Daniella Mohazab will never forget how, while watching her undress from the waist down, her gynecologist smiled.
A middle-aged man in khaki pants, George Tyndall, MD, didn’t leave the room after asking Daniella to remove her clothes. He stood there as she lay down on the exam table, then inserted two ungloved fingers into her vagina, feeling around for what felt like ages, pausing only to add lube. Dr. Tyndall explained that he was prepping her for an STI test, making it so the swab wouldn’t hurt when it entered her. Daniella, then 19, had never had a pelvic exam before. “It felt very sexual,” she says. “But I just assumed that’s how a normal gyno visit was done.”
She’d already gotten weird vibes from Dr. Tyndall 10 minutes earlier when, in his office, he told her that Filipina women like her were smart and good in bed. He’d also told her she was pretty. Still, he worked at her student health center at the University of Southern California (USC). Daniella trusted the school, so she thought she could trust him too.
The Invisible Victims
It wasn’t until two years later, in May 2018, that the incident started to make sense. That’s when Daniella received an e-mail from USC:
Dr. Tyndall had been accused of inappropriate behavior and had been fired. She’s now one of more than 100 women suing him and USC, alleging sexual battery and harassment. (Dr. Tyndall denies any wrongdoing.)
Even in the age of #MeToo, when many women finally feel empowered to speak out against abuse, sexual assault by gynecologists remains an underreported and little understood problem. Few doctors have as much power—especially over young, sexually inexperienced patients—as a gyno, a physician whose literal job is to touch a woman’s most sensitive areas. That’s why violations like performing ungloved pelvic exams (gloved exams are a requirement of the CDC) or spending too much time inside the vagina can be tough to pinpoint. Even more flagrant misconduct—like massaging a woman’s clitoris or blatant fingering—might be explained away by a predatory MD as just part of the process. (Although not a gyno, former USA Gymnastics sports doctor Larry Nassar used similar tactics to sexually abuse hundreds of patients for years.)
Incident numbers are hard to come by because they’re only recorded in national databases if a complaint against a doctor results in legal action. But a 2017 review of 101 recent physician sex-abuse cases revealed that nearly 13 percent of perpetrators were ob-gyns. And this is likely just the tip of the iceberg, says Laura Palumbo, a spokesperson for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “The numbers offer only a glimpse into how many people are abused by their gynecologists across the U.S.”
"The numbers offer only a glimpse into how many people are abused by their gynecologists across the U.S."
A few cases have made national news, but the majority stay secret, probably because sexual assault in general is one of the most underreported crimes. And when it’s a doctor who abuses a patient, the victim is even less likely to come forward, says Palumbo. Many fear no one will believe them. Or they, like Daniella, may question whether what happened was actually wrong. “Some young women don’t know where to draw the line between medically appropriate touch and misconduct,” confirms Palumbo.
“We rely on doctors to tell us how to take care of ourselves. It’s hard to imagine they could be capable of abuse,” says Sara McGovern, a spokesperson for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. This makes the aftermath particularly fraught, she says. “Victims may develop depression, phobias, problems with relationships, and PTSD.” Not to mention avoiding doctors, which can have serious ramifications for their health.
To stay safe, check out the Federation of State Medical Boards’ Doc Info tool to see if your gyno has ever been disciplined by a state medical licensing board. Then read up on what is and is not allowed during a pelvic exam, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, an ob-gyn at Yale New Haven Hospital. You can request that a nurse be present in the room. (Although this last tip isn’t a fail-safe. Some women reported that nurses were present when Dr. Tyndall abused them.)
"We rely on doctors to tell us how to take care of ourselves. It’s hard to imagine they could be capable of abuse."
If you’re worried your doctor is being inappropriate, speak up and end the appointment. “Trust your instincts,” says McGovern. You don’t even need to explain in the moment; you can always tell a staffer afterward. You may also decide to file a report with law enforcement, the doctor’s practice, or your state medical licensing board.
For her part, Daniella, now 21, has finally worked up the courage to book an appointment with a new gyno. And she’s hoping the lawsuit against Dr. Tyndall brings justice and closure. “We have to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” she says.
Know Before You Go
Whether this is your 1st visit or your 15th, here's what gyno behavior you need to watch out for.
- Checking your breasts for lumps, moles, or skin changes
- Asking to chat privately for a few minutes (if you came in with your mom or a friend)
- Questions about your sexual partners, diet, and drinking habits
- Asking if you are sexually active and/or having safe sex
Source : https://www.cosmopolitan.com/health-fitness/a25906178/gynecologist-sexual-abuse/