More than three dozen Black men have come forward to say they were sexually abused by a former University of Michigan team physician, with some pursuing sexual assault claims against him, the university and the Board of Regents.
Forty Black men say the late Dr. Robert Anderson, the former team physician for the University of Michigan athletic department, violated them. Anderson, also former director of the University Health Service, worked at the institution from 1968 to 2003. According to James White, a metro Detroit attorney, the alleged victims were athletes who depended on their athletic scholarships and saw it as a way to escape from vulnerable communities and situations.
“Most, if not all of these men from the 1970s and 80s, were first-generation college students. They came from depressed socioeconomic backgrounds, and their only lifeline was these athletic scholarships,” White told MLive/The Ann Arbor News. “So, for those reasons, these men literally just bared what Anderson would do because, as they will say, there weren’t any options. They will all unilaterally say that had they not cooperated with these sports physicals, they would have lost their scholarships.”
In early February President Mark Schlissel apologized for the incidents and asked those who may have had additional information to share.
“The allegations that were reported are disturbing and very serious. We promptly began a police investigation and cooperated fully with the prosecutor’s office,” he wrote.
“As part of our commitment to understanding what happened and inform any changes we might need to make, we now are taking the next step to reach out to determine who else might be affected or have additional information to share. Every person in our community should expect to feel safe and supported.”
White, who compares the case to the case of Larry Nasser at Michigan State University during which he represented 50 women, said the top priority for the 40 men is to help themselves heal, and their hope is that the university will accept accountability for allowing the doctor to continue in his practices.
“We also hope this will be an opportunity to discuss the challenges young men from difficult circumstances face when they’re thrown into an environment such as (UM),” he said to the Ann Arbor newspaper. “Whether that’s mechanisms for how they’ll deal with life after college, or I guess more importantly, what sort of safeguards can be put in place so that men who are put in this environment, where they have everything to lose if they dare cross the lines of a coach or an administrator, but no safeguards to protect them in a system in making the most difficult decisions as they navigate through college.”
The now deceased doctor had access to hundreds, even thousands of young men, according to White. The former university athletes ran track, wrestled, played football and hockey.
One survivor even went on to play on the 1997 National Championship football team. Another–a hockey player — went on to play in the NHL.
A lawsuit filed in March against a list of U of M representatives accuses them of having knowledge of Anderson’s behavior since 1976.
The plaintiff, listed as a John Doe, said he approached track head coach Jack Harvey and assistant coach Ron Warhurst and told them that Anderson was groping his penis and testicles during medical examinations, according to the lawsuit.
An investigation into the alleged sexual abuse began in 2018 when former wrestler Tad Deluca sent a letter to Warde Manuel, the university’s athletic director, detailing instances of sexual assault in the 1970s.
A 91-page police report also shares accounts from former U of M students who said Anderson performed unnecessary hernia and prostate exams, MLive/The Ann Arbor News reports.
Gary Bailey, 72, went public to Fox 2 News in Detroit after being empowered by another victim and the #MeToo movement, fell victim to one of these exams in the late 1960s.
Bailey, who worked as a teacher and librarian locally and across the country after earning a bachelor’s degree in English and two master’s degrees in English and library science from UM, alleges Anderson also assaulted him during a medical exam in 1968. He said the alleged incident occurred when he went to see Anderson after he had thought he contracted a sexually transmitted disease.
“I wish my story were a little different from Stone’s, but it’s not,” Bailey told The Detriot News in February. “He (the doctor) had me drop my pants, he felt my penis and genitals and subsequently, he wanted me to feel his penis and genitals. I can to this day remember what his penis looked like.”
Others who have spoken publicly mirrored the allegations stating that Anderson fondled their genitals and participated in digital anal penetration, among other forms of abuse. However, due to Anderson’s 2008 death, charges into the accusations had not been filed.
-Atlanta Black Star