Our Founder and Mental Health Advocate Gives TED Talk About Trust
Our founder Daniella Mohazab gave a TEDx talk at the University of Southern California about the malpractice of her gynecologist. The talk was on March 30th, 2018. On the University of Southern California’s campus, Daniella spoke about the importance of listening to victims. Beyond this, she focuses on how we must trust power with caution.
Transcribed speech below:
When I was 19 years old I went to the USC health center, and while I was in the doctor’s office, I was a victim of sexual abuse. The doctor was George Tyndall. To date, more than 500 women have spoken up about their abusive experiences in his office. Each one of them has their own story and we can’t forget it.
We control our own stories.
On April 4, 2016, I went to the USC Engemann Student Health Center to meet with a gynecologist for a test, expecting it to be done in compliance with mandated medical procedures. While I didn’t have control of what happened to me in the doctor’s office, I have taken control of what happened afterwards.
According to USC, from the Statement of Facts that USC provided on May 15th, 2018, USC began an investigation of Tyndall in 2016 after receiving a complaint from the student health center about sexually inappropriate comments made by Tyndall in front of medical assistants.
When the investigation began, Tyndall was immediately banned from speaking with students, and was no longer allowed to practice medicine at USC. Though the investigation revealed proof that his practice was not up to clinical standards, after consulting with two legal teams, USC concluded that there was no criminal activity to report. They did, however, find proof of eight additional complaints, and uncovered a prior investigation from 2013. In 2017, USC began Tyndall’s termination process.
In 2018, Tyndall wrote a note to USC, asking to return to the university. Immediately following, USC filed a report to the California Medical Board on March 9th, 2018.
In May of 2018, then-president Max Nikias sent out a note to the student body.
Behind me is a quote that the letter stated:
“During the university’s 2016 investigation and through the ending of Tyndall’s employment, USC consulted with several legal experts and medical staff professionals to confirm it did not have a reporting obligation. Although not legally required, in retrospect the university believes out of an abundance of caution, it should have filed a consumer complaint with the Medical Board at the time Dr. Tyndall separated from the university”
Should have. The university should have filed a complaint. Should have means that they did not. And, them not doing something initially meant that, had they not filed the complaint after Tyndall tried to be reinstated, his patients may not have recognized or gotten justice for the abuse that they faced.
What you are required to do does not equate to what you should do. Because of an oversight in obligation, humanity was overlooked and people were hurt.
USC Trojans were hurt. Trojans are hurt. As the Trojan family, we must stand together and fight for those of us that have been wronged.
We believe that people in power know the right things, do the right things, and say the right things. They have responsibilities and are expected to follow them. But you can’t trust power blindly. We have to trust our own instincts in the face of power..
I believed that I could trust institutions and individuals based upon the authority that they held because of the knowledge and experiences that they had.
I had trust in USC, the health center, and my doctor. I trusted USC and the USC Engemann Student Health Center because of the university’s high caliber rankings nationally. Since my doctor’s appointment, I have lost trust in the institutions that we are taught to trust, institutions that have our health and safety as a top priority.
I had no idea how serious my loss of trust had become until a conversation I had with a female gynecologist months later at a media function.
She came up to me when the event was over, hugged me, and cried to me. She asked me to not let Tyndall take away trust in doctors. She told me that most healthcare professionals devote their lives to helping others. When she told me that, I realized that I did not think that I could ever trust a doctor again. And, that is a really scary thought. Doctors are the ones who know our bodies the most, the ones we are supposed to trust. Yet, there I stood in the arms of a doctor who showed me her vulnerability, and all I could do was doubt the fact that there was validity behind her statements.
There’s power in facing our humanity, but there’s also power in the media. The media shares stories that the public consumes. They control the conversations that people have by providing information and shaping this information into stories themselves.
My lawyer, Gloria Allred, is a women’s rights lawyer, notorious for fighting and winning high profile sexual assault and discrimination cases.
I chose Gloria because she knows how to make a difference.. When her name comes up, people listen. With her power to garner press, I knew that this would bring my lawsuit to the public eye and put USC on the hot seat, leading to potential policy changes. With Gloria’s name, my case has credibility. I didn’t have to choose a prominent lawyer but I did because I wanted this lawsuit to go beyond myself. I wanted my experience to change the experience for women who come after me.
I believe that with Gloria’s help, we have the power to change the political landscape at USC, and that this process has begun.
Each victim has a story. I grew up in a small town in the Bay Area, have two loving parents and a sister. I actively participated in my community from an early age, and at USC, I joined clubs and organized clubs, volunteered for women’s rights groups and founded my own website for young women dealing with mental illness.. As I was empowering young women, the news broke about Tyndall and I suddenly felt like the power had been pulled out from under me.
There’s more to my life than being a victim. I am a mental health advocate and I run a blog for women with mental health issues.
I founded the blog because I have anxiety disorder. It drains me mentally and makes me want to stay in bed for days on end. When I was first diagnosed with a mental illness, I felt like I was the only one with this pain. I couldn’t find anyone else like me. I could only see the statistics online of young women with mental illnesses, but I did not know how to find other women like me. This pain, mental illness, is a problem among 60% of college students. I felt incapable of understanding what my mental illness meant, and I had no idea who to turn to my age that would have an answer.
