Legislation to Assist Victims of Sexual Assault
Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-San Bernardino) held a press conference to highlight Assembly Bill 1510 which will give victims of sexual assault occurring at a student health center an additional year to file their civil claims. Last year, a series of articles revealed the 30-year history of gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall’s acts of sexual assaults and mistreatment of patients at the University of Southern California’s student health center. The pattern of behavior revealed in the media coverage and the subsequent witness testimonies provided shocking details of sexual assault and harassment inflicted on patients while he served as USC’s sole gynecologist at its student health center. AB 1510 will give victims of his conscious-shocking behavior an additional year to file their claims in court.
“As women, we are keenly aware of the pervasive culture that fails to value and protect women — a culture that lives in the shadows and thrives off fear,” said Assemblymember Reyes. “This culture was unfortunately extended to the most intimate part of our lives — at student health centers — where the sacred patient-doctor relationship was violated.”
It is estimated that over 14,000 female students were impacted by Tyndall since the start of his tenure in 1989. More than 30 women joined Assemblymember Reyes in solidarity, including speakers such as Nicole Haynes, a Tyndall survivor and broadcast journalist, and Aly Raisman, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and survivor of former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.
“The system is broken when the university seems more intent on putting out propaganda against the women who suffered the abuses of Dr. Tyndall than fully accepting institutional responsibility,” said Nicole Haynes. “The systemic failure continues when we try to bring our case in a California court of law, and are met with antiquated deadlines and a statute of limitations law that threatens to extinguish our rights and voices. AB 1510 will give survivors like me a chance to hold those who harmed us accountable.”
It gives us a choice. We can choose our own path to justice” said Haynes.
Before the story was revealed in the media, USC had found in an internal investigation that Tyndall’s behavior during medical exams amounted to sexual harassment of students. The outcome of the investigation allowed Tyndall to quietly resign with a payout and keep his medical license. Recently, USC agreed to a tentative settlement to pay $215 million to former patients. The settlement calls for a minimum $2,500 payment to any USC students treated by Dr. Tyndall and up to $250,000 to those who were sexually assaulted or harassed. The settlement would only apply to a federal class action lawsuit and not hundreds of other patients suing in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Raisman stated “When a physician abuses that power and trust, it is the worst sort of betrayal. When authorities who could put a halt to the abuse instead turn a blind eye, the betrayal grows even larger still. But we are not victims. We are survivors. And part of survival means seeking justice and accountability. It means that we as a society put aside antiquated time limits that would mute the voices of survivors in these worst kinds of cases. What we saw with USA gymnastics and Larry Nassar we are seeing with USC and George Tyndall: A sexual predator hiding behind a medical coat, and a powerful institution that for too long tried to hide the truth – and that now deserves to be held to account. Full accountability will only come if our justice system is allowed to work.”
AB 1510 creates a one-year window to revive time-barred civil actions, but only for claims for damages “arising out of sexual assault or misconduct by a physician occurring at a student health center.” Specifically, victims whose claims had expired prior to January 1, 2020, would have until January 1, 2021, to file their lapsed claim for damages. This one-year revival window would not apply to any claim litigated to finality in court, or to any case settled to finality, before January 1, 2020.
Assemblymember Reyes concluded the press conference by reiterating the much needed cultural shift society must take to create a safe, transparent, and accountable environment.
AB 1510 passed out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee by a vote of 9 to 0. It will next be considered by the full Assembly.
Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes represents Assembly District 47 which includes the cities of Fontana, Rialto, Colton, Grand Terrace, San Bernardino and the unincorporated areas of Muscoy and Bloomington.