When recent USC graduate Nysla Trejo was asked to fully undress so that Dr. George Tyndall could "check her for moles," she found the gynecologist's request odd, but she had more pressing thoughts on her mind at the time. It was the spring of 2015, and Trejo was in the middle of testifying against a man for sexual assault in Seattle.
Like many other patients of the former campus gynecologist, Trejo experienced behavior by the doctor during her exam that prompted an ongoing criminal investigation and led to Tyndall's firing in June 2017. According to her lawsuit, which was filed July 31, 2018, in addition to asking her to remove her clothes, Tyndall used his fingers instead of a speculum during the exam, and he made remarks such as "your vaginal muscles are very tight, are you a runner?"
Her account is similar to hundreds of others that have been reported by former Tyndall patients. However, there's a difference in Trejo's case: Trejo only went to see Tyndall after her attorney had urged her to gather possible evidence for her ongoing rape case. Trejo had told Tyndall she was a survivor of rape during her visit.
As a student, Trejo spent much of her time on campus as a voice for Native American students. The Seattle native was the vice president of USC's Native American Student Union, where she held protests of the North Dakota pipeline on USC's campus, raised money for supplies to send to North Dakota, and talked to Native American students about getting into college. She studied creative writing and had a job with the Undergraduate Student Government.
Now, however, the 22-year old recent graduate's college memories are not centered around her studies of T.S. Eliot or her extracurriculars – they are marked by the sexual abuse she says she suffered at the hands of Tyndall in the spring of 2015.
Her visit to USC's Engemann Student Health Center was Trejo's first time seeing a gynecologist. She says she instinctively felt violated by Tyndall but wrote off those feelings to discomfort typical at a gynecologist's office. She didn't fully realize that what had transpired was inappropriate or out of the norm until years later.
"The realization of it didn't come until the L.A. Times broke the case," Trejo said. "I told a couple of friends about it at the time, but they had the same reaction as me. We were unsure of what was appropriate. We didn't know who we could tell who would care."
"I think this case is especially egregious because Nys has been a victim of sexual assault before too," said Lander Baiamonte, an associate attorney who was working on Trejo's case before leaving the firm. "Going through that and then going to a doctor who knew about her past [assault] prior to seeing her and then did this again… Nys was victimized and revictimized."
Baiamonte was an associate attorney at Hilliard Martinez Gonzales, a firm based in Corpus Christi, Texas. Baiamonte has since left the firm, and another lawyer, Marion Reilly, has taken over the case. Reilly did not respond to a follow-up email request for an interview. So far, Trejo's lawsuit is the only one the firm has filed in the Tyndall matter. USC is now facing more than 100 lawsuits.
Tyndall's lawyer, Leonard Levine, did not respond to an email seeking comment. However, Tyndall has denied wrongdoing in interviews with The Times.
In 2014 and spring 2015, Trejo was splitting time between Los Angeles, where she was attending her first year of college at USC, and Seattle, where she was testifying against an 18-year-old man charged with sexually assaulting her when she was 17. Trejo remembers that during the trial, the defense attorney held up the jeans she was wearing the night of her assault.
"'These are skinny jeans. They fit tight, right?'" Trejo recalls the attorney asking. "'How can anybody put their hand down there?'"
Trejo said that what the defense left out, however, is that both her pants' button and zipper were broken in the struggle. The defendant was acquitted of all charges.
After her then-lawyer suggested she see a gynecologist, Trejo went to Tyndall and told him about her case. Since her exam by Tyndall, Trejo said she has not been the same.
"I'm just a more jumpy person… I get panic attacks where I will lose my vision and have to sit down somewhere."
"I was living with Nys when we both realized what had happened to us," Trejo's former roommate and a former patient suing Tyndall, who chose to remain anonymous in the lawsuit and in this story, said. "Nys was really angry and shaken up."
Trejo doesn't know whether Tyndall treated her any differently because she is a woman of color or because she told him that she had been raped, but statistics suggest a link.
A national study of violence against women in the United States concluded that women who are sexually assaulted before the age of 18 are twice as likely to be assaulted again as adults, and Native American women are especially likely to be victimized. In the U.S., statistics show that one in five women will be sexually assaulted by the time they're 44, but for Native American women, the average is one in three.
After graduating in May 2018, Trejo started working full-time as an assistant production coordinator at a Los Angeles production company that makes creative content for Instagram, Snapchat, and TV commercials. The change in scenery didn't alter her overarching feelings toward the school.
"People will be like, 'Don't you love your alma mater?' And I'm just like, 'No," she said. "I just shudder every time I'm on campus. It just makes me feel so upset."
However, Trejo does credit and appreciate USC for providing her with the opportunity to "move up in the world," and although nothing will be able to fix or undo what she says happened to her and hundreds of other Tyndall patients, Trejo did have some advice on what would help USC improve.
"A non-interim female president with a track record of listening to students, especially women and unprotected classes like LGBTQ and Native Americans," she said. "But the school has been this way for so long, I wouldn't hold my breath."