The attorneys at Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm specialize in sexual abuse lawsuits in California, and we are prepared to connect victims with the resources they need and the representation they deserve. The team is comprised of experienced attorneys well-versed in California personal injury law available to advocate for the survivors of any type of sexual abuse. This includes abuse by a healthcare professional, including a doctor, therapist, dentist, nurse, or holistic healer, and we have specific expertise in these particular charges.

The attorneys at Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm are prepared to fight for you or your loved one if you have suffered or are suffering from sexual abuse by a medical professional. The physician-patient relationship is based on trust--when we are seeking medical attention, we trust healthcare professionals to help us and to behave ethically and professionally. It is a serious breach of trust, and of medical ethical standards, for a doctor, therapist, nurse, healer, or dentist to commit an act of sexual misconduct, assault, or abuse against a patient. You should never have to remain in a situation in which a physician is making you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, and if you are suffering or have suffered sexual abuse from a healthcare professional, you deserve compensation through a civil lawsuit.

The attorneys at Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm are here to listen to you. When you call us, we will assess your situation through a primary consultation and help you decide what course to pursue. We know that filing a sexual assault case against a well-respected and trusted medical professional can be complicated and traumatic, but, in addition to financial compensation, it can provide a survivor with closure, while also allowing other victims to come forward and helping to prevent ongoing or future abuse. When you work with the team at the Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm, we will be sure to put you in contact with the support and resources you need while we compile a civil lawsuit to bring the offender to justice. Medical professionals often have expensive, aggressive legal aid, so hiring a strong and experienced attorney in a sexual abuse lawsuit can make a big difference in the case’s outcome. If you have suffered healthcare professional sexual abuse in California, our team is here to help you. Call us at 310-359-9451 so we can schedule your initial consultation.

What is Sexual Abuse by a Medical Professional?

Sexual abuse by a medical professional can take shape in different ways, but it is never acceptable behavior. It includes inappropriate physical contact, including (but not limited to) a healthcare professional unnecessarily or uncomfortably touching a patient’s genitalia or breasts either directly or through clothing, or a healthcare professional putting their own genitalia onto their patient. No medical professional should ever expose himself or herself to you; if they do, this is an act of sexual misconduct. If your clothes are removed by a medical professional or you are photographed during an examination, this can be considered sexual abuse. If a healthcare professional touches or examines the genitals of a patient under anesthesia who cannot consent to such an examination, this is another form of abuse. No physician, nurse, dentist, therapist, healer, or other professionals in the medical field should offer patients drugs in exchange for sexual favors. If a healthcare professional makes inappropriate, sexual, uncomfortable, or intimate comments about you or your body during a consultation or examination, this could be sexual misconduct. Finally, the rape or attempted rape of a patient is sexual assault, and any of these (or other) forms of sexual abuse can leave survivors extremely traumatized.

Sexual abuse by medical professionals toward patients is a type of institutionalized sexual abuse, meaning it occurs within an institution--in this case, the medical system--that contains a pattern of behavior enabling abuse and/or predatory practices. In this particular case of institutionalized abuse within healthcare, perpetrators take advantage of the physician-patient power dynamic to commit abuse. Healthcare professional sexual abuse is particularly egregious because patients entrust their well-being to doctors, nurses, therapists, healers, and dentists and rely on them to provide care.

Anyone who believes that they or a loved one is experiencing sexual abuse should know that they are not trapped and that a medical professional never has the right to sexually abuse or manipulate any patient for any reason. Most medical professions also prohibit romantic or sexual physician-patient relationships, even if both parties are consenting, because this may intentionally or unintentionally exploit the patient’s vulnerability. It is important to remember your rights as a patient and to know that if you are suffering or have suffered sexual abuse by any healthcare professional, this is a horrible breach of your trust and of medical ethics and you should seek help immediately.

Healthcare Professional Sexual Abuse Response in California

Often, California is referenced as a state with more vigorous oversight of medical professionals than other states. Despite this, relatively few cases of sexual abuse are ever reported to the state’s medical licensing board--usually fewer than two hundred each year in a state with over 58,000 active, licensed physicians. Even fewer of these reports of sexual misconduct by medical professionals actually lead to any sort of formal accusation, and those that do warrant action are often met with leniency on the part of the board. California has been accused of being too quick to grant second chances, sometimes giving probation even in response to serious allegations of misconduct.

Medical professionals in California found guilty of sexual abuse or misconduct can receive a probation sentence from the state’s Medical Board only in civil cases--if they are charged with a criminal conviction, probation is not an option. The difference between a civil and criminal case of sexual assault can be complicated, and the board is very quick to assign probation. But what exactly is medical probation? This puts specific conditions on a healthcare professional’s license, typically requiring temporary chaperones, psychotherapy, and attendance at courses focused on ethics and professional boundaries in the medical world. The governor of California recently signed legislation for patient protection which requires any doctor on probation due to sexual misconduct (or any other serious misconduct) to notify their patients of probation status and the terms within which they are legally required to practice as a result of that probation.

