Doctor & Hospital Sexual Abuse Lawyers | Sexual Abuse in Healthcare, Residential, or Wellness Settings
Our attorneys routinely represent victims of sexual abuse and exploitation in nursing homes, hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other healthcare facilities.
We trust healthcare, wellness, and residential providers to look after our welfare and that of our children, elderly and loved ones. We expect them to be places of healing, not places of abuse, exploitation, or invasion of privacy. Unfortunately, sexual predators prey on vulnerable adults and children seeking medical attention. Sexual abuse in healthcare settings is a serious issue that can have devastating effects on individuals and communities.
How common is sexual abuse by doctors and in healthcare, residential, and wellness settings?
The exact prevalence of sexual abuse in healthcare settings is difficult to determine due to underreporting, varying definitions, and cultural differences. It is estimated that only 5% to 10% of victims ever report sexual abuse by physicians, according to research done by the National Library of Medicine. Underreporting is particularly high in these areas of abuse due to confusion, shame, guilt, and fear of being thrown out of a facility. Due to these reasons, underreporting makes it very hard to determine what the true scope of the abuse is statistically.
What are some high profile cases?
High-profile cases such as Larry Nassar from the University of Michigan, UCLA’s Dr. James Heaps and Dr. Richard Strauss at Ohio State, and Dr. Reginal Archibald at Rockefeller University Hospital. Cases against Massage Envy and Hand and Stone chains across the country have opened the door for other similar cases.
Hospital, Nursing Home, And Doctor Sexual Abuse
Patients entrust hospitals, nursing homes, doctor’s offices, and other healthcare providers to care for them when they are sick, seeking medical advice and guidance. Doctors take an oath to first do no harm, the public is reliant upon professionals in the medical field to provide care and to that extent, a great deal of trust and sensitive information is given to them. Patients are uniquely vulnerable to healthcare professionals because of the knowledge and expertise they possess. The expectation is educated, compassionate, and ethical care.
Types of sexual abuse in healthcare settings?
Sexual abuse in healthcare settings can take different forms, including inappropriate touching, verbal harassment, non-consensual examinations, exploitation, and other violations of patient boundaries. It can occur across various healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and residential facilities.
Some of the ways healthcare professionals conduct sexual abuse are the following:
1. Inappropriate touching: This may involve unwarranted and non-consensual touching of intimate areas during examinations or procedures.
2. Sexual comments or jokes: Making lewd remarks, inappropriate jokes, or engaging in sexually suggestive conversations can create a hostile and uncomfortable environment for patients.
3. Inappropriate use of materials or devices: the use of sexually explicit materials during interactions with patients.
4. Manipulation: Healthcare professionals in positions of authority may exploit their power differentials to coerce or manipulate patients into engaging in sexual acts.
5. Sexual assault: In extreme cases, healthcare professionals may commit acts of sexual assault, including rape or other forms of non-consensual sexual acts.
6. Sexual exploitation: where healthcare professionals misuse their position of power, authority, or trust to exploit patients for their own sexual gratification or gain.
7. Trading sexual favors for medical treatment: Healthcare professionals may demand sexual acts from patients in exchange for providing necessary medical care, medication, or favorable treatment outcomes.
8. Engaging in sexual relationships with patients: Healthcare professionals may initiate or maintain sexual relationships with current or former patients, taking advantage of the power imbalance and vulnerability inherent in the doctor-patient relationship.
9. Taking non-consensual sexual photographs or videos: Healthcare professionals may secretly or overtly capture explicit images or videos of patients without their knowledge or consent.
10. Exploiting patients’ vulnerability: Healthcare professionals may exploit the emotional or psychological vulnerability of patients, such as those with mental health issues or individuals who have experienced trauma, to engage in sexual acts or relationships.
Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes
Nursing homes should be places where older adults receive care, support, and protection, but unfortunately, instances of sexual abuse can and do occur. It is a violation of the rights and dignity of vulnerable individuals and is considered a serious form of elder abuse. Sexual abuse in nursing homes can be perpetrated by staff members, other residents, or visitors. It can have severe physical, emotional, and psychological consequences for the victims, leading to feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and a decline in overall well-being.
Sexual Abuse with Massage/Wellness Industry
Massage therapists have a unique opportunity to commit sexual assaults given the intimate level of access they have to their clients. While sexual abuse in this field is not as common as others, it still occurs. Many major massage chains know of the risk of sexual assault by massage therapists but do not do enough to protect people from abuse and assault, therefore they can and have been held responsible.
For many victims, it may be unclear how to identify when a massage therapist has crossed the line into sexual abuse because massage requires touching one’s whole body. A good massage therapist will ensure active and ongoing communication during a massage garnering consent along the way. You should know that at any time you can tell a massage therapist you are not comfortable and to avoid certain areas. A good massage therapist will have already gone over this prior to the massage beginning, asking you which areas you wish to focus on, desired pressure, and areas of the body to avoid.
If you are engaging in yoga, chiropractic care or stretching, or any other wellness activities that involve instructors possibly touching and manipulating the body in order to obtain optimal form or results the instructor should always first ask for permission to put their hands on you. Many trauma-informed facilities will even have consent cards that people can place next to their mat or station that inculcate whether or not they are open to physical touch thus avoiding a potentially uncomfortable situation in the middle of class. You can state right up front to the entity that you are not comfortable with nor do you consent to any form of touching or body manipulation during your services.
