STOP ABUSE BY PROFESSIONALS
Our society must show that we will no longer accept violence against women.
Service Providers who are professionals may include: psychologists, clergy, social workers, nurses, physicians, counsellors, therapists, lawyers, teachers, and others.
While most professionals can be trusted, exploitation sometimes occurs in the professional relationship.
You have the right to receive services with an ethical professional.
Sexual Abuse By A Professional - What Is It?
It happens when a professional acts on his/her own sexual needs with a client, violating appropriate boundaries. It is a subtle and persuasive form of abuse.
Some ways a professional may exploit a client are with inappropriate sexual conversation, requests for dates or sexual involvement, sexually suggestive gestures, engaging in any form of sexual or romantic contact with a client such as kissing, touching breasts or genitals, and sexual intercourse.
Even if you agree, it is considered professional misconduct for a professional to treat you in a sexual way. Sexual contact with a professional cannot be helpful. Sexual abuse/sexual assault is a crime and is punishable by law.
Warning Signs That Boundary Violations May Happen or Are Happening
- the relationship feels ambiguous, confusing or uncomfortable
- you seem to have become the caretaker
- you are given special status as a client
- you are not being helped with the issues for which you sought assistance
- you are used as a confidant for personal support
Examples of Sexual Boundary Violations by Professionals
- discussing the professional's sex life
- insisting on touching during therapy as a central part of therapy
- being intensely interested in the details of the client's sex life or history
- undressing during therapy
- telling dirty jokes or showing pornographic material
- writing/sending love letters or encouraging you to do so
- making sexual comments about your body or appearance
- asking for dates
Examples of Other Types of Boundary Violations by Professionals
- breaches of confidentiality
- insurance fraud
- gives or accepts major gifts
- uses or offers alcohol or drugs during sessions
- borrows money or gets involved in business deals with you
- degrades, humiliates, intimidates or shames you
It is never the client's fault.
At no point are you 'stuck' with a counsellor. If your counselling doesn't feel right, talk to someone you can trust. You have the right to discuss the progress of your treatment/therapy with the professional involved. If the counselling doesn't meet your needs, change to a new counsellor - or call local community resources.
Remember, most agencies and professional bodies have formal complaint procedures for clients who believe that they have been abused or mistreated by their therapist. As of January 1994 several professions are regulated under the "Regulated Health Professionals Act" to report any reasonable suspicions of a professional being sexually involved with a client.
You can file a complaint against the professional
- with his/her supervisor or employer if he/she has one. Reprimand or dismissal may be the result;
- with his/her professional association if he/she belongs to one. Complaints may result in loss of membership.
- with the regulated health professions, for example, the Ontario College of Physicians or Surgeons for a medical doctor or psychiatrist - or the Ontario Board of Examiners in Psychology for a psychologist. Complaints may result in loss of license to practice.
- A formal complaint could be validation for you and may give protection to other clients.
File a civil lawsuit. Consult a lawyer, it may result in some financial compensation for damages and for therapy.
Bring a criminal complaint. Consult with your local police service. The success of a criminal complaint by an adult, will depend on the ability to prove whether consent occurred, but it is not a factor with children.
Local Community Resources
Family Counselling Line is now available 24/7
Family Counselling Centre
Distress Line 8 p.m. - midnight
Women' Interval Home
Sexual Assault Survivor's Centre
24 Hour Crisis Line 519-337-3320
Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centre
Victim Services of Sarnia-Lambton
519-344-8861 ext. 5238