Unfortunately, medical professionals who sexually abuse patients typically do not stop at one victim. This type of institutionalized abuse can continue for years and have more than one victim. Most accusations of medical professionals committing sexual misconduct involve men exploiting women. Hopefully, the state’s recent patient protection legislation will help end the cycle of abuse, even if California’s Medical Board continues to assign minimal probation sentences and give second chances to abusers.

Healthcare Professional Sexual Abuse in the Media

While it is a tragedy that any kind of sexual abuse occurs, it can be positive when cases like these reach the media, because this leads to more public awareness. Awareness has a few effects: first, if people are aware of a crime like sexual abuse, they are more likely to be aware of when it is happening to them, and they can recognize the signs and know the steps to take to keep themselves safe. Second, there is often a domino effect when it comes to reporting sexual abuse. There has historically been a stigma toward victims of sexual assault that has resulted in silence and ongoing abuse; however, when victims feel empowered to step forward without fearing social repercussions, the cycle of abuse can end. Finally, significant cases can set important legal precedents that protect future victims in a similar situation.

One significant example of healthcare sexual abuse that has been heavily covered by the media is the case of Larry Nassar, the former doctor for the USA Gymnastics national team and a former physician and Michigan State University. In 2015, USA Gymnastics broke ties with the doctor, and a year later an article in The Indianapolis Star revealed that two former gymnasts had accused Nassar of sexual abuse. After this, more girls came forward with charges of sexual abuse, saying Nassar has taken advantage of them and made them fear speaking out. More and more charges came forward until over 250 people, almost all women and girls, had reported that they had been sexually abused by Nassar at some time. He is currently serving multiple prison sentences. Law enforcement and various organizations that seem to have turned a blind eye to Nassar’s ongoing abuse fell under intense scrutiny when the volume of charges arose, and Michigan’s attorney general promised to investigate how Nassar could abuse young women for so long while employed by the state’s university.

In California, the media’s biggest recent sex abuse scandal by a healthcare professional was committed by George Tyndall, the former University of Southern California campus gynecologist. In the last year, several hundred women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct; although Tyndall was first accused in the 1990s, he continued to serve as the university’s primary gynecologist until 2017. USC’s response to the case has caused outrage, and the university is under scrutiny for its failure to report Tyndall to the California Medical Board. The university has now approved a $215 million settlement for Tyndall’s patients. In both this case and the case of Larry Nassar, the public has reacted with outrage toward abuse that was allowed to happen for years within institutions that should have brought it to an end.

Patient Rights During Medical Care

The relationship between a patient and a doctor, nurse, dentist, therapist, or healer is based on trust and respect. A patient trusts a medical professional to provide respectful and professional medical care and respects their expertise and experience. However, as a healthcare patient, it is important to remember that you have certain rights during any treatment or examination. If a healthcare professional behaves unethically or makes you uncomfortable, you have a right to end your visit. It is important to know your rights as a patient and to remember that your comfort and sense of safety is a priority as you receive medical care of any kind.

At any time, you can ask for another person, like a nurse, a member of your family, or a friend to join you in the exam room so that you are not alone with a medical professional. You have the right to end a medical examination at any point for any reason; if you express discomfort or ask the examiner to stop, they should do so immediately. Privacy is another patient right. Any physical exam should occur in a private space or behind a curtained area, and you should be given a private area where you can change clothes. Furthermore, you need only remove clothes on the part of your body to be examined, and you should not be unclothed for extended periods of time before and/or after an examination. You can request to see a medical professional of a different gender if this increases your level of comfort.

Whoever is examining you should answer any questions about what they are doing or why immediately and honestly. This applies to any medical exam, but especially to exams involving private parts of the body. An examiner should never ignore your questions or silence you; instead, they should explain what they are doing as it happens. Gloves should always be worn by someone examining your private parts, and you should never have to undress more than necessary or answer uncomfortable questions about your sexual history or activity. Always remember that you have a right to feel comfortable and safe in your interactions with healthcare professionals and that if you do not, you have a right to end an examination at any time. No doctor is above the law--especially if they are abusing or leveraging their power as a medical professional to commit acts of sexual misconduct. Knowing your patient rights can help you get out of uncomfortable and potentially abusive situations.

