Jan 3, 2023
Former University of Michigan football player and Dr. Robert Anderson sexual abuse survivor, Jon Vaughn, began a sit-in outside of the university president’s home on Friday. The Detroit News reported that Vaugh began “picketing nonstop” outside of President Mark Schlissel’s residence Friday evening, indicating he will not leave until the board of regents hold a meeting over the more than 2,100 complaints of alleged sexual abuse against the late Dr. Robert Anderson.
A former sports doctor for the institution, Anderson spent more than 35 years as head of University Health Service and as team physician for the U of M Athletic Department. The alleged sexual predator retired in 2003 and died in 2008.
The Detroit Free Press reported that survivor and advocacy groups have been protesting outside of Michigan Stadium and the Board of Regents meetings but feel that they “haven’t been heard.” Vaughn told the Free Press that when survivors were ignored after September’s board meeting, he felt compelled to begin the sit-in.
“There were so many victims there,” Vaughn told the Free Press. “And you know, they gave the president a 3% raise. And that was a little bit insulting, considering their lack of an earnest and honest and fair attempt to reconcile these issues and bring closure, and just got to a point where I was just fed up and we needed to make our voices and our presence heard.”
Vaughn and other prominent survivors such as former University of Michigan wrestler, Tad Deluca, have expressed frustration with the university’s lack of response and failure to take responsibility in light of the countless accusations of sexual abuse against Anderson.
“You’re making (an) apology for a man, for what a dead man did to several people, but you’ve never apologized or taken responsibility for what the university did to not only empower him, but enabling him and then covering it up,” Vaughn said to the Free Press.
The Free Press also reported that Vaughn is seeking a sit-down meeting with both Schlissel and the Board of Regents, and he intends to “sit outside of Schlissel’s house until he is granted that request.”
After almost three days of protest, the Detroit News reported that Vaughn has only been able to speak with members of the president’s security detail. But Vaughn, who played football at the University of Michigan in 1989 and 1990, has indicated that he’s “here for the long haul,” according to the newspaper.
He reportedly planned the sit-in for two months, working with a nutritionist, trainer, and physician to prepare physically and mentally for sleeping outside and fasting for extended periods of time. Vaughn says he’s simply looking to start a dialogue about the sexual abuse scandal, and intends to make his voice heard through the sit-in.
“I’m not John Doe, I’m Jon Vaughn, and I’m no threat,” Vaughn told the Detroit News. “I just want to sit across the table and hear from you directly, not through false apologies. And so do the other survivors.”
As of Saturday, eight people had joined Vaughn, including former Larry Nassar survivor and gymnast, Trinea Gonczar. Gonczar announced a planned stand-in in solidarity with Vaughn via Twitter which is scheduled for October 13 at 7 p.m. Survivors of sexual abuse, advocates, supporters, and “persons just ready to see a change” are welcome, as Gonczar’s tweet noted.
“There’s so many things that are wrong,” Vaughn said to the Free Press. “There’s sexual assault policies, the unsafe environment that women feel on this campus, the perpetuation of the largest sexual abuse, rape and cover-up in sports. So, you know, the fight doesn’t end … half a century this has been going on, so we need to bring everything to the light.”
University of Michigan spokesman, Rick Fitzgerald, issued statement acknowledging the courage of survivors who have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse against Anderson and noting that the university is engaged in an ongoing legal process.
“We offer sympathy to all of the survivors of the late Dr. Robert Anderson’s abuse and we thank them for their bravery in coming forward. At the University of Michigan we are working every single day to make our campus safer for every member of our community and we are working toward fair compensation for the Anderson survivors through the ongoing, confidential mediation process that is supervised by a federal judge,” Fitzgerald said. “Out of respect for that process, we have nothing further to share.”
The Detroit News reported that the university has been in mediation for one year with 850 primarily male survivors who have accused Anderson of sexual abuse. In a recent Zoom meeting, President Schlissel can be heard saying that the Anderson litigation is a “truly enormous” liability for the university that will likely not be covered by insurance.
The Detroit Free Press reported that throughout Vaughn’s protest many students have indicated their support for him while walking by, as well as thanking him for standing up for sexual abuse survivors.
“We’re here for the past to carry it into the future,” he told the newspaper.
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