Content warning: suicide, sexual abuse
Teri Anderson, the ex-daughter-in-law of former University of Michigan physician Robert Anderson and mother to his only grandchildren, called out the University for their failure to hold Robert Anderson accountable for his sexual abuse during a Tuesday morning press conference.
“You had actual knowledge of the sexual abuse,” Teri Anderson said. “It is so clear in the WilmerHale report. You were aware and you, with knowledge, failed to take action to stop this man. You protected him. And instead of being behind bars, and getting the help that he maybe needed, he was allowed unfettered access to young boys, girls, men and women.”
In May 2021, the law firm WilmerHale released a 240-page independent investigation report surrounding the allegations of sexual misconduct against Robert Anderson, who is alleged to have sexually abused over a thousand former University students over the course of 37 years at the University between the 1960s and early 2000s. The report detailed that the University never took adequate steps to address the allegations of Robert Anderson’s sexual misconduct, despite a U-M administrator being aware of allegations between 1978 and 1981.
During the press conference, Teri Anderson said she believed Robert Anderson’s standing at the University protected him from reparations for his misconduct.
“From the 1960s until his death he was part of (the University of) Michigan’s inner circle,” Teri Anderson said. “He was a member of the athletic (department) and the U-M medical department and school. He traveled with the athletic directors, coaches and their families. They raised their children together.”
During the Sept. 23 Board of Regents meeting, survivors of Robert Anderson protested before the meeting and spoke to the regents about their experiences with Anderson when they were students during the meeting’s public comment portion. Regent Jordan Acker (D), chair of the board, said due to the confidential mediation process currently occurring in court, the regents were limited on what they could say during the meeting.
Teri Anderson said she believed the regents’ conduct at the meeting is indicative of the greater University culture responsible for protecting Robert Andersen.
“I didn’t hear anything about respect for the victims crying out for closure,” Teri Anderson said of the meeting. “They were only given three minutes, and cut off when a timer went off because they ran over a couple seconds, because they were having difficulty speaking about the traumas that had occurred to them.”
Teri Anderson said she believes that her family has also suffered from Robert Anderson’s abuse. Charles Anderson, Teri Anderson’s late son, took his life in 2016 while he was a freshman at Community High School in Ann Arbor. Teri Anderson said that she believed her son’s death was linked to Robert Anderson possibly sexually abusing him.
Looking back, Teri Anderson said she remembered feeling uneasy in the presence of Robert Anderson once she had her first child with Kurt Anderson, Robert Anderson’s son, who she said she was married to from 1995 to 2008.
“I remember being told I had nothing to worry about as long as the baby was a girl,” Teri Anderson said. “I remember being told that (Robert Anderson’s) father had molested several very young cousins by luring them with candy and having fun with them.”
The Detroit News reported that Teri Anderson’s other child, Anna Anderson, said she does not believe that her late brother was abused.
Attorney Parker Stinar, who is representing hundreds of survivors of abuse by Robert Anderson in litigation with the University, accompanied Teri Anderson. Stinar maintained that he is not Teri Anderson’s legal representation and that Teri Anderson is not in litigation with the University.
Teri Anderson did not take questions following the reading of her statement, but reporters from other local news sources asked Stinar about the purpose of the press conference.
“It’s her belief, as she shared, that her son, sadly, was abused by Dr. Anderson, and sadly there’s other individuals that probably have taken their lives due to their abuse or in part due to the abuse from Anderson,” Stinar said. “Her goal is to spread awareness.”
Emily Bir, spokesperson for Spotlight Michigan, an organization advocating for justice for the survivors of Robert Anderson’s abuse, responded with an emailed statement after the press conference.
Bir referenced an allegation that former football coach Bo Schembechler knew of Robert Anderson’s abuse.
“We offer our condolences to Teri Anderson for the loss of her son and stand with her as she did today what Bo Schembechler never did – call on the University of Michigan for the crimes of Dr. Robert Anderson,” Bir said. “If Bo would have stood up to U-M like Teri did today, maybe U-M would have acted, and this tragedy would not have gone on for more than 30 years. Unfortunately, Bo did not, and victims like Charles Anderson suffered.”
Daily Staff reporters Elissa Welle and Vanessa Kiefer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Those suffering from suicidal ideation can seek help at CAPS After Hours Urgent Support by calling 734-764-8312.