Psychiatric Treatment Facility Sex Abuse Lawyer

Sexual abuse is a heinous crime that can occur during an individual’s stay at a psychiatric treatment facility. If you or someone you love has been sexually abused at such a facility, you may contact our sex abuse lawyers at Edwards Pottinger for help in seeking compensation.

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Key Takeaways

  • Sexual abuse in psychiatric treatment facilities may be more likely to occur due to the vulnerable conditions of the patients who are struggling with mental health issues.
  • Psychiatric facilities have a responsibility to protect the safety of their patients. If they do not, survivors can file a civil lawsuit against the treatment center for negligence.
  • A psychiatric treatment facility sex abuse lawsuit can help survivors seek compensation for their losses.

Sexual Abuse In Psychiatric Treatment Facilities

Psychiatric institutions are regarded as safe facilities where patients suffering from mental health conditions receive treatment and care. Unfortunately, the vulnerability of the patients residing in these facilities may even make them susceptible to abuse. They may have challenges speaking up about their experience which may make it easier for the abuse to continue.

If you or a loved one has suffered from sexual abuse while undergoing psychiatric treatment or under the care of a psychiatric facility, you do not have to suffer alone. The sex abuse lawyers of Edwards Pottinger are dedicated to protecting the rights of survivors and helping them obtain recovery of damages for the harm endured. Contact our psychiatric treatment facility sex abuse lawyers for a free and confidential case evaluation.

How Common is Psychiatric Treatment Facility Sex Abuse?

Patients undertaking treatment for mental health conditions may be vulnerable to abuse when in the care of a psychiatric facility. Studies examining psychiatric treatment facility sex abuse report a 50-80% prevalence rate of sexual and physical abuse of mental health patients. Studies conducted by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) show that the rate of sex abuse by psychiatrists is 37 times greater than the rate of such abuse among members of the general public.

The CCHR recently found widespread patient sexual abuse at for-profit psychiatric-behavioral hospitals, including 21 instances of patient sexual assault in one chain of behavioral facilities. In another instance, a member of the hospital staff admitted to sexual misconduct and was added to the state’s list of convicted sex offenders.

Further surveys reveal that 73% of psychiatrists who acknowledged engaging in sexual activity with patients said it was done for “love.” According to 19% of the psychiatrists polled, having sex with a patient was done to improve the patient’s self-esteem, provide them with a restitutive emotional experience, or was just a mistaken judgment call.

Why Sexual Abuse May Be More Common in Psychiatric Treatment Centers

Sexual abuse in psychiatric facilities has always been a matter of concern, going all the way back to the era of asylums. Because this problem is still unspoken in our community, psychiatric facilities tend to put a larger portion of their focus on preventing inpatient suicide than sexual abuse.

The persistence of sex abuse in psychiatric treatment centers can largely be attributed to patients’ struggle with mental health issues that leave them vulnerable to coercion, manipulation, and force. Psychiatric disorders pose a high-risk factor for patients as they can cause loss of consciousness and impaired judgment, making it difficult for the survivors to remember and report the abuse.

One of the biggest concerns for survivors of sexual abuse in mental health treatment centers relates to presumptions made by law enforcement officials who deem the witnesses who come forward to pursue charges as unreliable.

Due to the widespread nature of sexual abuse in mental health treatment facilities and the lack of proper help afterward, sex abuse continues to be a challenging issue. Below, we have outlined some recent cases of psychiatric treatment center sexual abuse:

Aurora Vista del Mar Hospital

In 2019, a young woman filed a lawsuit against Aurora Vista del Mar Hospital and its parent organization, Michigan-based Signature Healthcare Services. She contended that the corporation hired Juan Valencia despite his history of sexual offenses. Valencia was a mental health worker at the psychiatric institution in Ventura County who admitted to having sex with female patients. According to the lawsuit, he was not properly supervised while working at the facility.

Brattleboro Retreat

Robert Havens worked as a mental health professional at the Brattleboro Retreat in Brattleboro, Vermont. Authorities detained Havens after it was reported that he sexually molested a patient at the facility who was under the age of 16. The survivor stated that the abuse “felt like a relationship” where they performed “sexual actions,” citing Havens as one of the only people the patient trusted.

Timberlawn Hospital

Five women, including a 13-year-old girl, reported experiencing sexual abuse while receiving medical care at the Timberlawn Hospital in Texas. According to the charges, a different patient entered their hospital room and sexually assaulted them. The father of the 13-year-old patient filed a lawsuit on her behalf against the hospital. The facility has since closed after it faced the possibility of the state revoking its license as a result of the claims which go all the way back to 2014.

Who is Responsible for Sexual Abuse in Psychiatric Treatment Facilities?

There is a general expectation of safety and care when patients enter the care of psychiatric staff, such as therapists, psychiatrists, physicians, and hospital staff members. The patients must be able to trust that they are safe when seeking help to achieve their goals of mental and psychological well-being. However, hospitals and mental health facilities are often underfunded and understaffed, leading to poor oversight procedures and high risk to patients.

A psychiatric treatment facility may be held liable for failing to provide a reasonable duty of care, resulting in the sexual abuse of a patient. Some common examples of such institutional negligence include:

  • Failure to provide adequate safeguards for patients
  • Failure to take preventative measures to prevent any form of sexual abuse against patients, like conducting background checks on its employees
  • Failure to implement proper security in the facility
  • Failing to educate employees, staff members, patients and their family members on how to report sexual abuse or suspected sex abuse
  • Failure to report sexual abuse or suspected sex abuse

Psychiatric treatment facility sex abuse survivors have the right to hold their perpetrators accountable for their crimes. Survivors can undertake legal action against the psychiatric facility or hospital for negligence.

What To Do if You Were Sexually Abused in a Psychiatric Treatment Facility

When dealing with the aftermath of any sexual assault, it may be difficult to gather your thoughts to think of the next steps. It is, however, important to remember to visit a medical professional who can assess all of your injuries and document the abuse. You may also consider visiting a sex abuse treatment center to help you work towards recovering from the emotional trauma.

Next, you would want to file a report with your local authorities. This can help hold your abuser criminally responsible for their actions. However, in order to hold the facility accountable, you should also consider filing a sex abuse lawsuit. This process may include gathering evidence of the sexual assault.

Since this may seem overwhelming after a distressing experience, it may work well for you to consult with an experienced sexual abuse lawyer who can advise you on the steps required to file a psychiatric treatment facility sex abuse lawsuit. A civil sex abuse lawsuit can help survivors obtain compensation for losses, such as mental and emotional trauma and any relevant medical bills and therapy bills.

Contact a Psychiatric Treatment Facility Sex Abuse Lawyer

Our psychiatric treatment facility sexual abuse attorneys at Edwards Pottinger are nationally recognized for their work in sex abuse lawsuits against influential people and powerful entities. We are committed to obtaining justice for you so you may focus on moving forward from the trauma.

If you or a loved one has been sexually abused in a psychiatric care facility, contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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