The patient-provider relationship between an individual and their therapist is meant to be built on a foundation of trust. Just as you would expect the utmost professional behavior from a medical doctor, mental health professionals have a duty to avoid forming attachments with their clients. When this bond is breached by unwanted advances and even outright sexual abuse, the damage done to a patient’s wellbeing can be immense and long-lasting.
For survivors of these actions, the loss of trust and self-doubt that follow can be debilitating. At HHJ Trial Attorneys, we hope to send a clear message: you are not at fault, and those responsible should be held to account. Our sexual assault attorneys in San Diego have created a quick resource guide to explore some of the facts surrounding abuse by therapists, what you should know, and what you can do if you or a loved one has experienced this terrible breach of trust.
A therapist has a responsibility to avoid certain kinds of engagements with patients. Any suggestions of a relationship or sexual contact should be immediately viewed with concern, no matter how these topics arise. It is always unethical for a therapist to engage in any non-professional contact with a patient. Legally, there are likely civil remedies available. Additionally, the practitioner could easily lose their ability to practice from the licensing board because of these actions.
Patients seeing therapists often do so to address concerns with mental health, such as anxiety, depression, and other concerns. An abusive therapist may be coercive and manipulative, and it may be difficult for a patient to recognize inappropriate contact as abuse. However, once this line has been crossed, the practitioner should be held responsible.
In no way is the occurrence of abuse by a therapist the fault of the patient.
According to current California law, individuals who wish to pursue a civil complaint against a mental health professional for sexually abusive conduct have ten years from the date of the last act of abuse, or within three years from the time the potential plaintiff recognizes the harm from the abuse. Recovering from the trauma of such abuse can be challenging, and not all survivors are ready to confront the legal process right away. However, by looking to move forward with a case sooner when possible, there may be a better chance of holding the professional accountable. Civil suits not only present an opportunity for you to be fairly compensated for the harm done to you, but also a chance to invalidate the practitioner’s license for the future.
First, it is important to recognize that abuse does not always take the form of physical contact. Inappropriate and sexually suggestive remarks, manipulative and threatening behavior, and unusual communications outside of the therapy session are all hallmarks of abusive behavior. Realizing that this is occurring or has occurred to you is an essential first step.
When you make this recognition, you should seek out an experienced sexual assault attorney in San Diego to discuss the facts of the matter in a safe environment that embraces the rights of survivors. Doing so will let you see the options laid out plainly and give you the choice of how to begin your healing journey.
The effects of abuse can linger for extended periods and could even sap the enjoyment you once experienced from your job. The loss of the ability to enjoy these aspects of your life is just one reason you should consider exploring the opportunity to seek compensation — and hold the responsible parties accountable. The sexual assault lawyers at HHJ Trial Attorneys, believe strongly in advocating for survivors and their rights. With in-depth experience related to sexual assault and abuse cases and a proven track record in the courtroom, we hope to provide you with an invaluable asset for taking action.