Patients in psychiatric facilities are some of the most vulnerable members of society. Many patients admitted to these institutions have histories of being prior victims of sexual abuse. Since psychiatric patients are emotionally vulnerable and often require assistance with basic tasks, sexual predators could take advantage of them and sexually or physically assault them. Due to the stigma associated with mental illnesses in society, many abused patients might feel isolated or neglected, and some might be afraid or otherwise incapable of speaking up.

If you have been abused while you were admitted to a mental institution, you shouldn't have to go through the process of recovery on your own. You have constitutional rights and could be able to receive compensation for the sexual violations perpetrated against you. If you are in Los Angeles, we at the Sex Crime Attorney are prepared to fight vigorously for your rights.

What is Psychiatric Sexual Abuse?

Psychiatric sexual abuse covers any sexually abusive acts committed by psychiatrists or any other mental health workers against a psychiatric patient. Similarly, the following behaviors can be considered psychiatric sexual abuse or grooming a psychiatric patient for sexual assault:

  • Humiliating patients

  • Manipulation

  • Disrespecting patients or failing to pay attention to what they have to say.

  • Withholding information

  • Making threats to withhold or discontinue therapy if sexual activities or associated discussions do not occur

  • Making threats to put a patient in the hospital when they don't consent to the sexual activities or talks

  • Encouraging reliance by hinting or declaring that the practitioner is the patient's primary or only source of assistance

Psychiatric sexual abuse is extremely damaging since it is committed by individuals or in setups where the patient hopes will be of help to them and where they are highly susceptible. It's a huge betrayal of their confidence and trust.

Most of those indicators of sexual assault can also be psychological, such as depression, social withdrawal, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, drug dependency, fear of being intimate, a loss of trust, and more. Patients receiving treatment or any other form of therapy for sexual assault may be molested again by these same people tasked with helping them.

Sexual Abuse in Psychiatric Institutions

Psychiatric centers are facilities designed to assist patients with psychological, behavioral, and mental health concerns while also providing them with a secure environment. Sadly, cases of sexual harassment and sexual violations in mental institutions have become a major concern, and authorities, academics, and the healthcare centers themselves haven't given close and thoughtful attention to these issues.

A patient in a psychiatric hospital is already in a delicate state, as they are constantly dealing with their mental issues and are always in need of care. Even though the facilities are intended to be a safe setting and shelter for patients with mental disorders, sometimes psychiatric institution staff exploit this weakness and sexually assault patients.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) is a mental health watchdog group that has looked into and uncovered abuse in the mental health sector. Based on current studies, the organization estimates that the prevalence of sexual offenses committed by psychiatrists is approximately 37 times higher than the prevalence of rape and other kinds of sexual harassment in the population at large.

The CCHR also recorded 21 reported sexual attacks against mental health patients in a single for-profit psychiatric-behavioral facility. The following are a few examples of the instances reported:

  • Two healthcare personnel were convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison for sexually assaulting patients

  • Two institutions are closed owing to accusations of sexual assault and other violations

  • A mental healthcare worker at a Florida Girls Juvenile Residential Center was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for sexually assaulting six young girls

In addition, a study of psychiatrists' and patients' sexual interactions established that:

  • 73 percent of psychiatrists who confessed to engaging in sexual relations with patients said it was for "romance" or "fun"

  • According to 19 percent of psychiatrists polled, the sexual contacts were intended to "improve the patient's self-esteem," provide a "compensatory emotional encounter for their patients," or simply a "lapse in judgment."

Psychiatrists are not the only ones who commit sexual abuse offenses. In residential mental health facilities as well as other rehabilitation programs across the country, various mental healthcare practitioners and psychiatrists have assaulted their mentally ill patients.

Why are Psychiatric Patients Susceptible to Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse and harassment have become an unspoken but prevalent phenomenon at mental institutions as well as residential treatment programs, particularly when compared to other settings that have histories of abuse. In 1976, the essay "Rape accusations in psychiatric hospitals: Institutional dynamics in crisis" appeared in the Journal of Mental Health Administration, and it was the first time this topic of sexual assault against psychiatric patients was mentioned in scholarly literature.

Even though there is no specific cause for the increased occurrence of sexual assault in mental institutions, one major factor would be that psychiatric institutions in the United States place a great emphasis on reducing restraints for patients and stopping suicide.

Even though sexual assault by facility workers as well as other patients is significantly more common than suicides in psychiatric hospitals, these facilities do not place much of their focus on such offenses.

Another significant element is that most inpatients suffer from serious mental diseases. The following are examples of mental illnesses:

  • Psychosis

  • Psychiatric illnesses

  • Mania

  • Substance abuse

  • Dementia

  • Intellectual impairment

  • Personality disorders

  • Anxiety problems

  • Bipolar disorders

These mental conditions can put inpatients in danger because they might cause decreased consciousness, hypersexual emotions, or poor judgment, making it very difficult for them to remember and report the abuse.

