Former University of Michigan athletic doctor investigated for sexual abuse complaints

ANN ARBOR, MI - JULY 30: The University Of Michigan North Campus signage at the University Of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan on July 30, 2019. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

A former doctor at the University of Michigan was investigated after being accused of sexual abuse. 

The university said Wednesday that it is asking any former patients of Robert E. Anderson who “believe they were subjected to sexual misconduct during a medical exam” to contact UM’s compliance hotline. Anderson, who died in 2008, served as the director of University Health Service and was a doctor for the Wolverines football team under Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr. He worked at UM from 1968 until his retirement in 2003. 

The university said Wednesday that UM Police opened an investigation into Anderson in July 2018 after a former student-athlete contacted athletic director Warde Manuel to “detail abuse during medical exams by Anderson in the early 1970s.” Over the course of the investigation, the school said “several individuals” came forward and “described incidents of sexual misconduct by Anderson.” The majority of the reported incidents took place in the 1970s, the school said, but there was “at least one” reported in the late 1990s. 

“The allegations that were reported are disturbing and very serious,” said UM president Mark Schlissel. “We promptly began a police investigation and cooperated fully with the prosecutor’s office. 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.”

Added Manuel: “I want to urge any former student-athlete with information they are willing to share confidentially to come forward. The health and safety of our student athletes is our highest priority.”

The university says it went public with this investigation after the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office determined Tuesday that “no criminal charges would be authorized … based on a review of the UM Police investigation.”

Steven Hiller, the Chief Assistant Prosecutor for Washtenaw County, told The Detroit News that criminal prosecution for Anderson would not be possible because Anderson is deceased. Hiller added that the ability to prosecute “any ancillary offenses” in the case “would have been extinguished by the statute of limitations decades ago.”

One alleged victim speaks out

One Michigan alumnus detailed his allegation against Anderson to The Detroit News. Robert Julian Stone of Palm Springs, California, told the News he reached out to his alma mater last August with an essay detailing an alleged sexual assault at the hands of Anderson during a medical exam in June 1971. 

Stone told the News that over the course of his correspondence with university officials, he learned that “many other victims” also reported similar claims about Anderson. He said a UM detective told him that one allegation from many years ago prompted the school to move Anderson from Student Health Services to a position as a physician for UM athletes. 

From The Detroit News:

Stone said he learned from UM officials that the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office was reviewing his case, along with "many other victims" who have come forward with similar claims. He also said a UM police detective told him the university became aware years ago that there were allegations against Anderson, then moved him from his post at UM Student Health Services to become the team physician for UM athletes.

Michigan is just the latest university to investigate a medical employee for sexual abuse.

The most notable examples include the scandals involving Dr. Larry Nassar at Michigan State and Dr. Richard Strauss at Ohio State. Like Anderson, both Nassar and Strauss were involved in athletics. Nassar, who also worked for USA Gymnastics, is currently in prison for sexually assaulting hundreds of women, while Strauss, who died in 2005, is accused of abusing hundreds of OSU athletes over a nearly 20-year period.

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