So, my solution? I developed HappyPill.com. My goal was to create a platform where people with my pain could come together. Now, we come together to support one another. We share stories of what it is like living with a mental illness. I created a platform for mental health professionals to write blog posts and to share their contact information in order to help young women.
I named it Happy Pill because I wanted to be a digital space where young women could have a dose of happiness, a bit of a sense of calmness amongst mental health confusion.
I brought a way to help people speak up. With my coping in understanding what happened in the doctor’s office, I finally saw how Happy Pill helped. When I filed my lawsuit, Happy Pill went over my head. At first, I didn’t really understand that I had created a strong community. Rather, I just knew that I had this community. After a few weeks into the mess of the lawsuit, I recognized how much this community could help others in a multitude of ways. From Happy Pill, the friends that I made all understood mental health and the effects of experiences with my mental health. They wrote me notes, texted me, called me, and supported me. These are all women that I had not known two years before, all women that I met through Happy Pill. Other victims of the doctor also came forward to me. People that I did not know. They reached out to me, shared their stories, and asked for guidance because of my experience in speaking out. I had created a community to help with my anxiety disorder, but now it was here for victims of sexual abuse. I saw that this is so much more than a blog for young women diagnosed with anxiety.
I have always been a strong advocate of mental health and have used my voice through social media and in person to discuss my battles with mental illnesses in hopes of destigmatizing mental illnesses.
When I filed the lawsuit, I tried to paint a picture on social media. I posted pictures of strength and pride in speaking up. But in reality I couldn’t get out of bed. I cried and stared at a wall in shock. I ignored my phone. My immediate friends and family were also bombarded with text messages with questions, concerns, and support.
On my personal instagram I posted this. It’s pretty simple. I note that I filed a lawsuit that morning.
On Happy Pill I posted this. I highlighted that my mental health was the center of this; my feelings were the stem of the article not the facts of my abuse. The first sentence read “the symptoms of mental illness manifest differently for everyone. Sometimes, people do not recognize where symptoms are manifested from, nor seek professional help for a variety of reasons spanning from its notorious stigma to not knowing where to start. The constant question I come across is, “Do I need help or should I just tough it out?””
The news outlets were showing these facts, just stories of my abuse. Necessary but limited.
On Happy Pill, however, I could be my most authentic self and not put on a brave face. On Happy Pill I wrote two articles about the difficulty of going through a situation like this. I outlined the effects and the thoughts that I was having, the thoughts that other news outlets weren’t covering.
The media showed me only as the victim. My face was plastered in opposition to my abuser. Not only could you see my face of fear, but you could see Tyndall’s face. Slide 7 When I Google my name, my face is next to my abuser’s.
By creating Happy Pill, I gained a space and platform to express my voice. I tried to pitch my story to larger news outlets, but it was hard to convince them that communities like this are needed. So finally, I shared my story on Happy Pill. At the end of the day, you can’t force people to read or believe or think certain things. Surround yourself with like minded individuals and be part of a community that grows and cares. Thousands of girls care. I know that this isn’t the only community, but this is my community. People supported because they empathized, they get it.
Each image is important for different reasons. My extended network needed to hear from me. I couldn’t hide. If I hid, I thought that people would view me as scared and concerned, not judgemental but worried. I wanted to prove that I was ready to fight. That’s why on my personal social media channels I showed photos of me in the press conference, meanwhile on Happy Pill I wrote about how I was feeling. On my personal channels, I posted empowering photos/quotes/posts to support others to speak up and to be the voice that I looked for.
In reality, I wrote about how I felt on Happy Pill. I wish I could have been smiling and proving that one can stand up, be proud, and walk with dignity. But, I was scared. I just stood up to my university and took legal action for the first time in my life.
The media covered the facts of the case, the legal actions, the police actions, and the continued filing of lawsuits. These facts were and are vital to the public’s understanding of what went wrong. Without these facts, no one would know what happened. But what hasn’t been covered are our stories. Over 100 women have spoken up to the LA Police Department.
In Greek Mythology, Trojans were known for their courage and cleverness in battle. The Trojans used a wooden horse, disguised as a gift, to sneak past enemy lines and defeat their foes. They went in undercover to save each other.
Trojans at USC fight to stand up for ourselves. Just as the Greeks did, we fight for each other. It’s 2019. Unfortunately, I had to do the same. Only I chose not to go in undercover. By fighting publicly, my battle brought change for other women who were victimized by George Tyndall. We fought so that we did not need a Trojan horse. I was supported by others: the group of women who George Tyndall assaulted, and all of our families and friends who stood behind us. Even strangers, having heard our stories, rallied around us. I hold the power. USC has taught me that. Ironically, the power that I had to use to stand up against USC, is the same power I got from it.
I am in a lawsuit against USC because I know that what happened was wrong, and it has been the most uncomfortable, uneasy experience for me. But, that pain will be worth it because I’m going to make sure this never happens again.