Former San Francisco 49ers safety Dwight Hicks has stepped forward to claim that he — among many former University of Michigan students — was sexually abused by a physician that had worked for the school during his time as a college athlete.
Hicks, 64, appeared at a press conference in Novi, Michigan, on Wednesday to speak about the sexual abuse he says he experienced while being examined by the late Dr. Robert Anderson, who worked at the school from 1968 to 2003 before his death in 2008.
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“I’ve had physicals before … but what happened to me in that room with Dr. Anderson, I have no words for,” Hicks said. “I knew something was happening that was kind of strange, and I even questioned him. He said, ‘It’s part of the process,’ and so I felt that I had to suck it up.”
Hicks was joined by Airron Richardson, a former wrestler and alternate for the 2000 Olympics team who also alleged that he was sexually abused by Anderson. Now a doctor, Richardson said that Anderson allegedly “violated the trust of his patients and used medicine as his shield.”
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Anderson allegedly abused hundreds of students, many of whom were young Black men, under the guise of a medical examination during his time at the school, according to attorney Parker Stinar.
Stinar, whose firm is currently representing more than 100 clients with claims against Anderson, said that the late doctor “preyed on Black men because he knew they were vulnerable” and “knew that the university would not protect this group regardless of how outrageous, dangerous or perverse this conduct was.”
“We seek fairness and we seek justice,” Stinar said. “Historically, Black victims are compensated less than white victims, especially Black men. We refuse to allow the victims of Dr. Anderson to be discounted due to their color. No discounts allowed.”
A representative for the University of Michigan tells PEOPLE that the institution “have great admiration for all of the former University of Michigan athletes and students who are bravely stepping forward to share their stories.”
“At U-M, we condemn all sexual misconduct. This type of conduct is reprehensible – and whether it takes place now or took place in the past, it is unacceptable,” says the spokesperson, noting that the school has already engaged with a law firm to conduct an independent investigation.
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In February, the university announced that it was investigating the sexual abuse allegations against Anderson, saying in a statement, “At the University of Michigan, we condemn all sexual misconduct, especially instances that occur under the purview of our public mission.”
Later that month, the school said it was “deeply sorry for the harm caused by Anderson.”
“We want to encourage everyone harmed by Robert E. Anderson or who has evidence of his misconduct to come forward,” a statement read. “We again urge anyone to come forward and talk directly and confidentially to our outside, independent investigators. It is truly important for the investigators to hear the voices of survivors for the investigators to understand the full scope of harm and its root causes.”
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A lawsuit against the school was filed in July, the Wall Street Journal reported. According to the Associated Press, a settlement is expected to cost the institution millions of dollars.
Anderson’s children told The Detroit News in February that that they do not believe the allegations of sexual abuse against their late father.
“That’s ridiculous,” daughter Jill Anderson told the publication. “My dad was a beloved doctor at the UM for so many years. He was very well-respected. Everyone said he treated them with the utmost integrity and care.”
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.