Woman alleges 2008 sexual assault by UCLA gynecologist

US and World

FILE – In this April 26, 2019, file photo, a runner passes the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles. A woman says she was sexually assaulted by a gynecologist who worked for the University of California, Los Angeles and is upset the school apparently knew about it from her social media post but never contacted her as it investigated other incidents that led to criminal charges. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A woman says she was sexually assaulted by a gynecologist who worked for the University of California, Los Angeles and is upset the school apparently knew about it from her social media post but never contacted her as it investigated other incidents that led to charges against the doctor.

UCLA Health discovered the woman’s 2015 Yelp post about a sexual assault by Dr. James Heaps but did not contact her or report the posting to law enforcement, spokeswoman Rhonda Curry confirmed.

The Los Angeles-area woman, who was a 25-year-old UCLA psychology graduate student and patient of Heaps in 2008, said he grabbed her breast during a post-operative examination.

She told The Associated Press on Tuesday she was angered but kept seeing Heaps and never reported the incident to authorities.

In 2015, distraught about favorable ratings for Heaps on Yelp, she posted about her experience and said she felt violated.

“If they saw my complaint, they should have reached out,” said the woman, who requested anonymity. The AP typically doesn’t name people who say they are sexual assault victims unless they want to be identified.

The woman’s complaint is one of four involving Heaps that UCLA now is aware of, Curry said. Only two were referred to police. The school has urged others to come forward if they feel they were mistreated and has hired the company Praesidium to field the complaints.

Although its investigation began in December 2017, the university did not alert the campus community of the allegations until Heaps was in court Monday. UCLA promised an independent review of its response.

“We acknowledge that we could have done better,” Curry said. “We are deeply sorry that this happened.”

UCLA’s scandal comes more than a year after a headline-making scandal at the University of Southern California, where hundreds of women alleged they were sexually abused by the school’s longtime staff gynecologist.

Tracy Green, Heaps’ attorney, accused the university of rushing to judgment following the USC revelations. She said UCLA never interviewed her client and its statements have been “misleading and defamatory.”

Green said she did not know of the Yelp posting but said generally that patients might not understand how invasive gynecological exams can be.

The Medical Board of California showed no records of discipline against Heaps and he has a current license to practice medicine.

Heaps, 62, pleaded not guilty Monday to sexual battery by fraud against two patients, one in 2017 and another in 2018. He also pleaded not guilty to a count of sexual exploitation of a patient and was released without bail.

He is accused of unlawfully touching an intimate part of the women while they were unconscious, the complaint states. The charges claim Heaps fraudulently represented the touching as serving a professional purpose.

UCLA says Heaps was a part-time consulting physician at the school’s student health center from 1983 to 2010. Green said Heaps worked a half-day a month and had a private practice on campus from 1991 to 2014, when he sold it to UCLA Health and became an employee.

He retired in 2018 when the university told him it would not be renewing his contract.

Marina Lisetsky, 56, of Granada Hills defended Heaps on Yelp and to the AP. Her daughter was a patient of Heaps before her death in 2015 from breast cancer.

“I know that’s exactly what she would do to protect Dr. Heaps,” Lisetsky said. “After each appointment, she was very satisfied.”

James Campbell Quick, a professor at The University of Texas at Arlington who has studied sexual harassment in the workplace, said initial investigations can take time but UCLA’s delay to notify the campus was “crazy.”

The women in the criminal case weren’t UCLA students but they were seen at Heaps’ office on the campus. He also worked at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, which is where the Los Angeles-area woman saw him.

He allegedly touched her breast during a 2008 follow-up appointment when she asked what was in internal exam photos, which she said were shown to her friend without her permission.

Although she continued to see him and no other misconduct occurred, she said she was “always terrified” during the appointments.

“I wasn’t sure if I should report it and who I should report it to,” she said. “I just felt so vulnerable as a student who was still going through a medical issue.”

On Tuesday, she called Praesidium.

“I feel validated,” she said afterward. “It feels like a relief to finally have reported it.”

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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