Even as psychiatric care institutions and individual therapy treatment centers are supposed to help defend every patient, including teenagers, adolescents, small children, older kids, young adults, and adults, questionable sexual conduct in the current world has put mental health patients in grave danger. Patients may not even realize they are being sexually abused while it is happening, making them ideal targets for sexual abuse.

Another challenge that emerges in the realm of psychiatric treatment is that whenever victims of sexual abuse come forward to make a complaint or pursue charges, law enforcement officials frequently conclude that they are untrustworthy informants, even when the victims give solid evidence.

Patients may develop additional behavioral disorders, substance misuse problems, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of this. Additionally, medical personnel frequently lack specialized training and incorrectly believe that reporting abuse will result in authorities blaming them or dragging them into legal lawsuits.

Finally, save for a few examples, mental institutions are generally isolated environments, making it difficult to conduct more research, inquiries, and evaluations.

Psychiatry Facility Sex Abuse Cases

While the frequency of sexual abuse cases and incidents of sex abuse in psychiatric hospitals and assisted living facilities is probably underreported, a few examples have recently made the news. Below are some examples:

  • Five women, along with a young girl who was in her adolescence, came out to say they were sexually abused while at the Timberlawn hospital in the state of Texas. According to the charges, another patient entered their hospital rooms and assaulted them. The accusations were reported in 2014, and state hospital officials have placed the institution on probation

  • Juan Valencia, a mental health employee at a psychiatric hospital in Ventura County, pleaded guilty to sexual violations against certain female patients at the facility. Despite Valencia's six-year sentence, the young women filed a lawsuit against Aurora Vista del Mar Hospital as well as its mother company, Signature Healthcare Services which is based in Michigan, in 2019. They allege that the corporation recruited Valencia despite his criminal background and that the facility failed to adequately monitor him as he practiced at the mental health clinic

  • In 2009, federal authorities discovered a trend of sexual abuse among psychiatric patients in a unit at the Kings County Hospital Center, a hospital run by the city of Brooklyn

  • Prosecutors in Memphis, Tennessee, have charged Jarvis Beck and Nigel Johnson, former employees at Saint Francis Hospital, with felony rape. The two offenders took turns sexually assaulting a 15-year-old patient undergoing inpatient treatment care for suicidal behavior

  • Robert Havens worked as an employee at the Brattleboro Retreat in Brattleboro, Vermont. He was detained after a 16-year-old female patient was sexually abused while undergoing treatment at the facility. According to the victim, they did not have any sex, but she recalled that sexual acts occurred between her and Havens, who was one of the few people she trusted

What is Sexual Abuse?

As evidenced by the preceding text, sexual abuse doesn't always have to include rape or penetrative sex. Sexual abuse is defined by the American Psychological Association as "unwelcome sexual behavior performed by perpetrators who use force, threaten victims, or take advantage of victims who are unable to give permission." It's important to remember that any inappropriate touching or activities between a young person and a grown-up are regarded as sexual abuse.

The majority of sexual abuse victims know their abusers, and the sexual abuse can comprise both touching and non-touching acts. Touching someone sexually, coercing a victim into touching another person sexually, or coercing a victim into watching sexual acts are all examples of sexual abuse.

In 2012, the FBI redefined rape as "any penetration, regardless of how minimal, of the vaginal or anus with any part of the body or instrument, or oral penetration by someone else's sex organ, without the victim's consent." It is important to remember that minors cannot express consent in any form.

Patients at residential care institutions who are on a medication regimen may be subjected to sexual abuse and violence. Sexual abuse includes several criminal activities, such as inappropriate touching, caressing, stroking or fondling, grabbing, or coercing a victim into touching their abuser sexually.

Sexual violence encompasses more than just sexual assault. Constant coercion of the victim, harsh comments, reputational threats, empty promises, and other methods of coercion can all be used to push a victim into sexual activity. Nonintrusive forms of sexual assault may include the abuser exposing him or herself, secretly observing others while they are undressed, catcalls, whistling, and other actions that objectify and take advantage of women as well as other victims.

Perpetrators of Sexual Abuse in Psychiatric Treatment Centers

A perpetrator could be anybody who has regular interaction with patients in psychiatric treatment facilities. They may include employees, hospital workers, medical social workers, doctors, healthcare providers, and personnel, as well as other psychiatric patients. Healthcare facilities are often understaffed and underfunded, resulting in ineffective managerial practices and a high level of patient susceptibility.

Psychiatric patients need to be able to believe that they're in safe hands as they seek assistance in regaining their mental health. Sadly, some at the hospital exploit the patients' weaknesses for several reasons.

