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Ohio State and Jim Jordan: Why sexual abuse claims against men aren’t taken seriously

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is denying claims from multiple former Ohio State University wrestlers that he knew about inappropriate physicals from Richard Strauss. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
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The #MeToo era has raised the nation's consciousness about the prevalence of sexual harassment against women in many areas. But a new abuse scandal is a reminder of how differently some people still respond to sexual misconduct against men.

The Washington Post'sElise Viebeck and Alice Crites reported that multiple former Ohio State wrestlers have claimed that they were groped by a university physician and that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) was aware of this when he was an assistant wrestling coach, between 1987 and 1995. Jordan says he has no knowledge of any misconduct or abuse.

Ohio State recently ordered an independent investigation into Richard Strauss, the former sports physician accused of groping athletes. Strauss committed suicide in 2005.

The wrestlers allege that Jordan knew about the inappropriate conduct.

Former wrestler David Range told the Post that wrestlers discussed the abuse frequently while Jordan was present in the locker room.

“Jordan definitely knew that these things were happening — yes, most definitely,” he told the Post. “It was there. He knew about it because it was an everyday occurrence . . . Everybody joked about it and talked about it all the time.”

A former Ohio State wrestler anonymously told CNN:

“Jim Jordan knew. He didn't do anything about it.”
“I remember coming up and saying, 'Strauss held my balls longer than normal.' He just snickered.”

If it is true that Jordan and others on the team “snickered” and “joked” about men being sexually assaulted by another man, it would fit what is known about allegations of sexual assault against men not being taken seriously.

Jodi Omear, vice president of communications at the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), told The Fix that these types of responses are part of why so many men don't report sexual assaults.

“Sexual abuse can happen to anyone, and both men and women are sometimes afraid to come forward for fear of not being believed or taken seriously,” Omear said. “Cultural stereotypes about men and how they portray masculinity can make it harder for men to disclose their assault and add additional challenges to their recovery. It's important to remind male survivors that they too are not alone, and that resources like the National Sexual Assault Hotline are there to support all survivors.”

President Trump said last week that he believed Jordan's claim that he did not know of the sexual misconduct, and many of Jordan's colleagues in Congress followed suit.

The response to the wrestlers' accusations is not much different from how some responded to the men who were allegedly abused by Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach at Penn State University, when they participated in a youth program he founded. Men abused by Catholic priests as boys have said that they experienced similar responses.

And another former athlete was recently treated when he came forward with his own #MeToo story. Shortly after actor Terry Crews testified about being sexually assaulted before the Senate last month, he was mocked on social media for letting another man assault him as many people seemed to suggest that the former NFL player was less of a man for how he handled the situation.

But what those criticizing Crews, the Ohio State wrestlers and others fail to understand is that these individuals aren't outliers. According to the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, about 14 percent of reported rapes involve men or boys. And reported sexual assaults, one in six is against a boy. The group says 1 in 25 reported sexual assaults occurs against a man.

And according to RAINN, men and boys who experience assault face the same mental and physical effects as other survivors.

We don't know what, if anything, Jordan knew about the alleged abuse. But what appears certain to experts is that if men are laughed at, shamed or ignored when they share their stories of abuse, the number of men being open about their stories will remain far lower than it should be.