University of Michigan Faces 11 Sex Abuse Lawsuits Over Actions of Former Doctor

At least 11 lawsuits have been filed against the University of Michigan, by plaintiffs who say they were sexually abused by a former university doctor, who has since died.

In a complaint (PDF) filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, an unidentified plaintiff indicates that he was a former student abused by Dr. Robert Anderson, who worked as a physician at University of Michigan from 1968 to 2003, routinely sexually assaulted students, who were typically male athletes.

The University of Michigan and its regents are named as defendants in the lawsuit, which alleges that the University knew about the sexual abuse problems for years, yet did virtually nothing to protect students.

Anderson died in 2008.

Last month, University of Michigan (UM) officials first announced that they were investigating several allegations of sexual abuse against Anderson, who was at one point the director of the University Health Service, and who went on to be the doctor for a number of football teams led by former University of Michigan coaches.

While the University stated that it’s first indications of a problem came from allegations reported in 2018, the lawsuits, including this most recent one, indicate that is untrue.

“Beginning almost immediately in 1968 or 1969, UM received complaints from male students about Dr. Anderson sexually assaulting them during the course of putative medical examinations,” the lawsuit states. “In 1979, UM removed Anderson from his position as University Health Services (UHS) Director after receiving repeated complaints that Anderson was sexually assaulting male students during medical examinations on campus, and then UM moved Anderson to the position of Athletic Department physician. As physician for the Athletic Department, Anderson continued sexually assaulting male student athletes until he retired in 2003, many of whom were attending on scholarship playing for UM’s football, wrestling, and hockey teams.”

The plaintiff in this case indicates that he was an undergraduate student with an athletic scholarship, who attended the university from 1993 to 1998, playing on the wrestling team. He indicates Anderson assaulted him several times when seeking medical care.

While making no admission that it knew of the incidents before 2018, University of Michigan’s Board of Regents and President Mark Schlissel issued a statement on March 6, apologizing to students and alumni for failing to prevent the abuses, noting it has employed an outside firm to conduct an independent and transparent investigation.

“We recognize that trust in the University has been broken. As leaders, we understand the tremendous importance of integrity, and we will strive to always uphold the public’s trust in our University,” the statement reads. “There is no greater institutional responsibility than the safety of our students, faculty and staff.”

The allegations come just a couple years after a massive controversy surrounding another former University of Michigan physician, Dr. Larry Nassar, who molested hundreds of young girls in the USA Gymnastics Olympics program.

According to testimony presented by more than 150 women and girls, Nassar sexually molested young female gymnasts during medical examinations since at least the early 1990s, in his role as a team physician and assistant professor at MSU, and as a USA Gymnastics Medical Coordinator.

Many of the women, who call themselves the Sister Survivors, indicate that they told MSU staff, USA Gymnastics officials and others about Nassar’s behavior, but were discouraged from reporting the incidents. Some testimony even suggested that MSU officials told the survivors that they simply did not know the difference between sexual assault and a medical examination. However, after victims began to step forward publicly, the abuse finally got over-due attention and Nassar was arrested, tried, and found guilty on multiple charges.

Nassar will spend the rest of his life in jail, having received a federal sentence of 60 years on child pornography charges. He has also received two additional sentences; including one for 40 to 175 years, and another of 40 to 125 years from verdicts in two Michigan courts.


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