In a ground-breaking decision on August 12 2019, a Ventura, California jury awarded $13.25 million to three women who were sexually assaulted by a staff member at the for-profit psychiatric facility, Aurora Vista del Mar Hospital in Ventura. The facility was sued, along with its parent company Signature Healthcare Services, for employing someone who had previously been convicted of statutory rape. The staff member was also convicted of sex crimes related to the three Vista patients, including rape of an incompetent person. The jury found Signature, which owns 15 other hospitals in six states, including Florida, acted with malice or oppression and, bore part of the responsibility in not taking action to prevent the harm. 
The mental health watchdog, Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) says the sexual assault of vulnerable patients in psychiatric-behavioral facilities and offices is a despicable but all too common occurrence. It’s a jarring reality that 7-10 percent of male psychiatrists and psychologists sexually abuse their patients, the group says.  It begs the question, as The Boston Globe once posed, “Why is psychiatry such a hotbed of sexual misconduct?”  The sexual crimes committed by psychiatrists are estimated at 37 times greater than rapes occurring in the general community, one U.S. law firm stated, estimating that about 150,000 female patients have been assaulted. 
Of 18 psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors convicted of crimes so far this year, 12 were for sexual crimes against patients, including sexual battery and child molestation. In many cases, their names will be added to the sexual offender register. Other convictions relate to illegal or dangerous prescribing of controlled substances and fraud.
In one case, a behavioral therapist was found guilty of second-degree rape, second-degree sodomy and six counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a 13-year-old autistic boy. The therapist was sentenced to 8 1/3 years in prison.  Combined, the mental health therapists face over 100 years in prison. An additional 21 mental health practitioners—two in Florida—have been charged this year.
CCHR says this culture of abuse is rife. In recent years CCHR has documented systemic patient sexual abuse in for-profit psychiatric-behavioral hospitals, including 21 incidents of patients, including children, being sexually assaulted in one chain of behavioral facilities.
• Two hospital staff were convicted and jailed for a combined 35 years over the sexual abuse of residents and two facilities closed down in the wake of sexual abuse incidents and other allegations. 
• A hospital staff member pleaded guilty to sexual abuse and was placed on the state’s convicted sex offender registry. 
• A mental health technician was sentenced to 25 years in prison for sexually abusing six girls at a Girls Juvenile Residential Facility in Florida. 
According to a U.S. national survey of therapist-client sex involving minors, one out of 20 clients who had been sexually abused by their therapist was a minor, the average age being 7 for girls and 12 for boys. The youngest child was three. 
This year, justice officials in court proceedings commented on the “position of trust” that mental health “professionals” violate when sexually abusing patients. In one case a State Attorney General also described the psychiatrist as using “his position of power and authority to rape and demean our victim. His predatory acts deserve nothing less than the maximum sentence. It is my sincere hope that the defendant will spend the rest of his life behind bars so he is not allowed to hurt anyone again.” 
Furthermore, those therapists who report having sex with their patients are often repeat offenders with some surveys noting over 50 percent of male therapists report sexual involvement with more than one patient.  A Canadian study put the repeat offenders at 80 percent and many had undergone personal analysis or psychotherapy in an unsuccessful effort to be rehabilitated. 
CCHR says that such treachery often occurs when the victim is already traumatized. One report by the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council in Australia revealed that 70 percent of women who end up in psychiatric hospitals have been victims of some form of sexual abuse. 
CCHR has successfully worked to obtain laws that ensure psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists and behavioral counselors are not above the law. Today, there are 32 criminal statutes in the U.S. that protect patients from therapist sexual assault. But CCHR International wants to see stronger penalties. The level of abuse also begs the question how such “well-trained” psychiatrists and psychologists, who know better than to sexually abuse patients, believe they have the license to violate this. It wants medical schools and colleges that may have taught such conduct, to equally share in the burden of legal responsibility.
CCHR encourages anyone who has knowledge of a psychiatrist, psychologist or psychotherapist sexually abusing patients to please report this in confidence to CCHR: https://www.cchrint-programs.org/acms/case/create. For more information visit www.cchrflorida.org or call 727-442-8820.
About CCHR: Initially established by the Church of Scientology and renowned psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Szasz in 1969, CCHR’s mission is to eradicate abuses committed under the guise of mental health and enact patient and consumer protections. L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology, first brought psychiatric imprisonment to wide public notice: “Thousands and thousands are seized without process of law, every week, over the ‘free world’ tortured, castrated, killed. All in the name of ‘mental health,’” he wrote in March 1969.
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