Sexual abuse is one of the strongest psychological traumas a person can experience. Many victims remain silent after these tragic events out of fear, shame, and the fear of not being believed. When a person goes through this devastating event, they may seek the help of a therapist to help deal and heal from their emotional scars. But what happens when it is sexual abuse from a therapist that has been suffered?
A therapist is supposed to be a professional you can tell your secrets too. They are someone who is emotionally connected and looking to help you heal from any form of emotional trauma you have experienced. When you are in a vulnerable state of mind and seek these healthcare professionals' help, it can more than devastating to have them break that trust.
Therapist Sexual Abuse in the Therapeutic Setting
There is a new understanding emerging concerning the impact of therapist-patient sexual relations. It is coming from the recognization that this form of sexual abuse is similar to childhood sexual abuse and rape. Therapist sexual abuse is the same traumatic, life-changing, and damaging crime that occurs in other power-imbalanced relationships.
Just as with the crimes of child sexual abuse and rape, therapist sexual abuse cannot blame the victim. California licensing boards and lawmakers advise the public that professional therapy should never include any form of sexual contact with their therapist.
During a therapy session, there should never be any inappropriate sexual suggestions or any form of sexual behavior between your therapist and yourself. Sexual contact of any type between a client and their therapist is illegal and unethical in the State of California.
The laws also prohibit any sexual contact from a therapist with their former clients. There is a two-year statue after terminating therapy before a person is no longer considered a patient of the therapist. The therapist is held responsible for ensuring this relationship does not occur, whether it is consensual or not.
Therapist Sexual Abuse and the Harm it Causes
Sexual abuse between a client and their therapist can inflict serious harm. This harm rises from the therapist taking advantage of the clients to fulfill their own desires and needs. When a therapist is capable of inflicting sexual abuse to their client, they have lost their objectivity needed to provide therapy effectively. Therapists have been trained and educated to know that this type of behavior is both unethical and illegal.
Clients respect and trust their therapists. It is not uncommon for clients to feel attracted to their therapist or to admire them. The therapist is trained not to accept or encourage these feelings through sexual behavior with any client. They are also forbidden to tell a client that sexual involvement is a part of any therapy. To say to a client that any form of sex is part of the treatment would violate a therapeutic relationship, and would encourage conduct that is unethical and illegal. When a therapist commits sexual abuse, it can cause long-lasting, harmful, and psychological effects on a client.
Definition of Therapists
The term therapist can refer to anyone who is licensed to practice psychotherapy. It refers to anyone training to become a licensed psychotherapist and includes:
- A psychologist studies abnormal and normal mental states, social processes, cognitive, and emotional behavior through experimenting, interpreting, observing, and recording how individuals relate to their environments and one another.
- Registered Psychologists
- A registered psychologist is a psychologist with a higher degree of qualifications and training.
- A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has devoted their medical training to preventing and treating mental disorders. These disorders include cognition, perceptions, behavior, and moods.
- Psychological assistants
- Psychological assistants assist a psychologist by preparing intakes, assisting with research, performing mental health assessments in mental health centers, government agencies, and other medical corporations.
- Psychological interns
- Psychological interns are in a training class created to provide limited-term employment that will offer supervised experience in clinical psychology
- Registered Associate Clinical Social Workers
- An associate clinical social worker has a Master’s degree in Social Work from an accredited school of social work. They are required to pass a criminal background check, accrue supervised experience, take and pass the ASWB Clinical Exam, and take and pass the California Law and Ethics Exam
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists
- Marriage and Family Therapists are mental health professionals. They are trained in psychotherapy and family systems. They are also licensed to treat and diagnose mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage, family systems, and couples.
- Licensed Clinical Social Workers
- A Licensed Clinical Social Worker is a sub-sector within the field of Social Work. These social workers work with clients to help them deal with issues involving emotional and mental health.
- Social Work Interns
- As a social work intern in the school setting, an intern can work with a group of students to help them identify skills and help the school social worker find resources for families. The clinical social worker intern can provide counseling to clients, collect medical histories, and help maintain records.
- Marriage and Family Therapist Trainees
- Family therapy, or also known as marriage and family therapy, is a branch of psychotherapy and works with families and couples who are in intimate relationships. Treatment is designed to help couples nurture development and change. Trainees are those in the process of learning and working towards their license.
- Professional Clinical Counselor Trainees
- Professional licensed counselors are master and doctoral-level mental health service providers. They are trained to work with families, individuals, and groups in treating behavioral, mental, and emotional problems. Trainees are those who completed their education and are now gaining experience in their field.
- Registered Research Psychoanalysts
- These are medical professionals who have graduated from an approved psychoanalytic institution and are registered with the Board of Medical Assurance of the State of California. They can engage in psychoanalysis as an adjunct to research, training, or teaching.
- Licensed Educational Psychologists
- A licensed educational psychologist obtains information about a student's learning, mental, or behavioral health.
