50 More Women Sue USC as Accusations of Gynecologist’s Abuse Pile Up
Posted July 25, 2018 7:45 p.m. EDT
The scandal surrounding the three-decade tenure of Dr. George Tyndall, a former gynecologist at the University of Southern California, continued to grow this week as more than 50 additional women sued the university, saying it had failed to protect them from sexual abuse and harassment by Tyndall.
The lawsuits, filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court against both Tyndall and USC, claim that the university concealed years of complaints against Tyndall’s “sexually charged and deviant comments and behavior” and “allowed him many years of unfettered sexual access to young female students.”
Buoyed by the #MeToo movement and previous news reports about the allegations against Tyndall, several of the women who sued this week said that they hoped their stories would inspire even more women to speak out.
“I hope that if you are a person that has struggled with this, that you feel more motivated to do something about it,” Brennan Heil, 21, a senior at USC, said in an interview Wednesday. “I want to make sure this never happens again, ever.”
The total number of women suing the university now exceeds 200, according to the Los Angeles Times. Lawyers representing the women said they expected the number to grow even higher. They estimated that Tyndall, who worked in the student health center at the university, had seen thousands of patients while at USC.
Leonard Levine, Tyndall’s lawyer, said Wednesday that his client was not making any public statements at this time. “He is devoting all of his time to defending against the allegations,” Levine said, adding that Tyndall’s “practice of medicine was consistent with the standard of care” expected for the examinations he performed.
The university did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
No criminal charges have been filed against Tyndall, who retired from the university last year. The Los Angeles Police Department said earlier this year that they were looking into dozens of potential cases from 1990-2016 and encouraged people to come forward.
The Police Department declined to comment Wednesday.
Levine said that Tyndall had engaged in no criminal conduct.
The scandal, which broke open in May after the Los Angeles Times published an article describing a string of allegations about Tyndall’s lewd comments and behavior, has continued to spiral outward.
That month, C.L. Max Nikias, the USC president, agreed to step down.
The U.S. Education Department said in June that it was investigating the university’s handling of complaints against Tyndall.
In a statement Wednesday, the California Medical Board confirmed it was also investigating Tyndall, who still holds his medical license.
In 2016, the university placed Tyndall on administrative leave while it conducted an internal investigation, which concluded that Tyndall’s pelvic exams may have been inappropriate and that he had repeatedly made racially and sexually offensive remarks to patients.
He retired in June 2017 under a separation agreement a year after he was suspended, university officials have said.
USC has come under fire for not immediately reporting Tyndall to the state medical board and for not making the allegations about him public until after the university was approached by the Los Angeles Times.
The lawsuits filed this week describe a series of red flags raised at the university. From 2000-2014, it received eight complaints about Tyndall, according to the lawsuits. In 2013, eight of Tyndall’s co-workers reported concerns about Tyndall to their supervisors, according to the lawsuits.
Heil said she decided to go to the student health center after she had previously been sexually assaulted and thought she might have been infected by a sexually transmitted disease.
She said that during her visit, in early 2016, Tyndall questioned how often she had oral sex with men, among other details of her sex life, and inserted his ungloved hand into her during her pelvic examination.
Heil said that since she sued Tyndall and the university, one of her roommates and another friend have also described similar experiences with him.
Another woman suing Tyndall and the university, Dana Loewy, attended USC from 1988-1995, graduating with a Ph.D. in English. She said she was examined by Tyndall in 1993.
During the exam, he commented on a tattoo on Loewy’s inner thigh, remarking, “You have a picture there for me,” according to the lawsuit. Tyndall inserted his fingers into Loewy’s vagina, physically hurting her — treatment that led Loewy to nickname him “the butcher.”
He incorrectly insisted that Loewy was a virgin, and when Loewy said she was in a sexual relationship with a woman, Tyndall asked, “Is it true that all lesbians hate men?” according to the lawsuit.
“You place so much trust in USC and its doctors,” Loewy said in an interview Wednesday. “It would not have occurred to me that I was not in good hands; it would have seemed absurd.”
Heil said that sharing her story publicly was “liberating, but incredibly exhausting.” She said she was experiencing panic attacks as she had in the years after her exam.
“I think what’s been most noticeable to me is the trauma that it’s beginning to take on my body,” she said. “I’m beginning to relive the things that I have pushed down for so long.”