Five women filed lawsuits on Monday alleging that a doctor who worked at the University of Southern California for nearly three decades sexually abused them, and that the school ignored the misconduct.
The lawsuits claim that George Tyndall preyed on young female patients – in particular, members of the school’s large Chinese student population – because they were often unfamiliar with gynaecological exams.
The two civil lawsuits filed in Los Angeles Superior Court list in graphic detail years of alleged abuse by Tyndall, who worked as a gynaecologist at the university’s Student Health Centre until he retired last year.
One of the women – who were not identified in the lawsuits – alleges that Tyndall forced his entire hand and wrist into her vagina while examining her during an appointment in 2003 and made vulgar comments about her genitalia.
He picked purposely either young women who did not have a lot of experience with these types of examinations or women who were not American and who for cultural reasons were uncomfortable disclosing this type of conduct
Lawyer Louanne Masry
Another woman details how Tyndall, 71, groped her breasts and leered at her on what was her first appointment with a gynaecologist in 2008.
“Just before groping her breasts, Tyndall would lecherously rub his hands together in front of plaintiff … and would say ‘I just want to get them warm for you’,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuits – one filed on behalf of four women and the other on behalf of a former law student – allege that the university failed to act against Tyndall despite complaints about his behaviour going back to at least the year 2000.
They say that the school only launched a probe in 2016 after a supervising nurse upset at USC’s inaction reported him to the campus rape crisis centre. He was then allowed to “quietly” resign in June of last year.
“Rather than addressing and properly investigating the complaints, including taking appropriate disciplinary action and/or terminating the employment of Tyndall, the USC defendants kept the complaints secret to avoid negative publicity despite their actual knowledge of such misconduct,” one of the lawsuits states.
The complaints say that Tyndall used his position of trust and authority to force the plaintiffs to strip naked, digitally penetrated their vaginas and looked into their anal crevice to satisfy his sexual desires.
One of the plaintiffs said that he grazed his ungloved fingers over her entire naked body during an appointment and inquired about her sexual orientation and her willingness to engage in oral or anal sex.
The lawsuits say that USC never once reported Tyndall to law enforcement despite dozens of complaints about his behaviour by co-workers.
Tyndall could not be reached for comment on Monday.
In earlier interviews with The Los Angeles Times, which first wrote about the alleged abuse, he said he had “done nothing wrong” and had “never had any sexual urges” toward patients.
Student Chelsea Wu told the Times that when she walked into Tyndall’s exam room at USC’s student health clinic, she was 19 and, in her own words, “naive.” The sophomore had never seen a doctor without her parents by her side and had never been to a gynaecologist.
“I was blindly trusting of doctors. I pretty much followed whatever they say,” Wu recalled.
During the 2016 appointment, Tyndall asked prying questions about her sex life, showed prolonged interest in her Chinese heritage and made comments about the tone of her pelvic muscle as he thrust his fingers inside her, Wu said.
The university acknowledged last week that the abuse allegations should have been handled differently and issued an apology to Tyndall’s patients.
“It is true that our system failed, but it is important that you know that this claim of a cover-up is patently false,” provost Michael Quick wrote in a letter. “We would never knowingly put students in harm’s way.”
The university on Monday said in a statement that it was aware of the lawsuits and was focused on “ensuring the safety and well-being of our students and providing support to those affected.”
More than 200 women have come forward to complain about Tyndall since the university established a dedicated hotline and website.
“He picked purposely either young women who did not have a lot of experience with these types of examinations or women who were not American and who for cultural reasons were uncomfortable disclosing this type of conduct,” said Louanne Masry, an attorney whose firm is representing one of the women.
She said she expects more lawsuits to be filed in coming days.
“I can only imagine there are thousands of women that might come forward,” Masry said.
The scandal bears similarities to another case involving Larry Nassar, a doctor who sexually abused hundreds of patients while working at Michigan State University.
The school last week announced a US$500 million settlement with victims of the USA Gymnastics doctor.
Masry said she believes the USC case could ultimately prove much bigger than the Nasser one given the number of patients Tyndall came in contact with over almost three decades.
Additional reporting by Tribune News Service