USC settles sexual harassment charges with LGBTQ alumni

In this photo from May 22, 2018, people enter the Engemann Student Health Center at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.  The University of Southern California has settled a lawsuit with 80 former students, mostly gay and bisexual men, who accused a male doctor of sexual misconduct.  The settlement announced Thursday, April 28, 2022, for an undisclosed amount, follows settlements by the Los Angeles school to pay more than $1 billion to thousands of women who said they had been sexually abused by another male doctor at the student health center.  (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

In this photo from May 22, 2018, people enter the Engemann Student Health Center at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The University of Southern California has settled a lawsuit with 80 former students, mostly gay and bisexual men, who accused a male doctor of sexual misconduct. The settlement announced Thursday, April 28, 2022, for an undisclosed amount, follows settlements by the Los Angeles school to pay more than $1 billion to thousands of women who said they had been sexually abused by another male doctor at the student health center. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

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The University of Southern California has reached a settlement with 80 former patients who have accused a doctor for men of sexual harassment and assault during appointments.

The university, doctor and 80 former patients have reached a “comprehensive settlement” regarding the misconduct allegations, according to a joint statement from USC and patient attorneys released April 27.

“All parties have mutually agreed that the details of the settlement will remain confidential,” the statement said, adding that “USC and Dr. (Dennis) Kelly both deny the allegations.”

In a separate statement emailed to McClatchy News, the university said the settlement “provides closure for everyone involved and avoids several years of litigation.”

The accusations

In 2019, six LGBTQ+ alumni of the university sued USC and Kelly, accusing the doctor of sexual misconduct during appointments at the USC Student Health Center. They also accused Kelly of discriminating against them because of their sexual orientation and gender, according to a statement released by Kellogg & Van Aken, the law firm representing the plaintiffs.

Since then, 74 other former patients have also brought charges against Kelly, who worked at the facility from 1997 to 2018, the statement said. The 80 former patients say Kelly “used his position of trust and authority as USC Men’s Health Physician to engage in sexual misconduct under the guise of medical care and disproportionately targeted LGBTQ+ patients,” the statement read.

They also accused the university of failing to respond to complaints about Kelly’s behavior over the years and allowing Kelly to continue seeing patients without any restrictions, according to the statement.

The original lawsuit, filed in 2019 on behalf of 21 of Kelly’s former patients, alleges that Kelly targeted young gay and bisexual men while they were students at USC and sexually abused, harassed and assaulted them during their go to the student health center.

The former patients accused Kelly of ‘questioning (their) sexual history using degrading and derogatory terms’, demanding that they undress in front of him when he refused to leave the room, and asking them to get on the four-legged examination table. without any kind of medical gown or gown to ensure privacy.

Some of the questions Kelly asked patients included ‘very detailed and specific’ questions about whether or not they used sex toys, whether they viewed pornography on the internet, or whether they used dating apps or “connected” with people they met on the Internet, the lawsuit says.

It also refused to provide patients with a blanket, such as a gown or gown, even when patients repeatedly requested them, performed medically unnecessary “genital exams” or “rectal exams,” and failed to provide reason for the invasive practices, the lawsuit mentioned.

The lawsuit alleged Kelly failed to treat men he knew to be heterosexual or otherwise not attracted to men, leading former patients to believe he targeted gay and bisexual men – “who were all young adults and many of whom were visiting a doctor without a parent for the first time.

The only option

Kelly was the only male sexual health doctor at the health center, requiring patients to seek treatment from him for any sexual health issues, even as they repeatedly asked to see another doctor, the lawsuit alleges. .

Mikayla Kellogg, one of the attorneys representing the patients, told the Los Angeles Times that USC has received several complaints about Kelly throughout his employment, including one conveyed to the university’s health director by a senior administrator in a “face-to-face” meeting.

“Despite this complaint, USC continued to allow Dr. Kelly to see students for sensitive medical examinations,” Kellogg told the outlet.

Kelly retired in 2018 and relinquished his medical license two years later, claiming he suffered from a physical or mental condition that prevented him from practicing medicine safely, according to the Los Angeles Times.

He denied the abuse charges against him, saying he did everything “professionally and without further motive”, the outlet reported.

Changes

In a statement, USC said it has implemented numerous changes to its student health center, including:

  • train staff in LGBTQ+ sensitivity and trauma-informed care
  • integrate student health center at USC medical school, Keck Medicine
  • create “new and easily accessible methods” to collect information on misconduct
  • Hiring an LGBTQ+ Center advocate/educator

  • Reorganization of policy, protocol and training on sensitive examinations for medical personnel

“USC’s highest commitment is to the safety and health of all members of the Trojan community, including current and former students involved in this matter,” the statement said.

This story was originally published April 29, 2022 4:14 p.m.

Vandana Ravikumar is a McClatchy Real-Time reporter. She grew up in northern Nevada and studied journalism and political science at Arizona State University. Previously, she reported for USA Today, The Dallas Morning News and Arizona PBS.

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