Type of Sexual Abuse In the Massage/Wellness Industry
Common examples of sexually inappropriate touching during a massage can include but are not limited to the following:
- Touching of the genital area or breasts without consent
- Inappropriate touching of other intimate areas of the body without consent
- Massaging the buttocks or inner thighs in a manner that is sexual in nature or done for the pleasure of the therapist
- Using sexual language, making sexual comments, or sexual noises during the massage
- Feeling pressured to remove clothing or experiencing removal of clothing without permission
- Rubbing against the client’s body in a sexually charged manner
- Making suggestive or inappropriate gestures or movements during the massage
- Engaging in sexual contact or intercourse during the massage
- Being forced to engage in a sexual act
Many clients feel that because they signed a waiver of the consent form they have no rights once a violation has occurred and that is not accurate. You can also write on that form that you are in no way consenting to any touching of private body parts such as breasts, buttocks, genitals, inner thighs, or any other areas you are not comfortable with. If you think your massage therapist or other wellness practitioner has crossed the line into sexual misconduct, there are resources for you and possible legal recourse.
Sexual Abuse in Residential Facilities
Residential facilities house children in a variety of contexts either in the community as group homes or juvenile detention centers. They are alternative housing placements for children and young people who are struggling with and in need of more intensive behavioral or mental health treatment, or if convicted of a juvenile criminal offense in courts as a temporary placement. Other children reside in group homes if they lack other family or caregivers. Regardless of how a child winds up in one of these facilities, they should be safe at all times.
Children in residential facilities are vulnerable to sexual abuse due to substance use issues, behavioral, psychiatric, and mental health challenges, and previous abuse or neglect and because of the power dynamics that the staff of these facilities has over the children and young people. This power is often misused and manipulated into not only abusing children and youth but to keep victims silent about the abuse by threatening removal or additional court sanctions.
These reasons make residential facilities ideal places where sexual predators prey on vulnerable children and youth.
We have experience handling cases against residential treatment facilities that fail to protect children from harm on their watch.
Sexual Abuse in Substance Abuse Treatment
Patients who enter rehabilitation facilities for substance use struggles are also uniquely vulnerable to sexual abuse as often they have histories of existing sexual trauma, it is estimated that 60-80% of all people entering treatment facilities have underlying sexual abuse histories. Residents can be preyed upon by using their histories to shame them into engaging in sexual acts. Individuals in early recovery are not in the right mindset to be making decisions around sexual activity and relationships as the focus is to be on their recovery, however, at the same time, people just coming out of their substance use behaviors are often rediscovering themselves and this is often exploited by workers and therapist within the facilities. The threat of getting thrown out of treatment is a tactic used by abusers to keep victims quiet.
Sexual Abuse in Mental/Behavior Health Treatment Facility
Patients seeking assistance for mental health challenges are among the most vulnerable class of individuals in society. Tragically, many patients in mental health facilities are prior sexual abuse victims making them uniquely vulnerable to being targeted in these facilities. In addition, often a patient or client’s mental or behavioral health challenge is weaponized by the provider to manipulate, coerce and abuse the patient. Sexual predators prey on the vulnerability of people in psychiatric facilities. It is the facilities’ job to prevent such abuse. State law typically dictates how these facilities are supposed to supervise patients, such as regular bed checks. These guidelines are often violated and when and if so, can subject the provider to civil liability.
What should I do if I feel I or someone I love has been sexually abused at a healthcare, residential, or wellness facility?
Contact law enforcement, state or federal regulatory agencies or commissions, and a trained and experienced civil attorney as they will help navigate your rights and next steps.
Gather as much information and evidence as possible including records, photos of injuries, and or proof of additional medical treatment as a result of these injuries, witnesses and their contact information, and contact information for any persons who would have or should have reasonably known of the abuse, victims’ statements recalling dates, locations, and persons involved in the abuse, any and all policies or procedures of that facility, and any documents you may have signed during your or your loved one’s time there.
Can I sue a healthcare, residential, or wellness facility?
Yes, all of these entities are regulated under state and federal laws and regulations that if violated subject them to penalties and can be held accountable for failing to protect their populations. Building a case against these types of facilities and advocating for victims is something our attorneys are trained and experienced in.
If you are in need of legal representation or have been a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a healthcare provider, please don’t wait to seek justice. Andreozzi + Foote cares about you and your loved ones and will ensure you are given the proper time, attention, and understanding you need to make the right fully informed decision for yourself and your loved ones. Our attorneys are uniquely trained and educated in the various laws, regulations, rules, policies, and procedures that can be used to ensure accountability in cases of abuse. We have spent decades researching and representing these types of cases and have a unique lens on this area of the law that most personal injury lawyers do not.
Call Our Doctor & Hospital Sexual Abuse Lawyers Today
If you or someone you know has suffered sexual abuse or assault by a healthcare provider, please don’t stay silent. Andreozzi + Foote can help you fight back and ensure the perpetrators pay for their crimes. Call us at 866-311-8640 or reach us online for a free and confidential assessment of your case.