Although it is not known for: medical professionals, psychiatric professionals, and those working in medical and psychiatric settings to be commonly accused of sexual abuse but unfortunately it does happen. Much like clergy and coaches, Doctors and Mental Health Professionals are able to capitalize on their status in the community to gain access to, and abuse their victims.
If you believe you have suffered sexual abuse perpetrated by a medical professional, a psychiatrist, or anyone in medical or psychiatric settings, it is wise to discuss the situation with an experienced sexual abuse lawyer. They can advise you of the legal ramifications of what was done. An initial consultation is always free; the California based Gomez Law Firm are experienced in litigating all cases of sexual abuse.
Over the past several decades, we have been awakened to the reality of the prevalence of sexual abuse in our communities. The headlines tell us daily of athletes molested by their coaches, priests sexually assaulting parishioners, and teachers abusing students.
Sexual abuse, committed by anyone, is a broad category. It is generally understood to encompass any action of a sexual nature that the patient did not want, and that the patient found uncomfortable. The actions may include rape or attempted rape, fondling or unwanted sexual touching, coercing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or bodily penetration, physically or through psychological manipulation, and penetration of the victim’s body.
Medical professionals and people who work in a medical setting often have access to opportunities to commit all of the above acts of sexual abuse. Some cases of sexual abuse may take place because the patient is partially clothed, partially or completely unconscious, or immobile. Indeed, leaving a patient uncovered or exposed may be part of a sexual abuse pattern. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) notes that the following behaviors may also constitute medical sexual abuse:
Medical sexual abuse can take place in any setting where care is offered, including doctor’s offices, emergency rooms, clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted care facilities.
Psychiatric sexual abuse includes any of the acts constituting sexual abuse if psychiatrists or other mental health professionals perform them when treating a patient. In addition, the following actions can constitute psychiatric sexual abuse or grooming a patient for sexual abuse:
Both medical and psychiatric sexual abuse can be particularly damaging, because it is perpetrated by people or in settings that the patient hopes may help them and are particularly vulnerable. It is a tremendous violation of trust and care.
In addition, many of the symptoms of sexual abuse can be psychological, including depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, suicide attempts or ideation, substance abuse, lack of trust, fear of intimacy, and more. While psychiatric sexual abuse can occur during treatment for any psychological condition or issue, it is possible for patients undergoing therapy or other treatment for sexual abuse to be abused again by the very people entrusted with helping a sexual abuse survivor.
In the past, sexual abuse survivors had to bring a suit within eight years after reaching the age of majority (which is 18 years of age in California) or within three years of the date of discovery (A date of discovery is the day survivors realized that an injury or psychological illness developed after the age of 18 stemmed from sexual abuse). Time limits to bring a legal claim are known as the statute of limitations.
Over the past decade, however, knowledge of the widespread nature of sexual abuse and what sexual abuse consists of has been far more broadly known that it was in the past. What happens when someone realizes they have suffered sexual abuse but the eight-year period following their 18th birthday has passed? What happens if they realize it more than 3 years past the discovery date?
In recognition of these facts, California’s governor recently signed into law a measure, Assembly Bill 218, that extends the statute of limitations for bringing sexual assault claims. The law, signed in mid-October, becomes effective on January 1, 2020.
Then and afterward, sexual abuse survivors in California can file a claim 22 years after the abuse rather than eight after they become 18. The date after discovery was lengthened to five years instead of three. AB 218 also has a provision for cases that occurred more than 22 years ago. Survivors of abuse that occurred more than 22 years ago have a three-year window in which they can bring claims.
The law applies to all sexual abuse cases in California, by any individual against any individual. In other words, you can bring a claim if you were subject to medical and psychiatric sexual abuse or sexual abuse at the hands of anyone else. The new law is a significant step toward justice for survivals of sexual abuse.
If you or a loved one were subjected to medical or psychiatric sexual abuse, get ahold of the experienced lawyers at The Gomez Law Firm today. We will fight to see that justice is done. We have offices in San Diego, Solana Beach, Bakersfield, and San Luis Obispo, from which we serve survivors throughout California. Call us at (619) 237-3490 or send us a completely confidential email.
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