Former college athletes partner with national group to combat abuse


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Former college athletes who say they were sexually abused by team doctors at the University of Michigan and Ohio State University are working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help educate youths and coaches about reporting abuse.

NCMEC said it will provide training modules with tips and best practices for parents and coaches, as well as resources for athletes. Training will be age-appropriate, with information for younger players and college athletes.

“We want to empower them to be able to go what we call a trusted adult, to find somebody that they can speak out to,” said Callahan Walsh of NCMEC and son NCMEC co-founders John and Reve Walsh.

Walsh added that a large part of the program will be teaching coaches how to take athletes’ reports seriously and address the problem immediately.

Among the former athletes involved is Fox 17 anchor Mike Avery, who in 2019 came forward to say he was among the hundreds of OSU athletes abused by Dr. Richard Strauss.

Avery said that as soon as he arrived at OSU to play lacrosse, he started hearing rumors about Strauss. He said he lived it firsthand during his first physical, saying Strauss touched him inappropriately. He said he didn’t know how to tell his parents, saying he “felt shameful, felt embarrassed, that feeling that I let them down.”

The abuse affected him for years, he said, preventing him from trusting others and having healthy relationships.

“I’m glad to be doing this, because if I can help one young athlete not fall into this same trap, then I feel like I’ve done my part,” Avery said during a Wednesday morning virtual program announcing the program.

Also part of the program is Chuck Christian. He’s a former Michigan football player who said he was abused by Dr. Robert Anderson, also believed to have hundreds of victims.

Like Avery, Christian said he also quickly heard rumors about Anderson. He said many of the players didn’t realize what was happening to them was wrong because they were tricked into thinking Anderson’s actions were medical. Now, he said, he speaks for other players like him.

“I want to use my experience to help out as many young people as possible,” Christian said.

He urged athletes who are or have been abused to seek help if they need it and reminded them they should not be ashamed because what happened was not their fault.

Both Strauss and Anderson are dead.

If you’re a survivor of sexual assault, there is help. The YWCA‘s confidential helpline is available 24 hours a day at 616.454.9922.

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