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Sexual Abuse Allegations Against Former Doctor at the University of Michigan Continue to Grow 12 Years After His Death

Sexual Abuse Allegations Against Ex-UM Doctor Grow 12 Years After His Death

More & More Victims Are Saying the University Was Aware of the Abuse & Ignored It

From 1968 to 2003, Dr. Robert Anderson was a physician at the University of Michigan (UM), working with various sports teams and athletes. Over those 35 years, he allegedly performed unnecessary exams to sexually abuse hundreds of patients.

Tragically, these allegations are not new.

As early as 1971, alleged victims reported their abuse. What is new and becoming more evident, however, is the pattern and extent of the alleged abuse—and the University’s alleged role in enabling it for decades.

A Closer Look at the Sexual Abuse Allegations

University and police records paint a damning portrait of an alleged abuser with a position of power and, seemingly, without consequences. In fact, according to these documents:

  • Dr. Anderson’s alleged abuse was an “open secret” among students: Over the years, the sex abuse allegations surrounding the doctor earned him a reputation and nickname among UM students. They would warn each other that things could “get weird” in exams with “Dr. Drop Your Drawers Anderson.” That nickname has reportedly followed the doctor around since the 1970s.
  • An increasing number of sexual abuse reports were filed over the years: As of April 2020, UM stated that it had recorded nearly 260 unique complaints against Dr. Anderson. These complaints span the doctor’s career at UM, with many raised after the doctor’s death in 2008. While the volume of claims alone is shocking, so too are reports that many complaints languished on UM officials’ desks for months before they were turned over to police—and, in some cases, the police themselves were reportedly dragging their feet in turning the reports over to prosecutors.
  • After a UM administrator fired Dr. Anderson, the doctor was merely transferred, not let go: In 1979, a former UM employee says he fired Dr. Anderson over the sexual abuse allegations and, then, subsequently let the doctor resign. However, a university document dated Aug. 13, 1979, states that Dr. Anderson was, instead, demoted from his director position to a clinical instructor position. Ultimately, however, Dr. Anderson was promoted back up the ladder, becoming the top physician in the athletic department and enjoying a 34-year career at UM.

Notably, Washtenaw County prosecutors have not yet recommended any criminal charges against any current or former UM staff in relation to this scandal.

UM Sets Up a Claims Process & Compensation Fund for Dr. Anderson’s Patients

In April 2020, the UM Board of Regents announced that it was establishing a “process outside the court system to address claims of sexual misconduct brought forward by former patients of the late Robert E. Anderson, a physician who worked at the university from the mid-1960s through 2003.”

This new process was launched to serve as a “more certain, faster relief” option, as opposed to litigation, for the alleged victims of Dr. Anderson. According to the Regents’ announcement, claims dating back to the 1960s may be eligible for compensation, and those who file claims will be able to maintain their privacy.

UM has not disclosed any details about how its claim process will work or how compensation will be awarded for approved claims. However, the Board of Regents President Mark Schlissel has stated that:

The University of Michigan is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for our students, faculty, and staff. Over the past several months, as claims of sexual misconduct have been brought forward by former patients of Anderson, the university has taken necessary steps to determine the extent of that misconduct… The university is eager to continue this dialogue as it assesses over the next few months the best approach to resolving these claims…We want to bring closure for those who have so bravely come forward to share their experiences. The university recognizes the harms he caused and is committed to developing a fair, just, timely, and efficient resolution process — one that does not require drawn-out litigation.

Sexual Abuse Survivors Can Have Various Options for Justice

In the aftermath of sexual abuse, survivors may have options for filing claims in or out of court. While pursuing these claims can be challenging, it can help victims hold their abusers—and any parties who enabled the abusers—liable for the harm they caused. Sexual abuse claims can also provide the compensation victims may need to focus on treatment, healing, and recovering.