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Last week, the University of Southern California announced it would pay over $850 million to hundreds of women who were allegedly preyed on by campus gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall over nearly three decades. It's the largest sexual abuse settlement ever in higher education. Audry Nafziger is one of the survivors, and is now a sex crimes prosecutor. She shares her experience with Judy Woodruff.
It is the largest sexual abuse settlement ever in higher education.
Last week, the University of Southern California announced that it would pay more than $850 million to hundreds of women who were allegedly preyed upon by a campus gynecologist over nearly three decades. It's the third settlement that USC has reached with groups of victims.
All told, USC will pay more than $1 billion to survivors in multiple legal settlements. The women were among thousands treated by Dr. George Tyndall. He was the sole full-time gynecologist at the university from 1989 until 2016, when he was finally suspended.
Since then, he's been arrested, charged with dozens of assault counts and is now awaiting trial.
Audry Nafziger is one of the survivors of the abuse. She is now a sex crimes prosecutor and deputy district attorney in Ventura County, California.
And a warning, our conversation contains explicit language involving sexual abuse.
Audry Nafziger, thank you so much for being with us.
This gynecologist was able to abuse these women, allegedly, over 27 years without the university moving to step in until the very end. How is that possible?
You know, Judy, it is almost inexplainable, because there were complaints.
I saw him in 1990, and I know that a woman in 1989 complained to the university. And they did nothing. And they received repeated complaints throughout the decades, and still they did nothing. They empowered him to continue to perfect preying upon women. It is just horrible.
As you said, you were one of the earliest victims. You said 1990. What happened to you? And what happened when you — how did you deal with it?
I saw him in 1990. And I went to the health center. He invited me into his room. He closed and he locked the door.
I had very little experience with these types of medical exams, so I didn't know what to expect. And so, after he locked the door, he had me get on the table, disrobe, put my feet in stirrups, and proceeded to give me an examination without gloves.
He — during part of that examination, he asked to take photos of my body. He positioned my hands and helped me participate in those photos. And this was with an old .35-millimeter kind of camera. He told me it was for medical purposes, for treatment. He false-diagnosed me with a sexually transmitted disease that I learned to find later was untrue.
He went to the back of the room and dimmed the lights, and he started telling me a story about his time in the Philippines, and how he passed a woman around in a bar with a bunch of men. I mean, it's just unbelievable. He told me how they were performing oral sex on her. And he kept asking me over and over again from the back of the room, in the dark: "Audry, what do you think of this? What do you think of this?"
And he kept saying my name over and over again. And I just wanted to crawl up into a little ball and disappear. I didn't know what to make of that. I didn't know he was coming to get me. I didn't understand at the time what was going on. It was very frightening, a very frightening experience to endure.
I later took my records with me when I graduated I 1992 from USC Law. And I carried them with me. And I promised myself that I would report him one day, and I never did. Like so many other survivors of these types of offenses, I didn't know if anybody would believe me. It was just me and him in a room.
And, later, when I opened my file, I saw that the record was negative, that he done a lab test on me, and it came back negative, and all of it was a big lie.
And there were so many other women who had experiences as bad as yours, and even worse.
I have met several survivors where he tried the exact same tactic. And as a sex crimes prosecutor, I'm well aware that sexual predators will perfect their craft over time, and they will keep doing the thing that works, so they can get to victims. They groom victims. They find ways of having access to them.
And it was really just horrifying to find myself in the shoes that I find myself in, to know that I'm one of thousands of women that he put his hands on for sexual interests, in criminal, horrible ways. He did it for his own sexual, sick desires. And the university basically backed him for all those years.
Women young enough to be my daughters were his most recent victims. It is just unbelievable.
It is so hard to understand. And, as you say, there were so many women. Many women didn't complain, but many did complain.
And women who worked in his office as nurses or aides, they also complained. And yet these complaints were turned away. They weren't heeded, listened to by the university. We don't know — is there any explanation for why?
Well, I can think of a couple of things.
USC prides itself on its brand. And that has led to its downfall in many other scandals, not unlike this one. But I will say this. the board of USC, I believe, agreed, and the president, I think he backed it, paying Dr. Tyndall $200,000 to leave before the case broke.
And the people that were making the bad decisions, there weren't women. There weren't minorities. There weren't stakeholders. There weren't — there wasn't diversity. There wasn't a voice. I think that should be examined in this case. I think it is a problem.
There is also reporting, Audry Nafziger, that he particularly singled out Asian American women.
What do you know about that?
Oh, one of my dear friends is Asian American. She is a survivor. She is also one of the charged victims in the criminal case.
The things that he told her, the way he approached her, and he used her race against her, because a lot — she has told me. I'm not obviously Asian American, but she has told me that, in her culture, they don't talk about sex. And if women were going in college to get birth control, which is one of the main reasons people saw him, they couldn't talk to their parents about it, because they shouldn't even be having sex outside of marriage.
So, they were particularly vulnerable to him. And I think he knew that, and I think he exploited that. And that's what predators do. They pick their population, and they exploit their vulnerabilities. And that's what he did here.
And given all that has happened, Audry Nafziger, what more does USC need to do?
Well, they're going to have to diversify their board. And they need to change the makeup of their — of the people that make the most important decisions.
And they really have not done that yet. That needs to change. And it needs to change right away. USC should reveal their internal investigation. They promised to do so. They did an internal investigation. And I think that would show us all the people who knew and stood by and did nothing.
And I think those people need to be held to account. That would be meaningful to me. It would be meaningful to all of the survivors. Other cases like this, like Larry Nassar and Penn State, other people were held to account, criminally charged and sent to jail.
And a lot of people stood by and allowed this to happen. I would like to know who they are and why they didn't do anything.
Such a disturbing and painful story.
Audry Nafziger, thank you very much.
And USC is not the only major university in Los Angeles dealing with this issue.
In January, UCLA reached a $73 million settlement with more than 5,000 women who were patients of a former gynecologist there, Dr. James Heaps. He faces more civil litigation, as well as over 20 criminal felony counts related to sexual conduct. Heaps has denied the allegations.
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