- Registered Associate Professional Clinical Counselors
- An LPC is a provisionally licensed professional counselor who has obtained a master’s level counseling program. These professionals have passed the necessary national exams.
- Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors
- Professional counselors empower diverse families, groups, and individuals to accomplish mental health career goals, education, and mental health wellness. They work with clients to overcome personal challenges and obstacles they are facing.
- Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapists
- A registered associate marriage and family therapist is a mental health professional who is licensed to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of couples, marriage, and family systems.
Definition of Terms when Dealing with Therapist Sexual Abuse
The word ‘therapy’ includes any form of counseling from any one of the registered or licensed professionals listed above.
The ‘client’ is you, or anyone who receives counseling, therapy, or other services.
The term ‘sexual contact’ refers to the touching of an intimate part of another person. This term also covers ‘sexual intercourse.’
The term 'sexual behavior' is inappropriate communication or contact in a sexual tone.
The act of ‘touching’ would be the physical contact with another person through their clothing or directly with their skin.
An ‘intimate part’ is a sexual organ, groin, buttocks, anus of any person, and the breast on a female.
A ‘license’ includes registration, certificate, or other means to work and engage in a profession or business. The ‘license’ is regulated by Chapter 1, General Provisions, section 475 of the Business and Professions Code.
If you have questions about any form of treatment you feel was inappropriate and sexual in nature when you attend a counseling session, contact Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm to discuss your concerns. We are ready to talk to you about your encounter and determine if you experienced therapist sexual abuse. We will also discuss your legal options for having suffered this trauma.
Your Rights in the Therapist’s Office
As a client seeking therapy with any one of the above professional therapists, you have rights when you enter their office or clinic. Those rights include:
- Being treated with respect and dignity
- Allowed to ask a question about your form of therapy and any other services that will be provided
- The ability to request and receive information from the therapist regarding the progress toward the goal of your treatment
- Know who your case will be discussed with, in regards to students. Consultants, supervisors or any others your therapist plans to talk about your case with
- Refuse any form of electronic recording
- Report and illegal and unethical behavior by a therapist
- Receive a copy of your records or have your records transferred to a therapist or agency you choose
- Request and receive information about your therapist’s capabilities as a professional, including their education, experience, training, licensure, specialization, limitations, and professional association membership
- Have a safe environment provided that is safe from sexual, emotional, or physical abuse
- Decline to answer or disclose any information you choose not to reveal
- Know the limits of confidentiality and circumstances your therapist is legally required to disclose to others regarding your treatment
- Decline any form of treatment, or end your treatment without harassment or obligation
- Request and receive a summary of your records, including your progress and diagnosis, along with the type of treatment you will be receiving
- Receive a second opinion at any time concerning your therapy or therapist’s methods
If you feel you have suffered therapist sexual abuse or someone you know feels their rights have been abused by a therapist, contact Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm to learn what your legal rights are in receiving justice and compensation.
Warning Signs You Are a Victim of Therapist Sexual Abuse
There are times when sexual abuse begins as a subtle act. Sometimes these acts are confusing, especially when performed by someone you trust. The actions may be ones that make you feel uncomfortable and have you questioning the actions. This behavior begins first in most sexual misconduct cases. Clues or warnings you may be a victim of therapist sexual abuse include:
- Your therapist is telling you sexual stories or jokes
- You are receiving unwanted touches
- Your therapist invites you to dinner, lunch, or other professional or social events
- There is a change in your scheduling by having appointments when no other office personal is around, or schedules appointments in different locations rather than in the office
- The therapist overstates how special you are, or that they are in ‘love’ with you
- The therapist begins to bestow significant gifts
- You are given drugs or alcohol during the sessions
- You are sent obscene messages or images
- Excessive communication is being received by social media, email, phone, texts, or any other forms of communication
- You are asked on a ‘date’
- Your therapist begins confiding in you about their personal life such as how lonely they are, their work problems, love life, or any other personal details about their life
- Your therapist begins needing your support
- Your therapist begins to suggest isolation from social support systems and builds a dependency on them
If you are noticing any of these behaviors, you may be a victim of therapist sexual abuse. Contact Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm before these actions become any more serious. We will help you find other emotional help and discuss your options for seeking compensation and justice for sexual abuse by a therapist.
Reactions When Suffering Therapist Sexual Abuse
Victims of sexual abuse go through a range of emotions. You may experience doubt, guilt, and rage when going through the trauma of being victimized by a professional you thought you could trust. Many predators of sexual abuse choose their victims because they feel they can use their power over you to keep you silent. These professionals know you are in a vulnerable state of mind and, therefore, easier to prey on. These are reactions and feelings many victims deal with:
- Responsibility and guilt, even though you know, the therapist is responsible for keeping their sexual behavior out of the sessions
- Emptiness and isolation
- Afraid no one will believe you
- Traumatic symptoms such as nightmares, anxiety, obsessive thoughts, suicidal or homicidal thoughts
- Threatened or intimidated
- Mixed feelings about your therapist such as betrayal, protectiveness, anger, and in some cases, love
- Distrust in your own feelings or those of others
- Feelings of being violated or victimized
You are not alone, and not the only one to experience therapist sexual abuse. While this is not a common problem, as most professionals do go into this field to help others, there are; however, those out there who will take advantage of a person in a very vulnerable stage of life, and Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm is here to help if you have become a victim.
