Doctor sex abuse claims investigated at University of Michigan
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Several former patients have alleged that a late University of Michigan physician sexually abused them during exams, with one accuser saying Dr. Robert E. Anderson’s actions over several decades made him a “sexual predator.”
The university in Ann Arbor said in a statement Wednesday that an outside, independent investigation has been launched into the allegations against Anderson, the former director of University Health Service and an athletic team physician. He worked at Michigan from 1968 until his retirement in 2003. He died in 2008. The school said it has set up a hotline for others who have information to come forward.
The revelations echo high-profile sexual abuse allegations made against sports doctors at other North American universities. Hundreds of young women and girls said they were molested by former Michigan State University sports physician Larry Nassar, who was sentenced in January 2018 to up to 175 years in prison in the abuse. About 350 men have sued Ohio State University over their alleged abuse by the late Dr. Richard Strauss at that university decades ago. And it’s not the first accusation against a University of Michigan official; Provost Martin Philbert was placed on paid leave in January following accusations of sexual misconduct.
A former University of Michigan athlete wrote to Athletic Director Warde Manuel in July 2018 alleging abuse by Anderson during medical exams in the early 1970s. Interviews with dozens of other former students uncovered several more people who allege they suffered similar misconduct and unnecessary medical exams during that era as well as at least one incident as late as the 1990s.
“The allegations that were reported are disturbing and very serious,” university President Mark Schlissel said in a statement. “We promptly began a police investigation and cooperated fully with the prosecutor’s office.”
The Detroit News, which was reporting on the allegations before the university announced the investigation, interviewed a former student, Robert Julian Stone, who says Anderson assaulted him during a June 1971 exam. Stone, a Detroit native who now lives in Palm Springs, California, told The News that he contacted two school officials last August and sent them an essay he wrote outlining his experience with Anderson.
Stone said he also spoke with university police and filed a report detailing Anderson’s actions during the exam.
The Associated Press doesn’t typically identify sexual assault victims but Stone spoke publicly to The News. Stone, who is gay, said he reached out to the newspaper after he learned of additional allegations against Anderson.
“When I first wrote to the university, I thought, ‘Well, Dr. Anderson was a closeted gay man,’ and I had some compassion for a man at that time in that position,” Stone said. “Now I realize he wasn’t a closeted gay man. He was a sexual predator and that’s … a criminal thing.”
The News also spoke to two of Anderson’s children. Jill Anderson called the allegations “ridiculous,” saying her father was “beloved” and “well-respected,” but that she recognized the strength of victims who have spoken out about other abusive doctors.
“I have great appreciation for people speaking up and saying that something is wrong,” she said. “That is not something I would have ever believed of my father.”
Anderson also worked with the football team during 25 bowl games and under four coaches, the News reported.
Officials say they are making the information public now following a determination Tuesday by the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office that no criminal charges would be authorized because Anderson is deceased and the ability to prosecute others for ancillary offenses has been extinguished because of the statute of limitations.
Dozens of people connected to Nassar, at Michigan State and in other organizations, face prosecution or have lost their jobs in the fallout from the scandal that unfolded around him in recent years.
According to a 2008 story about Anderson’s memorial service in student newspaper The Michigan Daily, he established a program to provide free physical exams to high school students while he was a resident at Hurley Medical Center in Flint. John Potbury, deputy chief assistant prosecutor in Genesee County, where Flint is located, said Wednesday that he was not aware of any investigation of Anderson.
Messages seeking comment were left with the Flint Police Department and Hurley.
Schlissel said he had set up a “Compliance Hotline” at 866-990-0111 to help determine who else might have been affected at the school and to get additional information from them.
The outside review is being conducted the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Steptoe & Johnson.
At Ohio State, Strauss was accused of abusing students over nearly two decades beginning in the late 1970s. Since those allegations first arose in 2018, the school says it has learned of more than 1,000 instances of alleged sexual misconduct by the late doctor. At Michigan State, more than 300 victims said Nassar molested them under the guise of treatment for back problems and other injuries. Nassar also worked at USA Gymnastics and also saw athletes who were referred to him. He is serving what are effectively life sentences for child porn possession and sexually assaulting young women and girls.
Karoub reported from Detroit.Associated Press writer David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show the alleged victims of Richard Strauss have already sued Ohio State, rather than are planning to sue.