COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – In the lifespan of a piece of legislation, there may come a time in which it is scheduled for a vote in the committee it’s been assigned to.
Sometimes that vote needs to be delayed, or cancelled, in order to accommodate more work to be done on the bill.
This is not an uncommon thing, and in many cases the bills this happens to carry no connection to trauma or emotions derived from that trauma, so little is thought of what happens when the choice is made to simply shift gears with little to no notice.
The victims of Dr. Richard Strauss have been seeking justice for years for what happened to them when they were students at the Ohio State University.
Hundreds claim to have been raped or assaulted, according to an investigation released earlier this year.
Each of Strauss’ victims is seeking closure, that ability to put the past behind them and move forward with their life, and every step toward that is cathartic; every setback a wound that refuses to heal.
This General Assembly, State Representative Brett Hillyer sponsored a bill modeled after what was done to hold Michigan State University accountable for the scandal with Dr. Larry Nassar. Only those who were harmed by Strauss during his employment with the university would be able to sue Ohio State, bypassing the statute of limitations.
Hillyer, a freshman legislator from Ulrichsville, Ohio says he thinks the committee is moving quickly on his bill.
It has had five hearings, including Wednesday’s, and several victims have shared their horrific experiences with lawmakers.
Opponents and people who aren’t picking a side have both had their opportunity to testify as well.
So, the chairman of the committee State Representative Stephen Hambly scheduled the bill for a possible vote, signaling to committee members that unless there is more work to be done on the bill, it is time to decide what to do with it.
Apparently, Hambly didn’t ask Hillyer if he was ready for that because late the night before the hearing was to be held, the possibility of a vote was cancelled.
Again, if this were a license plate bill, few would bat an eye. However, victims of Strauss were left in the dark. Their legislative advisors were not given a reason for the delay, nor were they.
The high hopes they had that the bill would be one step closer to being passed were dashed without reason given.
Statehouse reporter Jason Aubry talked to Hillyer right after the hearing. His demeanor relaxed, he patiently listened to questions and answered calmly and without urgency in his voice.
Aubry asked about when the bill would get its next hearing and if a vote would be held then.
“That would be a question for the chairman; we have not discussed it,” said Hillyer. “As you know, there were a couple discussions of some amendments we haven’t looked at, so that would be ultimately a question for the chairman.”
When pressed about supporters of the bill growing tired of waiting for action on the bill, he responded with, “I think the committee is moving very quickly for a bill like this.”
“We’ve had special hearings over the summer and we’ll continue to have hearings,” said Hillyer. “I think things are moving.”
Meanwhile, victims of Strauss continue to wait.
“If you know any of us that are victims, we have more grit than Ohio State gives us credit for,” said Brian Garrett. “We’re not going away; just we know that if it doesn’t happen today hopefully it will happen soon.”
Unfortunately, hope does not fend off health problems, or repair damage that ongoing trauma is causing for family relationships.
“I’m usually a mess a few days before and a few days after. Writing the testimony is not hard. My wife could tell I was doing something for the case and it took a toll on my family over the last couple of days and probably will after this,” said Garrett.
Garrett is taking medication now as a result of the anxiety and stress this entire process is causing him. The medication includes painful injections into his stomach with a syringe.
Garrett continually relives the horror of what happened to him every time he shares his story, and he isn’t alone in that.
Those hundreds of victims are waiting for justice, and that wait feels like a grind.
“We just want to know by maybe Christmas what direction this is going. Are we in for the long haul? Are we getting close to the finish line? It just seems like the finish line keeps moving. That’s what we’re struggling with.”
According to Garrett, victims and Ohio State University met once in June presumably for mediation.
Nothing has come of that meeting. No further meetings have been held and none are scheduled for the future.
During his testimony on Wednesday, Garrett begged lawmakers to hold the university accountable.
To him, this is an easy decision. He wonders what the hold up is.