Sadly, sexual assault by health care providers is more common that we think. Recently, the country learned about a nurse who sexually assaulted a woman in a vegetative state at the facility where she resided. There have been many other instances of sexual assault of patients, like this one, and this one.

In these case, we tend to call the subjects of sexual assault “victims” because they were victimized and taken advantage by someone they trusted. However, they are survivors. In almost every case, the survivor did nothing wrong. Yet, in almost every case, the survivors remain quiet. They are gripped by fear, embarrassment, anxiety, depression, and hopelessness. Many of the survivors worry that no one will believe them. After all, many health care providers are backed by large, powerful corporations with armies of lawyers. Survivors also might fear public humiliation or an inquisition.

Some survivors might not think the violation was bad enough to come forward.

In health care, common forms of sexual assault include: forcible rape, molestation, improper touching, sexual harassment, using the power of their position to coerce patients into sexual situations, using the trust of their position to convince patients to engage in sexual relationships, and mismanagement of health care to preen victims.

If you survived a sexual assault by your health care provider, understand that your situation is not uncommon. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation identified more than 2,400 doctors who were disciplined for sexually assaulting patients. Also, it is unlikely you were the health care provider’s only victim. One pediatrician assaulted as many as 1,200 young patients. It is a predatory practice that needs to be stopped.

These health care providers will not stop victimizing patients unless the brave survivors come forward.

You do not have to do it alone.

An experienced lawyer can help guide you through your options. Generally, there are three independent paths. One is the criminal justice system, which begins by reporting the sexual assault to the police. The second is the administrative system, which begins by reporting the sexual assault to the health care provider’s licensing board. The last is the civil justice system, which begins by filing a lawsuit.

The first two systems are responsible for making sure the health care provider does not assault any other patients. The civil justice system exists to hold the health care provider, and their employer, accountable for their actions. It is there to provide financial compensation to cover the cost of medical care and therapy that may be associated with an incident of this kind, compensate you for the psychological trauma you experienced and may continue to experience, and to help you rebuild and move forward. 

Additionally, there are trained professionals to help you deal with the trauma and embarrassment, anxiety, and depression. We realize it can be daunting to trust another health care provider, especially with these sensitive issues, but a carefully chosen professional can make a huge difference in how this affects you.

If you were sexually assaulted by a health care provider, contact a lawyer now.

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