Pretrial for former USC gynecologist commences

Two former USC students testified about their alleged experiences with former campus gynecologist George Tyndall in a preliminary hearing held Tuesday.

Content warning: This story contains graphic descriptions of sexual assault.

Two former USC students provided strikingly emotional testimony in a pretrial hearing Tuesday alleging sexual assault by former university gynecologist George Tyndall. He is being charged with multiple cases of sexual assault and sexual battery.

Prosecutors are holding this preliminary hearing before deciding whether Tyndall should be tried for the felony sexual assault charges against him. A preliminary hearing decides whether or not there is enough evidence against the defendant. If the judge finds sufficient evidence to try the person accused of the crime, the case will be sent to trial.

Tyndall continues to maintain his innocence, and has denied all charges against him.

The two former students, referred to as Jane Doe 16 and Jane Doe 14 for privacy reasons, shared graphic descriptions of their encounters with Tyndall during the pretrial. He was the university’s only full-time gynecologist during his 30-year tenure at Engemann Student Health Center.

USC reached an $850 million settlement in March with more than 700 women who were treated by Tyndall. This came after a separate $215 million federal class-action settlement by USC with over 18,000 women treated by Tyndall in October 2018. The university has now agreed to pay a total of over $1 billion to Tyndall’s patients, the highest-ever payout related to sex abuse by a higher education institution at the time.

“The money does not matter to me,” Doe 16 said. “I don’t think I could sleep at night if I didn’t say anything.”

When she was 20, Doe 16 said she initially met with Tyndall for an OBGYN consultation for an IUD in 2016. She was told Tyndall was her only option despite her request for a female doctor.  After the consultation, Doe said he recommended a pelvic examination. She recalled feeling uncomfortable and cried on the stand while recounting the story.

“His hand stayed in my body the whole time,” Doe said. “It was really unpleasant, I was staring at the ceiling, answering the questions, just waiting for it to be done.”

According to her testimony, he provided no explanation as to what the examination entailed, and she didn’t remember him wearing gloves or using instruments, such as a speculum, during the examination. Rather, Doe said he commented on the “tightness of her vagina.”  After her examination, she was never given a prescription for an IUD.

Doe 16 is now a resident physician and practicing OBGYN at the University of Rochester. She says she is still waiting to receive a $1.2 million settlement from USC.

Doe 14, a former USC student, first scheduled a gynecologist appointment on Aug. 25, 2014. Doe 14 also said she requested a female doctor, and was told Tyndall was the only option.

She went to Engemann as a follow up from a previous exam, in which she learned she had abnormal cells and was told to get a prescription for birth control.

Doe 14 said Tyndall requested to perform a pelvic exam and without warning inserted his ungloved finger in her vagina. She recalled him commenting on her tightness and that he wanted to “loosen her up.”

On the stand, she described and demonstrated a finger curling motion by Tyndall’s fingers inside her.

“I was embarrassed and horrified that this was happening,” Doe 14 said. “I did not feel in control of my body.”

Doe 14 said she also remembers a nurse turning around to stare at a computer, facing away from her for the duration of the exam. She alleges she was not told why there was a chaperone in the room. At Engemann, it is standard practice for a chaperone to be in the room for all sensitive examinations for the comfort of the patient.

Tyndall required her to come back for a check up for her abnormal cells in three months because they were of serious concern. Doe 14 was contacted by Tyndall through a secure server at least five times to return. According to Doe 14, she reluctantly returned in June for a refill of her birth control prescription.

At the appointment, Doe 14 said Tyndall conducted another pap smear, breast and pelvic exam. She recalls Tyndall telling her he would limit the number of months she could pick up her birth control to ensure she returned for further appointments. He commented on her ignoring his messages and appointment requests.

“He said I [had] beautiful creamy skin,” Doe 14 said.

According to Doe 14, he proceeded to caress her skin, pinch her nipples several times and offered her a rectal examination, which she declined.

After this, he allegedly requested she return for another follow up in three months. Once Doe 14 arrived home she said she was bleeding.

“The first time it was bad,” Doe 14 said. “The second time it was worse.”

The preliminary trial will resume Wednesday at 10 a.m.

Tamanna Sood contributed reporting to this story.