he was not the only victim, and that in dozens of lawsuits, hundreds of men claim they were victimized over a period of 20 years, all while university officials turned a blind eye.
“They knew, they knew the whole frickin’ time,” Novakowski said. “I chose Ohio State. I chose to come and be a Buckeye and what did I get? I wanted my degree and I wanted to be a hockey player and what did they give me? They gave me Dr. Richard Strauss and they knew about him.”
After learning there were other victims, he told his wife and a counselor.
“I had to tell my son what happened and he cried and all he said to me was, ‘Now it makes sense,’” Novakowski said. “He said, ‘I read all the articles about you going down to the states, you know you were going down there to develop and then you fell off the face of the earth.’”
Three years after leaving OSU, Novakowski played for the Columbus Chill, but he never became the NHL star he believes he would have been had he spent four years developing on a college team.
“I was taking this to my grave, Colleen,” he said. “No one was ever supposed to know. This was not supposed to be public, and now that I know they knew, I am not ashamed to put my name on this and say, ‘You know what? You knew.’”
He has joined a lawsuit against the university, wanting to hold OSU accountable. As a successful businessman, he said the suit is not about money.
“They took everything,” Novakowski said. “They took everything that I worked for my entire life, my entire life. I wanted to get a degree and I still want to finish my degree from Oho State. I want that, they owe me that. I want my letterman, I want my jacket. I want my ring. I want my watch. I want my blanket. They stole those from me.”