NOVI, Mich. (AP) — The first female to publicly say she was sexually abused by a team doctor at the University of Michigan says she hopes to inspire other women and men to come forward.
Cathy Kalahar, who played tennis for the Wolverines in the 1970s, joins hundreds of Michigan graduates who allege that doctor Robert Anderson molested them. Anderson died in 2008.
Kalahar told The Associated Press on Monday that Anderson assaulted her during an exam when she was a freshman in 1973. She was a member of the school’s first women’s tennis team.
“I really shut down and kind of put myself into a different space,” she recalled. “I wanted to crawl into the wall. I wanted to crawl into the floor. I just wanted to get away from him.”
Kalahar said she told a psychological counselor at the school about what happened but that the woman, whose name Kalahar does not recall, brushed it off as a “sexual fantasy” the student was having about Anderson.
“My motivation is to help other victims to come to terms, to possibly come forward,” Kalahar said at a news conference Tuesday in suburban Detroit. “I’ve chosen to come forward because I think it’s important that the university understand all the networks that were operating that protected this individual.”
School spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the University of Michigan condemns all sexual misconduct, past or present, and that it has taken extensive measures to combat sexual misconduct.
The university has sent emails or letters to more than 300,000 former students, asking them to share information that “may be helpful” in an investigation of Anderson being conducted by the WilmerHale law firm.
“Because of the ongoing, independent WilmerHale investigation, we are not able to offer a specific response to the allegations shared by any individual,” Fitzgerald said Tuesday.
Kalahar is represented by Denver-based Wahlberg, Woodruff, Nimmo & Sloane, a law firm that is representing more than 115 clients who allege sexual abuse by Anderson.
“There is mediation scheduled in September,” attorney Parker Stinar said.
Last month, a judge said she would order the university to stop reaching out to alumni as part of its investigation of Anderson, saying it is wrong for the university to communicate with people who could become plaintiffs in class-action litigation.
Attorney Michael Nimmo said more than 70 lawsuits have been filed against the university by various firms, and his Denver-based firm plans to join that list. Nevertheless, Nimmo said he and his clients were hoping for an out-of-court settlement.
Former Michigan wrestler Tad DeLuca sent a letter to Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel about his experience with Anderson two years ago that sparked the school’s investigation. DeLuca said he was inspired by the women who testified against convicted Michigan State physician Larry Nassar.
Kalahar said she chose to come forward after waves of alleged victims spoke up about what they said Anderson did to them.
“I thank Tad and all the other men,” she said. “They inspired me to report and break my silence.”
Anderson worked at Michigan from the mid-1960s through 2003. The university believes he assaulted athletes during routine physicals and injury exams. The school has expressed a willingness to compensate victims outside court with the help of a mediator. But at the same time, the school is seeking to have lawsuits dismissed because too many years have passed.
President Mark Schlissel has said the WilmerHale report will be released publicly and without prior review by the university.
“My view of Dr. Anderson is that he was a sociopath and a serial pedophile,” Kalahar said. “I think he was intent on sexually assaulting students. His power and control issues were what drove him to do this. I think he took some sort of pleasure in making us feel very uncomfortable and not being able to stop.”
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