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More than 50 former and current USC students sue gynecologist and school

Dana Loewy said she recalled how former campus gynecologist ...

Posted: Jul 25, 2018 10:30 AM
Updated: Jul 25, 2018 10:30 AM

Dana Loewy said she recalled how former campus gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall quizzed her about her sex life and was so rough during her only visit to him when she was a student at the University of Southern California more than 20 years ago that she and a fellow patient gave him a nickname.

"We started calling him 'The Butcher,'" Loewy told reporters on Monday.

She said she avoided male gynecologists since her visit to Tyndall at the student health center around 1993 when she was a graduate student.

Loewy was among 51 former and current students who filed several lawsuits on Monday claiming Tyndall sexually abused, harassed and molested them.

The civil lawsuits, filed in California Superior Court, also claim the university concealed complaints about the doctor over several decades.

"USC was complicit in these unconscionable acts because it suppressed and concealed years of complaints about Tyndall's sexually charged and deviant comments and behavior," according to the complaints.

The plaintiffs seek unspecified damages for sexual harassment, sexual assault and battery, negligent hiring and supervision and retention, among other complaints.

After an investigation, Tyndall was fired last year for inappropriate behavior, according to USC. University officials said the school reached a settlement with the doctor and did not report him to law enforcement or state medical authorities at the time.

The university said it had consulted legal experts and medical professionals to confirm that it wasn't legally obligated to report Tyndall. The university said it subsequently made a report to the California Medical Board on March 9 after Tyndall asked to be reinstated. "In retrospect," USC said it should have filed a complaint with the medical board when Tyndall was terminated.

Andy Rubenstein, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in Monday's complaints, said "the scope of the abuse goes across generations." When Loewy, one of six women who agreed to be named, was a graduate student, one of the other plaintiffs wasn't born yet, Rubenstein said.

Doctor didn't commit a crime, lawyer says

"Dr. Tyndall could not have gotten away with this without the help of USC. There was a conspiracy of silence at the university. There were no institutional controls so that the reports of this abuse could ever be addressed and addressed effectively," Rubenstein said. "There was never a mechanism in place where the students could report Dr. Tyndall and have some kind of satisfaction from that."

CNN reached out to Tyndall's attorney Leonard Levine about the recent allegations.

In a statement late Monday, Levine said his client "is adamant that he engaged in no criminal conduct while practicing medicine at USC."

"He firmly believes that when all the facts are known, and experts in the field of gynecology and obstetrics are consulted, it will be determined [that] his examinations of students at USC were for the stated medical purpose, and consistent with the standard of care for such examinations," the statement said.

Levine said Tyndall was not practicing medicine "but rather devoting all of his time to defending against these allegations."

USC pledges investigation will be 'thorough'

Tyndall's former school faces an investigation by the US Department of Education into how it handled the sexual harassment claims against the doctor.

A university spokesman on Monday said the school "is conducting a thorough investigation into this matter."

"We will be seeking a prompt and fair resolution that is respectful of our former students. We are committed to providing the women of USC with the best, most thorough and respectful health care services of any university," the spokesman said in the statement.

Complaints about the gynecologist went back decades, according to the Los Angeles Times. His alleged behavior included sexual and racial comments, accounts of improper touching during pelvic exams and saving photographs of patients' genitals, but the university did not publicly acknowledge the history or reveal a report about the former physician's misconduct at the school health center until it was contacted by the Los Angeles Times in May.

In advance of the newspaper's story, then-university President C.L. Max Nikias released a letter to the USC community apologizing and addressing the matter.

"While we have no evidence of criminal conduct, we have no doubt that Dr. Tyndall's behavior was completely unacceptable. It was a clear violation of our Principles of Community, and a shameful betrayal of our values," the letter said.

Nikias later agreed to step down after thousands of students and alumni signed an online petition demanding his resignation, alleging USC failed to act after complaints of misconduct involving Tyndall.

Monday's complaints alleged "USC's active concealment provided cover for Tyndall and allowed him many years of unfettered sexual access to young female students."

'I want this to be a call to action'

One plaintiff on Monday's complaints, USC graduate Amanda Davis, 41, told reporters she was a single mother of a 5-year-old when she went to see Tyndall for a routine exam around her junior year in 2000 or 2001. Davis said she recalled being naked on the examination table alone in the room with Tyndall.

Tyndall made "small talk," to try to build a rapport with her, she believes. Tyndall, who knew she was a single mother, began discussing the change in women's bodies during and after pregnancies and asked to take pictures of her for what he described as research, Davis recalled.

"He took pictures of me as I was completely naked," she said tearfully.

She began to process what she had agreed after she left the office. "The more I thought about it I began to feel stupid, embarrassed and ashamed, realizing that it was not right," Davis said.

Davis said she was afraid of the consequences of reporting Tyndall then.

Tyndall told the LA Times he took pictures of patients' cervixes and external genitals only with their consent, and the images were not sexual. The doctor said he wanted to document cervical exams in a case where a patient later sued him for missing a cancer diagnosis, the newspaper reported.

He also hoped to ease students' fears that they had genital warts, he told the newspaper.

Davis said the news stories about the accusations against Tyndall encouraged her to come forward for her daughter, who is now 21. Actor Terry Crews' testimony last month to a Senate committee about the alleged groping he experienced by a Hollywood executive inspired her to agree to be named in the lawsuits, Davis said.

"I want this to be a call to action, an end to a culture of coverup for these sexual predators both at USC, other colleges or other institutions," Davis said Monday.

Like Davis, Loewy said she, too, recalled being in the room alone with Tyndall during her pelvic exam.

"From the beginning, the encounter felt strangely intimate and creepy," said the retired professor, who earned a Ph.D. in English from USC in 1995.

Tyndall "remarked in a rather sleazy manner" about the small rose tattoo in her inner thigh. He quizzed her about her sex life and asked if she needed contraception, she said. She said she told him no, and he pressed her for the reason why not.

When she finally told him that she was in a relationship with a woman, "he asked me in a creepy manner whether it was true that all lesbians hated men," she said.

Loewy said she complained to another doctor at USC, but nothing happened.

"The Trojan family needs to change its dysfunctional ways," she said, referring to USC's mascot.

"This is an intervention and a wake-up call."

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