A man who participated as a “Millionaire Matchmaker” contestant and who’s being accused of rape allegedly ran a “house of horrors” in Sherman Oaks, California.
Southern California police are asking victims of Michael Bernback, 65, to step forward and talk to them about their experience after Bernback was charged in August 2015 of drugging and raping at least three women at his home.
Officials said the man would pick up women by “[trolling] adult websites” and that they are aware of at least eight victims. His house was described as a “fortress” and a “house of horrors” with only one way in or out.
Bernback targeted women between 20 and 24 who had experienced abuse as children or who had a troubled sexual history.
One of the unnamed victims spoke to reporters. She said that the experience “ruined” her life and that she is unable to keep a job, struggles with social phobias, and is now homeless.
She said she had been talking to Bernback through a dating website for two months before she agreed to meet him. While she claims to have told him she was not willing to do certain things, once she arrived at his home, he forced her to commit acts she didn’t agree to. He would even slap her when she tried protesting, she told reporters.
Two other victims told police they tried to commit suicide.
Bernback forced at least one woman to sign a waiver saying that their involvement and experience was consensual. Still, she told officials, she feels she was raped.
While the man is about to face trial, many of his victims are afraid as he was released on bail. Still, police are asking others to step forward.
“We are seeking additional victims who are afraid and who are ashamed to come forward to step forward now to help us end this," LAPD Lt. Jim Gavin said. "Please, you are not alone, we are here to help."
It’s heartbreaking to think that this man preyed upon frail and troubled young women and that many of his victims may not be speaking out of fear and shame.
There’s never been a better time than now to support victims of abuse and let them know that they should never fear speaking out against their abusers.