Cindy Qu, of New York City, was a victim of an attempted assault that happened in Florida, in 2014. Qu stated she escaped from the attack ‘without being physically harmed, but was deeply traumatized.’ At the time, she was enrolled in a CUNY college in Manhattan taking some classes for her hobbies, including movie productions, having graduated from a Master’s program not long before. There, she met the adjunct professor of her business law class, Brian Harris Berg (often known as Brian Berg). He was a middle aged New Yorker, who was working as a corporate attorney and manager for the Big Four accounting firm KPMG’s New York City office.
Qu admitted that the two ‘shared a lot of interests, including traveling, reading and creative works,’ and she and the professor became good friends as the class continued. Her affection for him grew, especially as the professor often took an interest in her well-being.Having survived a recent crime, and now living alone in a big city, the wounds, the helplessness and the loneliness, in her heart, prompted her to seek consolation from a man who seemed to care about her, Professor Berg. Initially, she was reluctant to enter into a professor-student relationship, which she deemed as ‘unethical,’ but after Berg seemingly showered her with more care and affection, she conceded, and the two started dating.
Although Qu hoped she would recover from her previous trauma faster with the man she was ‘in love with’ by her side, the relationship, which Qu confirmed as ‘consensual,’ only lasted for less than a year, until the summer of 2014. By then, Qu, who was becoming more and more suspicious of Berg, saw some very clear clues, pointing to Berg hiding his true relationship status and his real personal life. After extensive searches on the Internet, the secret double life of Berg was revealed to her. She referred to this as ‘the tip of an ice berg,’ that opened up a ‘Pandora’s box,’ and which filled her next few years with ‘embarrassment, pain, distress and anguish.’
According to Qu’s filings at the New York Supreme Court, Qu found Berg had been lying about his single status, and had been dating her, while at the same time living with a woman Qu had never met, who was later identified as Izabela Stok, an immigrant from Croatia. As her LinkedIn profile shows, Stok works as a client relationship manager at Deutsche Bank’s New York City office, and she received her Bachelor’s degree from CUNY in 2011.
What made Qu’s findings even more shocking was, that via the public records, she discovered that Berg and Stok had started living together, before they purchased a condo in downtown Brooklyn in 2012, while Stok was still married to her then husband. While he was dating Qu, Berg was living at this residence, but had never invited her over, despite consistently telling her he was living alone.
Feeling fooled, betrayed and deeply hurt, the disgusted Qu immediately confronted Berg to end the relationship. According to her, there was no admission of the truth, let alone an apology, nor was any explanation offered, but from that day onwards it was as if ‘everything sent from hell’ began flowing towards her. Angry because she had found out the truth, and afraid of being exposed in public, the professor embarked on a ‘vendetta’ against his student through character assassination,as the court papers say, and he tried to depict Qu as an insane woman, whom he had had nothing to do with.
In the hope of protecting herself from being further vilified, while Berg worked on his side of the story, Qu made an attempt to contact Stok, the woman who had been living with Berg. ‘I thought a woman would always want to help another woman in such bad situation, but I was proved wrong.’Qu continued. In an email, which Qu submitted to the court, Stok answered questions Qu had asked about Berg and her, but despite the abundant evidence showing they were a cohabiting couple, Stok unexpectedly denied everything, by claiming she and Berg ‘had ultimately been business partners’ and were ‘not related, nor either married or living together.’ ‘This kind of coldness chilled me to the bone,’ Qu summed up her only exchange with the other woman.
Soon after Qu’s life hit rock bottom, not only did the professor relentlessly defame her to the school, but also to make matters worse, her computer, and other electronic devices, were subjected to hacking attacks. Although she was left alone in the darkness, powerless, voiceless, defenseless and vulnerable, with no money and no status, she decided to fight for her own rights. Acting as her own lawyer, and using the very limited legal knowledge she had learned from this very professor, in his business law class, she commenced a lawsuit all by herself. She volunteered to donate damages to a fund for women in school. Berg, a registered attorney himself, instead opted to hire a “Super Lawyer,” who was an established partner from a prestigious New York law firm.
Qu recounted this lonesome, draining battle, of going to court against someone who had ‘all the means to destroy’ her, as the ‘hardest work’ she had ever done in her life. However she was becoming more and more fearless because of her unbending courage and determination to seek the justice that she deserved. Sadly, according to Qu, such persistent spirit and efforts provoked the professor to ‘beef up his malicious and insidious retaliations.’