What You Can Do as a Victim of Therapist Sexual Abuse
What you have gone through is illegal and unethical, and your experience should be reported to the appropriate licensing board quickly. The board will need to take appropriate action within the statute of limitations. The Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm can explain to you what those limitations are and how you should file your complaint. The State of California has four separate boards that regulate and license therapists:
- The board which regulates Licensed Educational Psychologists, Registered Associate Clinical Social Workers, Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapists, Registered Associate Professional Clinical Counselors, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors is the:
- Board of Behavioral Sciences
1625 North Market Blvd. Suite S-200
Sacramento, CA 95834
- The board which licenses and regulates Psychologists, Registered Psychologists, and Psychological Assistants is the:
- Board of Psychology
1625 North Market Blvd. Suite N-215
Sacramento, CA 95834
- The board which regulates and licenses Physicians and Surgeons, and Research Psychoanalysts is the:
- Medical Board of California
2005 Evergreen Street Suite 1200
Sacramento, CA 95815
- The board which regulates and licenses Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons, and Psychiatrists is the:
- Osteopathic Medical Board of California
1300 National Drive Suite 150
Sacramento, CA 95834
These boards have been created to protect the welfare, safety, and health of clients. These boards have the authority to discipline therapists by using an administrative law process. The experts at Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm can help you determine which board you need to contact and help you through the process of filing a complaint.
How to File a Claim for Therapist Sexual Abuse
Talk to the Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm if you feel your therapist has sexually abused you. There are laws to protect your rights and steps to follow when filing a claim against your therapist. This abuse comes with emotional harm, and you want someone on your side that can make this process as painless as possible.
Your complaint can be filed online or in writing; Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm will help you with this process. You will want to provide as much information as possible, and we understand this can be a difficult task. It will be especially helpful to your case to:
- Provide a detailed description of your therapist’s conduct
- Copies of any material you have that will support your complaints such as text messages, emails, or any form of inappropriate correspondence you have received from your therapist
The board will request a signed release form from you, authorizing them to obtain your records from the therapist. The documents are necessary for official use and possibly for any investigation and administrative proceedings regarding violations of the law. The board will evaluate your complaint, investigate the occurrence or occurrences, and then notify you of their outcome. The possible results, you can expect from the board's investigation include:
- Probation- The therapist’s license may be put on probation for a specific amount of time, with terms and conditions set by the board. These conditions must be met before the therapist is allowed to continue practicing.
- Revocation or surrender of the therapist's license. Surrender of a license means the therapist loses all right to practice again.
- The case can be closed with no action taken against the therapist. The board was unable to substantiate a violation occurred of the laws or regulations.
Legal Help for Therapist Sexual Abuse
There are boundaries under California law, and therapists are prohibited from breaching them. Working with a law firm that specializes in sexual abuse is vital to the success of your case if you have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of your therapist, as they will understand these laws.
Cases of therapist sexual abuse are delicate in nature and complicated. The attorneys at Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm are ready to stand by you and help legally and supportively through this process.
Society depends on therapists to behave ethically and to be able to monitor their behavior when dealing with clients at a vulnerable time of life. They place themselves in an authoritative and trusting relationship with clients who are undergoing emotional and mental crises and are expected to honor their code of ethics.
When you pursue a claim against therapist sexual abuse, it may involve criminal, civil, or licensing board cases. You need an experienced attorney working with you who is familiar with all these settings. The statute of limitations runs while a patient pursues a licensing board claim; therefore, you could lose your rights to sue while waiting for this process to finish.
In the State of California, it is best to pursue a case for therapist sexual abuse within one year of the occurrence. If the therapist works for a government entity, such as for a county clinic, the statute of limitations may be as short as six months.
An experienced attorney, familiar with sexual abuse committed by a therapist can help you receive:
- Past and future medical costs or expenses
- Punitive damages
- Past and future pain such as emotional distress and suffering
- Past and future loss of wages
There is a delicate legal balancing act that has to be executed when dealing with therapist sexual abuse. You want an attorney who is ready to take on this legal challenge and get you the justice deserved.
Finding Help Near Me for Therapist Sexual Abuse
Therapist sexual abuse can cause devasting and severe emotional harm. If you are suffering from sexual abuse by your therapist, contact Stop Sexual Abuse Law Firm today 310-359-9451. We have the experience needed to take on these complicated legal battles and are ready to help you through this traumatic time. Call us today, and we will discuss your case and find the best legal strategy to find the compensation you deserve.