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Professional Sexual Misconduct
By Heidi Turner
Professional sexual misconduct (sometimes called professional exploitation, institutional rape, or sexual exploitation by a helping professional) occurs when a person in a professional relationship or position of authority with another is involved in illegal or unethical sexual activity with that person. Many professional associations have rules strictly prohibiting their members from engaging in sexual misconduct with clients; failure to follow those rules may be considered malpractice. Sexual assault, solicitation, sexual advances, or harassment by a professional against a patient or client are forms of misconduct.
Helping professionals are in a position of trust with their clients or patients. Most professionals carry out their duties with the utmost professionalism, but some take advantage of that position of trust, exploiting vulnerable patients. Among the activities that could be considered professional exploitation are sexual assault and sexual harassment. Even if the client is considered a consenting participant in the activity, the power imbalance between the helping professional and the victim indicates professional exploitation.
Among those considered "helping professionals" are
Even if clients or patients consent to the activity, it may still be considered malpractice. This is because the patient may have been convinced the sexual activity has therapeutic benefit, or because the client felt pressured to say yes by the power imbalance. Further, the helping professional is expected to maintain professional boundaries and protect the interests of the client or patient.
Some states make it illegal for certain helping professionals to engage in a sexual relationship with former patients within a certain timeframe. For example, in California therapists are prohibited from sexual contact with former patients within two years of the termination of therapy.
In cases of professional exploitation, victims can file lawsuits against the accused. Lawsuits can also be filed against the accused's employers if they knowingly or negligently allowed the professional to carry out his or her professional exploitation.
Professional Exploitation Lawsuits
In 2016, a jury in Los Angeles awarded $1.5 million to a female patient who alleged she was sexually assaulted by a physical therapy assistant during a physical therapy session at a hospital. The jury found the hospital was liable for the physical therapy assistant's conduct. In a different case, a lawsuit was filed against a surgeon accused of sexually assaulting patients while the patients were under anesthesia. The accused faces 26 felony counts involving eight patients, according to NBC Los Angeles (4/4/16).
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PROFESSIONAL SEXUAL MISCONDUCT LEGAL ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS
Lawsuit Filed against City for Officer’s Alleged Sexual Misconduct
June 21, 2016Helena, MT: A woman who worked as a confidential informant for the Missouri River Drug Task Force has filed a lawsuit against the City of Helena alleging professional sexual misconduct on the part of one of the city’s police officers. The unnamed plaintiff alleges that she was sexually assaulted multiple times by a police officer from May 2012 to October 2012. The lawsuit further alleges that the same police officer sexually exploited other victims as well [READ MORE]
Dennis Hastert Sentenced to 15 Months in Case Linked to Sexual Misconduct
May 13, 2016Washington, DC: Former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for actions linked to sexual misconduct. Hastert was ordered to spend time in jail after pleading guilty to a banking violation, which occurred as he allegedly attempted to cover up allegations of sexual abuse. The former House Speaker reportedly pleaded guilty to the banking violation and admitted to sexually abusing teenage boys who were part of a wrestling team he coached from 1965 to 1981 [READ MORE]
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