In 2009, President Obama first proclaimed April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The Presidential Proclamation does not mention sexual assault in the mental health care field, so we’d like to mention it here.
In Missouri, there are a number of Statutes that specify crimes and penalties for various forms of sexual assault, but patient rape by a psychiatrist or psychologist is not specifically one of them.
The United States Code, Chapter 109a, Title 18, Section 2242, Sexual Abuse, states, “Whoever…knowingly…engages in a sexual act with another person if that other person is…incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct…shall be fined under this title and imprisoned for any term of years or for life.”
There is a long-standing consensus in the medical profession that sexual contact or sexual relations between physicians and patients is unethical. The prohibition against such was incorporated into the Hippocratic Oath: “I will come to the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons… .” (Other translations from the Greek may read slightly differently, but the intention remains the same.) Contrary to popular belief, the Hippocratic Oath is not required by most modern medical schools.
In no other area of medicine is the patient in such a state of emotional vulnerability as when they visit a psychiatrist or psychologist. It is a relationship in which the patient can be most easily exploited and manipulated.
But psychiatrists and psychologists rarely consider that raping a patient is rape. Instead, it is euphemistically called “sexual contact,” a “sexual relationship” or “crossing the boundaries” when one of its members sexually forces themself on a patient, often with the help of drugs or electroshock treatment.
Yet, the American Psychiatric Association’s Principles of Medical Ethics states:
“[T]he inherent inequality in the doctor-patient relationship may lead to exploitation of the patient. Sexual activity with a current or former patient is unethical.”
Similarly, the American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct states: [3.08] “Psychologists do not exploit persons over whom they have supervisory, evaluative, or other authority such as clients/patients, students, supervisees, research participants, and employees.” [10.05] “Psychologists do not engage in sexual intimacies with current therapy clients/patients.”
Unfortunately, too many of them do not heed their profession’s codes. This is well understood by government and law enforcement: as of 2004, there have been more than 25 statutes enacted to address the increasing number of sex crimes against patients by psychiatrists and psychologists in the United States, Australia, Germany, Sweden and Israel.
Psychiatric Rape Statistics
A review of more than 800 convictions of psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists between 1998 and 2005 revealed that more than 30% were for sex crimes.
Studies in numerous countries reveal that between 10% and 25% of psychiatrists and psychologists admit to sexually abusing their patients.
A 1997 Canadian study of psychiatrists revealed that 10% admitted to sexually abusing their patients; 80% of those were repeat offenders.
In a 1999 British study of therapist-patient sexual contact among psychologists, 25% reported having treated a patient who had been sexually involved with another therapist.
As reported in 2001, a U.S. study of therapist-client sex, reported that 1 out of 20 clients who had been sexually abused by their therapist was a minor. The female victims’ ages ranged from 3 to 17, and from 7 to 16 for the males. The average age was 7 for girls and 12 for boys.
Medical & Licensing Boards
While psychiatric rape is punishable by the justice system, in most of the cases professional registration boards deal with psychiatrists’ and psychologists’ rape merely as “professional misconduct.”
These boards decide what discipline should be imposed. Following this logic, if a plumber raped a customer, his fate should be decided by a society of plumbers. That, of course, will not happen and in the same way, neither should professional registration boards be allowed to operate as law. Especially when they have proven they cannot be trusted.
The so-called ethics system used by psychiatrists has been universally attacked as soft and inadequate. In 1996, the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) claimed that “Ethical practice is based on the psychiatrist’s individual sense of responsibility to the patient and judgment in determining what is correct and appropriate conduct. External standards and influences such as professional codes of conduct, the study of ethics, or the rule of law by themselves will not guarantee the ethical practice of medicine.”
Psychiatric and psychological professional societies do not police their memberships. State licensing agencies’ disciplinary actions frequently fail to meet the severity and lasting damage of the practitioner’s violations. Rape is rape and sexual abuse is sexual abuse, whether it occurs in an alley at knife point or on the couch in a professional office. It should be treated as a crime under existing sexual abuse statutes or legislation should be created and enacted that specifically targets sexual exploitation by psychotherapists.
Additionally, any law enforcement agency investigating such a sexual assault complaint should determine if insurance was involved and, if so, should suspect and investigate for potential insurance fraud (billing private, state or federal insurance programs for “treatment” that was actually sex).
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights exposes the criminal convictions of psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health personnel for sexual assault, rape and other crimes. See also the documentation on PsychSearch.net if you suspect a psychiatrist of malfeasance.
Click here for more information about psychiatric sexual assault.