The University of Southern California is facing yet another scandal. According to student reporting, 48 gay and bisexual male former students have come forward to accuse Dr. Dennis Kelly of sexually abusing them under the guise of medical exams over the course of more than 20 years. Kelly worked at the same campus health center as gynecologist George Tyndall, who’s been charged with 29 felonies for his accused sex crimes against more than 700 women he treated during his tenure at USC.
The Beacon Project, a student journalism initiative at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, reports that dozens of men are now suing Kelly, alleging “gender violence,” “sexual battery,” and “sexual harassment.” USC is also named in the suit.
The plaintiffs’ accounts paint a disturbing portrait of Kelly’s alleged pattern of behavior, which included him fondling their genitals, giving them rectal examinations without explaining why the invasive procedure was necessary, and subjecting them to sexually charged and degrading interrogations.
One man claims Kelly inserted a metal instrument into his anus and whispered, “How often do you let your partner come in you?” Another plaintiff says Kelly asked where he had sex with his partners, if they watched pornography, what race his partners were, and what dating apps he used.
While working on a part-time basis for USC, Kelly was also on staff at UCLA, but left there under a secret settlement in 2002 for a lump payout of $68,320. He joined USC full-time shortly thereafter.
Some of Kelly’s accusers say their complaints were met with silence and deflection by campus brass.
“Of the five men who said they’ve complained to USC about Kelly, three said they’ve never heard back. One man said a USC official told him the incident occurred too long ago to determine what had happened. Another man said the university didn’t respond to his complaint for more than a year—until this February, after the first lawsuit was filed against Kelly and USC. Only then, he said, did the university reach out and acknowledge his complaint.”
USC officials refused to answer most of the Beacon Project’s questions, citing ongoing litigation, which some university watchdogs see as yet another cop out.
“USC treats litigation as an excuse for a level of secrecy that is not necessary,” says Ariela Gross, a law professor and chair of Concerned Faculty of USC. “The university is not just a party in a lawsuit. The university is an educational community that owes something to all of its members.”
Kelly maintains his innocence.
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