When a person seeks help from a licensed professional, like a therapist, counselor, doctor or other authority, they expect that the professional can be trusted to act appropriately. Unfortunately, however, there are situations where that professional may sexually abuse their patient.
Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual activity or behavior. Victims of this type of abuse may have a long-lasting emotional, physical and psychological impact.
Signs of abuse
There are several signs that may indicate sexual abuse by a licensed professional. The first is a boundary violation. For example, if the professional asks to meet the patient outside of regular sessions, that may cross ethical boundaries the professional is required to follow.
If a professional takes advantage of a vulnerable individual, that may also be a sign of sexual abuse. This might involve using threats, coercion or manipulation to engage in sexual acts with the victim.
Patients should be assured that their information will be kept confidential. If the professional shares private or intimate details of the patient’s life, including sexual history, that may be a sign of abuse because it can be used to control the victim.
It is also inappropriate for the professional to make sexual comments or jokes with their patients. Licensed professionals hold a position of authority and power and should not use their status to participate in exploitive behavior.
Victims can choose to report this behavior to the professional’s licensing board and can pursue legal action. Patients should feel safe in the care of the professional.