The longtime president and CEO of the Honolulu Marathon, Dr. James Barahal, is one of several University of Michigan sexual abuse victims who will be represented by Estey & Bomberger going forward.
Attorneys with the California law firm have gained a reputation as tough litigators who aren’t afraid to take on big institutions that have acted negligently.
"We’re representing 85 Ohio State sexual abuse victims who are suing that university for ignoring complaints that Dr. Richard Strauss abused athletes and students for nearly 20 years," attorney Mike Bomberger said. "These are difficult cases because powerful institutions like Ohio State and the University of Michigan covered up their negligence for decades – they’re more interested in protecting their reputations than protecting students."
Michigan officials were warned more than 40 years ago that the director of the University Health Service, Dr. Robert Anderson, was molesting students. Anderson was also the doctor for several of the university’s athletic teams. He was demoted when the abuse allegations came to light decades ago but was still allowed to see patients.
"In other words, his abuse was allowed to continue," Bomberger said.
Dr. Barahal was a medical student and was training with the University of Michigan’s cross-country team when he was abused by Anderson in 1975.
"I went to see him for a sore throat and he gave me a digital rectal exam," Barahal said. "I remember leaving the health center and thinking, ‘What was that?’ I knew it was completely inappropriate."
At the time, Barahal was too embarrassed to tell anyone.
He’s telling his story now in hopes of helping other victims.
"The only way for victims to heal is if they’re believed and the only way they’ll be believed is if people like me come forward," he said.
Barahal is well-respected: he’s been the president and CEO of the Honolulu Marathon – one of the nation’s largest – for more than 30 years and was inducted into the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame.
An investigation into Anderson’s alleged abuse was launched last summer after a former wrestler complained he was abused. News of the investigation leaked last week.
Anderson died in 2008.
"We know from experience that sexual abuse victims often suffer in silence for years," Bomberger said. "There’s no doubt that the recent news coverage has triggered PTSD for many of Anderson’s victims, so the university needs to step up and help them. We’re here to make sure that happens."
Sexual abuse victims are urged to contact Estey & Bomberger at 619-295-0035.
Estey & Bomberger have been helping survivors of sexual abuse for more than 20 years; they are an award-winning trial team who will fight for justice – no matter how long it takes.