“I Would Have Done Something”: Jordan Rebuts Claims He Knew of Abuse
“If I only knew …” How many times have we heard well-meaning but (perhaps) misguided individuals utter these words after making a decision that leads to terrible consequences. How many times have we ourselves used these words as an excuse for our own ill-informed choices? These words are meant to convince listeners that any bad act the speaker may have committed was committed unintentionally and without any malice or ill will. Rep. Jim Jordan, a congressman from Ohio, has been using even more forceful language to push back against recent allegations that he overlooked or tolerated sexual abuse of Ohio State University wrestlers at the hands of the university’s doctor, declaring that had he known of such abuse, he “would have done something.”
Rep. Jordan Finds Himself in Hot Water
Rep. Jim Jordan has become a national figure as a conservative lawmaker and co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Before he was a congressman, however, Rep. Jim Jordan was an assistant wrestling coach at The Ohio State University (commonly known as Ohio State). During his tenure there, three former wrestlers have recently come forward and have alleged that they suffered sexual abuse by Ohio State’s doctor at the time, Dr. Richard Strauss (who passed away in 2005). These former wrestlers have also claimed that Strauss’ abuse was an “open secret” and that Jordan was informed about the abuse by one wrestler but took no action to protect the wrestlers. Rep. Jordan has vehemently denied the allegations, asserting that he did not know of the alleged sexual abuse and that had he known of Strauss’ illegal and abusive activities, he (Jordan) would have taken action.
Legal Duties for Certain Individuals to Prevent Harm to Others
Would someone like Rep. Jim Jordan even be responsible for protecting other adults (albeit college students) from abuse? In America, the general legal rule is that adults are responsible for their own actions and do not have any obligation to assist another person or protect them from harm. As macabre as it might be, this illustration may prove helpful: someone standing on a busy street corner has no responsibility to come to the aid of an elderly person who falls in the street and is about to be struck by a car or bus. That is, the family of the elderly person could not sue the bystander for the person’s injuries or death based on the bystander’s failure to act.
This is the general rule: however, like most other legal “rules,” there are exceptions. One exception to the general rule applies in cases where one person places another person in a situation that would cause harm. Pushing someone into a busy street or requiring a person to use the services of a doctor who is known to molest patients sexually, may both qualify as examples wherein one person places another person in harm’s way. If this occurs, the person who has placed the other in harm’s way has a legal duty to take appropriate and necessary measures to prevent the other from actually suffering harm.
Another exception to the general rule is applicable where a special relationship of dependency or care exists between one person and the other. For example, a parent has a duty to take measures to protect his or her children, and a teacher has a responsibility to protect his or her minor pupils from harm. A relationship may (or may not) exist between athletes and their coaching staff, where athletes depend on the advice, instruction, and guidance of their coaches. As an example of this, you may recall that Michigan State University recently announced it had reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with 332 victims who were abused by MSU professor and doctor Larry Nassar.
Does This Mean I Can Receive Compensation from Coaches, School Officials, or Others for Abuse or Mistreatment that I Suffered?
When you or a family member have been subjected to abuse of any kind, it is right and natural to feel upset and betrayed. Not only are you devastated by the terrible and traumatic event itself, but the expenses and costs of recovering from such trauma can be staggering. Obviously, the person who caused you harm can be held responsible for compensating you for your expenses, but other individuals or entities who had a legally-recognized relationship with you. For example, a school administrator or principal may be held responsible for sexual abuse inflicted by a teacher if that school administrator or principal knew or should have known that the teacher was sexually abusing his or her students.
Showing that someone “knew or should have known” that another person was causing you harm is not as easy as it may sound. To use the example of the principal or school administrator, if that person was taking reasonable steps such as checking in on the teacher periodically, taking note of whether any students displayed nonverbal signs of abuse or trauma, and/or promptly investigating complaints or accusations of abuse, it would be hard to say that administrator/principal “knew or should have known” of the abuse.
How Can These Wrestlers Establish Jordan Knew or Should Have Known of Abuse – And How Can I Do the Same?
Establishing that someone in a position of power “knew or should have known” of abuse being perpetrated by another can be as simple as showing that the person received notice – an e-mail, a text message, a letter, or even an in-person conversation – about the abuse. In the case of Rep. Jordan, if it is shown that one of the wrestlers had come to him and reported being abused by Dr. Strauss, the only remaining inquiry would concern what actions, if any, Rep. Jordan took in response and whether those actions were reasonable under all of the circumstances.
Absent such “actual notice,” knowledge of abuse (or showing that a person should have known of abuse) can be shown through circumstantial evidence. This circumstantial evidence can consist of one or more of the following:
- Evidence of rumors or “open secrets” of abuse;
- Obvious signs of abuse or trauma displayed by victims;
- The organization or other entity’s reputation in the community; and/or
- Other similar circumstances and facts that would suggest to a reasonable person that abuse or other nefarious conduct was occurring by someone else.
Making out a circumstantial case can require a great deal of investigative resources. For this reason, victims of abuse seeking to hold the perpetrators and enablers of abusive behavior find the assistance of experienced law firms helpful to them.
Why Choose Parker Waichman LLP for Assistance?
With numerous satisfied clients and years of experience in helping some of the most vulnerable in society, individuals victimized by the powerful, Parker Waichman LLP is a strong, determined, and resourceful ally for those who are seeking to hold their abusers and those who have caused them injury accountable for their misdeeds and mistakes. Our sex abuse lawsuit lawyers will work hard to investigate your claim, identify those individuals who may be responsible for paying for your losses and injuries, and succeed in obtaining compensation for you. Speak with us and see how our sex abuse lawsuit attorneys can assist you: call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).
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