Qu recalled that at the end of 2014, Berg finally came with the one thing, that he thought he could make use of, to counter her search for justice. This was his knowledge of the attempted assault on her and her subsequent traumatized mental and emotional state, which she had shared only with him based on trust. Taking advantage of his media contacts, in a New York Post article published before the Christmas holiday, Berg successfully embarrassed and humiliated Qu, in front of a worldwide audience, by publicly attacking Qu’s mental health and defaming Qu for her online due diligence, according to court papers. Contrarily, in this same news report, Berg did not deny that he had hacked into Qu’s personal accounts, and refused to answer if he had an affair with Qu. The comment she made were only targeting Qu.
Speaking of her first reaction when the report came out, Qu said ‘I was stunned, and numbed. I never expected that he would go that low. Does he have any soul?’ This severe attack initially had some effect, as Qu felt extremely intimidated and threatened by Berg’s claims. She feared, very much, that he would leak the details of the traumatic incident to the public sooner or later, and breaking his promise of keeping the story only to himself. She was extremely worried that the news leaking out, would irreparably break the hearts of people who loved her but knew nothing about the incident, especially her family and friends, who lived far away.
Qu paused her pursuit of the lawsuit for some time, but it did not kill her drive to fight for her rights, and later she continued the proceedings regardless. Meanwhile, during her numerous visits to the court, she had witnessed how many ‘pro se’ litigants, who were mostly from the underprivileged population, struggled very hard with the time-consuming and painstaking processes of working as their own lawyer. ‘Their pain was just like my pain,’Qu reminisced, ‘and I could not help feeling very strong empathy and sympathy with many of them who had been wronged in every possible way. Pretty much no one was willing to lend them a hand. No one. Isn’t that incredibly sad?’
Meanwhile, whilst working alone on her case, the draining negative feelings, inevitably induced by the recounting of her nightmares over and over again, became more and more of a mental burden and torture to her already ragged emotions. ‘I just felt that it was not right to allow my spirit to be continuously dragged down into a bottomless black hole, so then I began contemplating the meanings of pursuing this case further.’
Qu realized that the expectation of a win would never appease the enormous pain and hurt she had endured, even if this meant that Berg would have to deal with the consequences of his actions. An update from an investigator, who helped her get information for the lawsuit, triggered her final decision to drop the case; the professor hardly had enough savings to pay for the likely damages. She knew that if she continued and prevailed, it might possibly make him bankrupt.‘To do this to a man I had been genuinely in love with, though he became an adversary later, would be against my wishes.’
In addition, and most importantly, the feud between the two seemed less and less significant to Qu, as she talked to more poor litigants who were suffering. ‘I believe I have a big heart, that could not, and should not, be caged in a mere feud between two persons. I felt there was a force urging me to use my experiences, knowledge, and skills, and armed with my courage, self-awareness and social responsibility, to help people like those I frequently met in court.’ By dropping the lawsuit, she was released from ‘a tight and suffocating darkness,’ and went on to embrace a brand new beginning of ‘healing through giving.’
Filled with energy and willpower to give love to the needy, and to turn bad into good, she felt that her spirits had finally been greatly lifted. Such high spirits and positive vibes then worked like magic, along with her day-to-day hard work, to have her not only successfully recover mentally and emotionally, but also to secure a promising new management job. She was assigned some important corporate roles, and with a prestigious M7 MBA program being waved at her, her prospects in the business world were getting stronger.
However, what Qu could not forget were those people who desperately needed legal help, but had no way to access it, just as she used to be. Working around her busy schedule, she immersed herself in the studies and preparation for the law school entrance as a new goal emerged:getting a J.D. and becoming a legal practitioner so that she could then formally help those people.
In 2018, Qu’s wishes and efforts finally paid off, when she received an acceptance letter, with a merit-based scholarship from a top U.S. law school’s J.D. program, the Emory University School of Law. Even this gigantic stride may not be the only thing we can celebrate with her. As a member of the world’s high IQ society, “Triple Nine Society”, and by utilizing her gifts and talents, Qu is turning her unique and marvelous life stories into inspiring and motivational quotes and writings. She has earned worldwide acclaim, by sharing most of the quotes and writings with her social media followers, along with the glamorous self-portrait pictures she made as a self-trained artist.
When asked what this ‘heal through giving’ journey has left her with, with a beaming smile on her face, Qu borrowed a quote of her own: ‘When fate abuses me fiercely, I respond with a brilliant smile.’