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A victims speaks out about the sex abuse case at the University of Michigan


A onetime University of Michigan football player is telling his story of abuse at the hands of a doctor. This is a story that will contain explicit descriptions and will last about seven minutes. The University of Michigan last month agreed to pay $490 million to more than 1,000 people who say university physician Dr. Robert Anderson sexually assaulted them. One was Chuck Christian, who played football at Michigan from 1977 to 1980. During that time, Dr. Anderson regularly performed invasive, unnecessary procedures on him during physicals. He spoke with our co-host A Martinez and told him that abuse gave him a lifelong fear of doctors. And that's why he ended up with a late-stage diagnosis of prostate cancer.

CHUCK CHRISTIAN: I first went to the doctor when I was 45 because I was starting to have problems with my prostate, and I knew something was going on. And when I went in to see the doctor, the first thing he did was - my wife went in with me. But the first thing he did was snap the glove and put it on. And I jumped up out of the seat, and I said, no, no, nobody's ever going to do that to me again. And I said, because I just could not allow another doctor to penetrate me again. It couldn't happen. It took me until I was 60 years old before I realized that I had been raped. And I definitely think I suppressed it because it was too much for me to process at 18 and 19 and 20 years old. That was just too much.


If, say, an athlete did not want a rectal examination, would that go to the head coach, Bo Schembechler, who was an absolute legend? Would he be aware of this?

CHRISTIAN: Yes, he was because I spoke with a friend of mine who was a few years older, and he said the exact same thing happened to him. He would not let Anderson give him a rectal exam. So when he came to practice, he had a big note on his locker that said, you can't practice until you see Bo. And then when the player went to see Bo, Bo said, Dr. Anderson said that you didn't let him finish the physical, and he's like, yeah, he was trying to do this to me. He said, quit being a wimp, and get - go over there, and get it done. And then he went ahead and got it done, and then he was able to practice again.

MARTÍNEZ: And so, Chuck, hearing that from a man of that stature - 'cause Bo Schembechler, I kid you not - I mean, for anyone that doesn't know, he is an absolute legend in the - in college football and definitely in the state of Michigan. And you're a high school kid that went - in Detroit - right? - at Detroit High School.

CHRISTIAN: Correct, correct.

MARTÍNEZ: So I'm assuming that for you, Bo Schembechler was almost godlike in...

CHRISTIAN: Yes. Yes, in fact he would tell us that he was more powerful than the mayor of Ann Arbor, and he was the most powerful man in the state.

MARTÍNEZ: So did anyone, though - or did you ever feel that you needed to tell Bo Schembechler this, that you feel like, if I tell him and I tell him exactly what's going on, that he'll listen to me? Or was there just this culture of fear because of who Bo Schembechler was?

CHRISTIAN: There was a culture of fear because we didn't ever want to say anything to rattle him because if he got rattled, then we would pay the price. We would either get benched or never play again. And that's the last thing you want to do when you're at Michigan and you're trying to get on the field and play in front of 100,000 people every week.

MARTÍNEZ: So settlements like this, financial settlements - is it even one step toward closure, or is it just not enough because Dr. Anderson passed away a few years ago?

CHRISTIAN: Michigan is still not acknowledging that they were responsible for this happening to us. If he had done what he did to us in a public bathroom, he would have been arrested the first day he did it, but instead he was able to operate for 37-plus years, and Michigan protected him and covered up his crimes over and over and over again. And that's just really, really disheartening. And that's exactly what happened - just 37 years of just cover-ups and lies and protecting him because, you know, my good friend Tad Deluca was a wrestler, and Tad - he wrote a nine-page letter explaining what Anderson had done to his wrestling friends. And instead of the athletic director and the coach dealing with Anderson, they stripped Tad of his scholarship, and he wasn't able to wrestle anymore.

MARTÍNEZ: Regrettably, I don't think that - even with all the attention that some of the cases in the last few years have gotten that this is going to stop. What do you think needs to happen to change the power dynamic where an athlete, a young athlete, can feel safe and comfortable reporting what happens to them, to their coaches, to someone in charge?

CHRISTIAN: I think it needs to be somebody that's not a coach because coaches have their own agenda. It needs to be an outside person that has the power to make some changes, but they're not under the head coach. And if we could report to someone outside of the system, then things can change. That's what needs to be done. And everybody needs to be on the same page. We told the students when we were in - you know, in front of the University of Michigan, like, listen, do you see any shame in me when I talk about this? And they're like, no. I said, do you see any shame in John or Tad when we talk about it? They're like, no. And it's like, well, then there should be no shame in you for talking about this. You need to get your voice back. This is not a reflection - what happened is not a reflection on you. It's a reflection on the predator. So do not blame yourself ever for what happened to you.

MARTÍNEZ: That is Chuck Christian. He is speaking to us from his home in Boston. Chuck, thank you very much for your story.

CHRISTIAN: Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF CORRE'S "TRANSIENT (B)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.