There was something about Cate Guggino’s annual exam with University of Southern California (USC) gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall that didn’t feel right. The sharp pain when he inserted his fingers in her at the beginning of the exam didn’t seem normal.
“Did that hurt?” he asked before repeating the move again. “Then he said, ‘I thought you told me you weren’t a virgin.’ I replied that I was not. ‘Well,’ he told me, ‘your hymen is still intact.’”
The memory of the awkwardness and the physical pain still haunt Guggino 16 years later. As a woman’s health nurse practitioner, she has performed thousands of pelvic exams. Looking back, she knows what Tyndall did was wrong. “I’m a person who knows in great detail what is and is not a typical part of an exam. And I know that what happened to me was not normal.”
Guggino found out she wasn’t alone. Many women claim they informed university officials as far back as the 1990s that the gynecologist’s behavior was questionable, but the university never acted … until it was forced to.
This week, the University of Southern California (USC) announced it has agreed to pay $240 million to settle claims brought by hundreds of current and former students who alleged they were sexually abused by the university’s former gynecologist.
Those claims include subjecting patients to inappropriate touching, unnecessarily penetrating with his hands, making lewd comments, photographing them, and other acts of sexual harassment.
Under the proposed settlement, which involves three tiers of claims, students would be eligible for amounts ranging from $2,500 to $250,000. The lowest payments would be made to current and former students identified through the school’s health center records or to those who submit evidence that they were patients of Tyndall.
The second tier would award between $7,500 and $20,000 to class members who submit statements describing their experience with Tyndall and the impact it had on them. The third tier, which would award between $7,500 and $250,000, would be eligible to class members who provide an impact statement as well as interviews with a forensic psychologist. A special master would review those assessments and determine whether the claims were credible and recommend an award.
Guggino shared her story in the Los Angeles Times because, she said, “I want the other women violated by Tyndall at USC to know they were not confused. Tyndall used his position as a doctor and his knowledge of what could be considered normal in an exam to exploit women.”
Lexis Legal News
Los Angeles Times