When I was venting to my best friend about my new acne-fighting birth control pills, we realized we had the same gynecologist. We laughed off how our doctor made some weird comments about how even “the lesbians should be on birth control.”
When I heard him say that, I thought of the girl I slept with freshman year at the University of Southern California. I think she probably saw him too. I was still in the closet, so I swept these thoughts under the rug.
I didn’t know three years later I’d see Dr. George Tyndall’s face on my newsfeed. That I’d find out the USC doctor sexually harassed and assaulted hundreds of my classmates.
Or that night my best friend would tell me she was one of them.
From then on, I’ve seen every victim of this predator and the system that protected him as my best friend.
If you need a therapist, I’ll get you one. If you need me to be your therapist, I’ll do that too. If a lawyer will help you heal, I’ll make sure you don’t have just any attorney, but the best one I can find. Want to cry for an hour? I’ll cry with you. I’ll walk your dog if you can’t get out of bed. Write the angry feminist status you’re afraid your boss might see. I don’t care if we’re friends on Facebook, if we went to the same parties or had a four-year beef — today you are all my best friends.
I’ll get into flame wars with people Photoshopping pictures of your abuser into insulting memes. I’ll warn you about the adds on Instagram from law firms who want to eat up your trauma like a meal ticket. I'll point out that no amount of money can amend for USC allowing this to happen, especially since complaints about Tyndall date back decades.
Most patients of Tyndall, including me, are demanding every person who played Russian roulette with our lives be held accountable. Until every nurse who saw an attack happen and said nothing, who only shot an apologetic look, who only reported it after the violence was done, unquestioned, or didn’t report at all, is identified. Until every administrator who looked the other way is barred working with students again. Until every medical professional who broke their vows is divorced from the field.
If I’ve learned anything from the past weeks it’s that we talk about advocates like they’re gladiators. They’re really just girls in pajama pants who are not afraid to cry for and with you.
And I’ve cried for USC. This school housed me, raised me, and taught me the power of my own voice. But in the end, the university failed me. It’s time USC advocated for its students like a friend, not a money-making business.
In times of devastation, friends ask themselves hard questions. "Why do we keep allowing the powerful to get away with abuse?"
Was it smart of USC to make a billionaire real estate developer like Rick Caruso chair of the trustees? Why not an educator? Or an activist? A woman?
What can we do to protect students instead of donors and value them as more than their tuition? Can we play videos at the health center before gynecological exams that inform patients what is appropriate and what is abuse? USC needs to start making suggestions like this, not just lawyering up.
Remember Max Nikias was president of USC for eight years; George Tyndall abused women for 30. This is not on one person. Accountability is not a memo or resignation. It is choosing courage over convenience and airing out your dirty laundry long enough to get it cleaned. And I'm determined to make sure the job is done.
ARIEL SOBEL is the founder of Justice for Trojans, a resource hotline for survivors of George Tyndall's abuse that is hosting a March for Accountability this Saturday at 12 p.m. in Los Angeles.