The University of Michigan (U of M) has opened an investigation into former U of M physician Robert E. Anderson following multiple allegations of sexual abuse.
The now-deceased doctor has been accused of committing sexual misconduct during medical exams. The university itself is facing allegations of knowing about the abuse and failing to remove Anderson from the school, and instead simply placing him in another, similar role there.
Below, our Michigan sexual abuse attorneys discuss the steps that Anderson’s victims can take to seek justice against the university that failed to protect them.
U of M Physician Robert E. Anderson Accused of Sexual Abuse
Robert E. Anderson was a former director of U of M’s University Health Service and served as a top physician for the school’s football team for years.
U of M claims it first learned about Anderson’s alleged abuse in July of 2018 when a former student wrote to the school’s Athletic Director to detail abuse committed by Anderson during medical exams in the 1970s.
The allegations report that Anderson committed sexual abuse and misconduct during “unnecessary and unwanted” medical exams, including:
- Dropping his pants during a student’s medical exam
- Grabbing a student’s hand and using it to fondle his genitals
- Touching students’ genitals unnecessarily
- Sexually assaulting a student
After receiving the initial complaint from a former student, U of M sent out a press release asking any additional victims to contact the school. Since then, many others have brought forth similar allegations against Anderson. These allegations detailed abuse from the 1970s to as recently as the 1990s.
U of M Suspected to Have Known About the Abuse
After receiving additional allegations against Anderson, U of M launched a police investigation into the matter in 2018.
During the investigation, evidence came to light that the university had known about Anderson’s inappropriate medical exams, yet failed to remove him from school staff.
Robert Stone, one of the former U of M students who came forward with allegations, said that a U of M detective had told him Anderson had been removed from his post as head of the Student Health Services due to repeated sex abuse complaints. After this, the school made Anderson the official sports team physician, putting hundreds of more students at risk.
Additionally, a woman filed suit against Anderson in 1995 alleging sexual misconduct during a medical exam. While the case was dismissed, it’s highly unlikely that U of M did not at least hear about the case.
Therefore, it’s safe to assume that U of M knew about Anderson’s alleged abuse before July of 2018, and only launched an investigation once the matter became public knowledge.
What Constitutes Sexual Abuse?
Sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual activity forced onto another person. It’s often committed through the use of force or against victims unable to give consent.
Sadly, many of the most vulnerable groups in the community are often the targets of sexual abuse, including students, the elderly, children, the disabled, and more.
Oftentimes, sexual abuse is perpetrated by a person close to the victim, such as a teacher, coach, doctor, family member, or friend. When this happens, the foundation of trust between the abuser and the victim may make it hard for the victim to realize they had experienced sexual abuse for quite some time. This can partly explain why some sexual abuse victims take years to come forward.
Examples of sexual abuse and assault include:
- Any sexual contact with a child
- Coercing someone to participate in a sexual act
- Rape, including statutory rape
- Committing sexual acts with someone unable to consent
- Sexual battery and sexual assault
- Inappropriate touching of another’s body
- Indecent exposure of genitals
- Creating or displaying child pornography
- Incest, regardless of “consent”
- Using drugs or alcohol to sexually assault someone
- “Grooming” a minor for sexual abuse
Sadly, sexual abuse often occurs in settings in which victims feel the safest. These settings can include a school, church, assisted living facility, or doctor’s office.
The physical, emotional, and financial turmoil that sexual abuse survivors experience is almost insurmountable. Victims often suffer for months, years, or decades struggling with feelings of anxiety, stress, and guilt.
Many find themselves in need of therapies, medical care, and other rehabilitative treatment to cope with the psychological torment that has been placed on them by their abuser.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that the lifetime costs for a child victim of sexual abuse and assault can amount to $210,000, and often total even more.
These injustices cannot go unanswered.
How Sex Abuse Survivors Can Seek Justice
While we know that a monetary settlement or verdict cannot undo the harm that your abuser has done to you, it can help you move forward knowing that the perpetrator of this heinous crime (or the entities that covered up their abuse) are held accountable for their actions.
Additionally, the funds you may recover through a lawsuit can help you pay for the therapies and rehabilitative services you need to heal—psychologically and emotionally.
What Universities Can Do to Prevent Sexual Abuse
Universities are responsible for ensuring the safety and well-being of their students. The University of Michigan failed in this fundamental duty.
Based on the evidence and accounts at hand, it’s safe to assume that U of M knew about the alleged abuse decades before it became public knowledge today, and failed to remove the perpetrator of these crimes. In fact, U of M did the opposite, and placed Anderson in a position where he had the ability to harm more students.
U of M’s misdeeds are perfect examples of how not to respond to allegations of sexual abuse. Instead, universities should take the following measures to prevent sexual abuse and, if it occurs, to protect future students:
- Perform extensive screenings and background checks on all staff members on a regular basis.
- Create a simple, anonymous process for students to report instances of sexual misconduct.
- Take students’ allegations seriously.
- Practice and enforce transparency, accountability, and justice by launching investigations into reports of misconduct as soon as allegations are brought to light.
Experienced Abuse at the Hands of Robert E. Anderson? We’re Here for You
If you or someone you love experienced sexual abuse or misconduct at the hands of Robert E. Anderson, our team at Grewal Law PLLC is here for you.
We negotiated the half a billion-dollar settlement that Michigan State University (MSU) paid out to survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse, and we’re currently fighting to hold USA Gymnastics accountable for its role.
We know what it takes to hold sex abusers accountable for their crimes, and we’re prepared to fight for you, too.
Contact Grewal Law PLLC today at (888) 211-5798 to discuss your options with one of our experienced attorneys.