Fifteen additional former and current USC students have joined a lawsuit against former campus men’s sexual health doctor Dennis Kelly and the University. A total of 21 plaintiffs, most of whom identify as gay or bisexual, have now come forward, alleging that Kelly sexually harassed them during appointments at the Engemann Student Health Center, according to the complaint.
Kellogg & Van Aken LLP, the firm representing the victims, filed the original suit on Feb. 11. The lawsuit accuses Kelly of sexual battery, sexual abuse and discrimination in an educational setting and also alleges that USC was responsible for negligent hiring and retention.
“After we filed the initial complaint against Dr. Kelly and USC, we really got an amazing response from young men, both current and former students of USC, coming forward to [share] their experiences … on campus,” Kellogg said. “Many of them wanted to be involved in the lawsuit, which is why we filed an amendment adding 15 additional men, and we anticipate filing another complaint filing even more since the response has been overwhelming.”
Kelly was the only men’s sexual health doctor at Engemann for nearly 20 years. He resigned in August 2018, according to his resignation email, which was obtained by the Daily Trojan.
Kellogg said most of the 21 plaintiffs experienced similar “unnecessary” genital or rectal examinations during appointments with Kelly.
“Their stories are similar, but of course each one individually has their own circumstances, but for the most part … they all experienced inappropriate questioning and unnecessary rectal examinations,” Kellogg said.
During some of the examinations, Kelly allegedly used his fingers and medical devices to penetrate the anuses of his patients without reason. The suit states that Kelly’s examinations were a way for him to “satisfy his own prurient sexual desires and/or to shame, humiliate and embarrass Plaintiffs as a result of their sexual orientation and sexual practices.”
Kellogg said she is waiting for the University to respond to the allegations.
“There has pretty much been a wall of silence from the University, and they have not acknowledged what these men have been through,” Kellogg said. “They haven’t responded about what they are doing that now a second doctor, in the same time period as Dr. Tyndall and under the same administration has had the same problems.”
In a statement to the Daily Trojan, the University wrote they are aware of the ongoing suit and are concerned by the allegations.
“The University’s investigation is ongoing,” the statement read. “We’re working across the University to understand the facts. We care deeply about our entire Trojan family, including our LGBTQ+ community and take this matter very seriously.”
The addition of 15 plaintiffs comes nearly two weeks after nearly 50 students, faculty and alumni protested outside Engemann over the original allegations against Kelly.
“We were thrilled to see that protest because it’s going to start with the students making changes,” Kellogg said. “It’s unfortunate because the University should be driving the change, but they’re not. They aren’t really telling students about what’s going on …. The fact that the students are demanding change and demanding action is really inspiring.”
Andrea Klick contributed to this report.