Victims of Sexual Abuse by Healthcare Professionals

Any person can suffer sexual abuse at the hands of a healthcare professional. Sexual abuse includes inappropriate or intimate touching, examining or touching a patient’s genitals while the patient is anesthetized and unable to consent, undressing or photographing a patient during an exam, trading prescriptions for sex, a medical professional exposing himself or herself to a patient, rape, or attempted rape. Most often, female patients suffer sexual abuse at the hands of a male doctor; however, any medical professional can sexually abuse any patient. Children and patients who are disabled either physically or mentally are especially vulnerable, but sexual abuse can happen to a person of any age, as well as to able-bodied and mentally healthy patients.

Unfortunately, sexual predators in the medical field prey upon children in the healthcare system. In this form of institutional abuse, the offender can manipulate a child into staying quiet about sexual abuse using tactics of coercion, intimidation, threats, or lies. It is not always easy to identify when a child has been sexually abused, especially if the perpetrator is someone you would never expect, like a trusted physician. However, there are both physical and behavioral warning signs you can look for if you suspect your child may have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a medical professional. Physical signs can include bruises or pain in the genital area, torn or bloody underwear, difficulty sitting or walking, and frequent yeast or urinary infections. Behavioral signs can include sudden changes in hygiene, new phobias, signs of PTSD or depression, self-harm, nightmares, inappropriate sexual knowledge, bed-wetting, trouble in school, and more. If you suspect your child has suffered sexual abuse, you can carefully address the topic carefully with them in a place where they feel safe.

Psychiatric patients and those living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities are also very vulnerable to sexual abuse by physicians. The California penal code contains specific sections addressing sexual abuse of any person who is physically or mentally disabled or institutionalized for medical reasons or treatment. Unfortunately, vulnerable populations may not know if they have suffered sexual abuse, because they may be convinced by the perpetrator that the act was consensual or medically necessary. However, if you suspect that a loved one in a medical facility has been sexually abused or assaulted, you should speak with those at the facility in charge of preventing the mistreatment of patients and seek medical attention or legal help.

Filing a Lawsuit in a Case of Healthcare Professional Sexual Abuse

Research suggests that survivors of sexual abuse by healthcare professionals are much less likely to speak out or report their abuse than survivors of sexual abuse in general. Accused doctors often hire aggressive lawyers who vigorously fight the charges, which can lead to delays or deals. However, medical professionals are not above the law, and there are ways to seek justice through trial. If you report sexual abuse by a California medical professional to police and the state’s district attorney decides the case has sufficient and convincing evidence for a medical board case, the California government will file criminal charges. Only the state of California can pursue a criminal lawsuit for sexual abuse.

In the case that the district attorney decides not to pursue criminal charges in your case, whether due to a lack of evidence or another factor, you have the option to file civil charges against the offender. A criminal conviction from the state punishes a perpetrator with a prison or jail sentence, probation, and/or court-sanctioned community service. On the other hand, a civil charge seeks financial restitution so that the survivor can cover costs incurred by the trauma and return their lives to normal. Furthermore, in the case of sexual abuse accusations or lawsuits against healthcare professionals, the California Medical Board can impose their own probation that puts specific conditions upon a physician’s license, such as ethics courses or chaperones A person filing civil sexual abuse charges in California does not have to have submitted a police report, though doing so can increase credibility.

The California penal code details the statute of limitations for charges of sexual abuse. An adult at the time of sexual abuse has a window of two years following the abuse to sue in a civil lawsuit. A minor at the time of sexual abuse has three years after their realization that childhood sexual abuse resulted in psychological damage to sue in a civil lawsuit. So, if you file a report with local law enforcement and the district attorney decides against pursuing a criminal conviction, you can absolutely bring a civil conviction against the offender. The burden of proof in a civil case is significantly lower than in a criminal case, and an experienced attorney can get you the maximum possible compensation from a civil lawsuit.

How to Find an Attorney with Experience in Sexual Abuse by Healthcare Professionals Near Me

The team at Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm is prepared to hand any personal injury case, and our primary focus is on helping the survivors of sexual abuse seek justice through trial. We have specific experience prosecuting healthcare professionals who have committed acts of sexual abuse, assault, or misconduct against their patients. If you or someone you love have suffered or are currently suffering abuse at the hands of a doctor, nurse, therapist, dentist, or holistic healer, we are here to provide you with resources for recovery and comprehensive legal representation.

We know that you may have many questions about the lawsuit process when bringing a sexual abuse charge against a healthcare professional, such as: Will I have to testify? Do I have to file a police report? What type of physical evidence will I need to provide? Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm is here to answer any questions and respond to any concerns you may have. We are ready to listen, work with you to create a solid civil lawsuit, and put you in touch with support services. We are ready to help you.

If you or someone you love have experienced or are currently experiencing sexual abuse from a medical professional, contact the expert team at Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm. You can give us a call at 310-359-9451 to schedule a consultation with an expert in California law and discuss your legal options. Having a strong attorney with experience in healthcare professional sexual abuse can make a significant difference in a lawsuit, and we are ready to fight for you.