Liability for Psychiatric Treatment Sexual Abuse

Survivors of sexual assault have constitutional protections that enable them to hold perpetrators accountable. Victims can pursue legal action against the following entities in addition to the perpetrators themselves:

The Psychiatric Institution

The psychiatric institution has a responsibility to safeguard and make sure its patients are well protected. These responsibilities include properly vetting personnel, running comprehensive background screenings (especially criminal history checks), and putting in place supervision mechanisms to prevent exploitation. When a psychiatric institution fails to adopt these precautions and any of their patients is sexually abused, the institution could be held accountable for the patient's assault.

The Hospital

If a hospital or mother company runs the mental facility, they may be held accountable as well. According to the law, hospitals must have measures in place to protect and safeguard patients from any form of abuse. If there is sexual abuse, victims may hold the hospital responsible for the injuries caused.

The Facility's Supervisors

Supervisors are required by protocol to ensure patients are safe from personnel as well as other patients. A supervisor who was aware or had reasonable grounds to suspect somebody was sexually assaulting an inpatient and did nothing about it could be held accountable.

Your matter could be subject to both federal and state law. If you or someone close to you has been a sexual abuse victim, it is critical that you seek legal advice from a competent sexual abuse attorney.

How Psychiatric Facilities Can Protect Their Patients From Sexual Abuse

As previously stated, the law mandates that mental treatment centers establish specified practices and regulations to guarantee their patients' safety. Among these responsibilities are:

  • Providing proper protection for patients

  • Preventing any type of sexual assault against patients by establishing preventative mechanisms (that is, making sure that hospital personnel, members of staff, and other patients are not people who have been convicted as sex offenders previously and aren't engaging in sexual problematic conduct)

  • Creating and enforcing policies to protect patients from sexual abuse

  • Having adequate security around the psychiatric institution establishment

  • Developing and constantly enforcing sexual abuse prevention training for staff

  • Designing policies that allow personnel, members of staff, patients, and also the patients' families to disclose any alleged abuse or abuse cases

To effectively protect their patients, psychiatric clinics must adhere to all of the responsibilities listed above. The facilities' management and leadership should also make some effort to fight for more funding.

With additional funding, facilities can enhance their employment methods and avoid understaffing, which sometimes leads to abuse going undetected or unreported. More financing will allow facilities to recruit more personnel to properly manage the institutions and develop proper security protocols, which will have a significant influence on inpatient security.

Additionally, the institutions must provide proper training for their personnel and employees. Again, staff must be trained on how to recognize sexual abuse incidents in psychiatric hospitals, how to avoid it, and how to assist victims of sexual abuse.

What Steps Should You Take If You Were Sexually Abused at a Psychiatric Treatment Facility?

If you or someone close to you was sexually abused by psychiatrists, hospital personnel, or others during their stay at a psychiatric medical center, you have constitutional rights to seek restitution from the perpetrator and the facility that allowed the assault to occur.

The most important thing is to make sure you're safe. Get any medical assistance you may require to ensure your wellbeing and have any wounds or injuries examined. Sexual assault treatment clinics can also assist you in recovering from any mental distress caused by the unfortunate event.

The next action is to report the incident to law enforcement agencies. Using this report, you may be able to file civil and criminal complaints against the perpetrator and also make civil claims against the psychiatric facility.

To back up your claim, you'll need to acquire all the necessary proof, such as:

  • Medical expenses, health records, as well as other medical costs

  • Any costs associated with treatment

  • Any wages that have been lost

  • Any notes from treatment that describe the misery and distress you've experienced. These could be non-economic damages

  • Other information that may be relevant in determining the amount of compensation to which you are entitled

This might sound like a daunting task, which is why you should seek the assistance of a sexual abuse lawyer to guide you through the complicated legal proceedings. You don't need to walk through the process alone.

California Time Limits for Filing a Sexual Abuse Claim

California, as with all states, has a deadline for bringing sexual assault and abuse lawsuits to civil court. The time constraint is referred to as the "statute of limitations." With just a few exceptions, when you exceed your filing date, the courts in California will deny you monetary compensation.

In California, the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases was amended. The time limit for victims who were under 18 years old at the moment of the assault has been extended until the 40th birthday of the victim under the new statute. Young victims have been given until they are 40 years old or till they find out that their psychological trauma is linked to sexual abuse during their childhood to submit a lawsuit.

Legal actions that were formerly restricted under the previous limitation period will now have a three-year time window under the state laws. If the sexual abuse victim is over 18, he or she will have 10 years from the day of the previous sexual abuse to initiate a legal lawsuit, as per the California Code of Civil Procedure. In California, nevertheless, a sexual misconduct complaint has a one-year limitation period from the day of the last incident of harassment.

Compensation for Sexual Abuse

Even though no sum of cash could ever compensate for what transpired or compensate you for your losses, seeking compensatory damages through a sexual assault lawsuit can bring several essential advantages. It has the potential to make a perpetrator liable for the crime, providing you with justice, acceptance, and peace. This could assist you in healing, processing your experiences, and moving on with your life.

Pursuing a case against someone or something can also warn your community about the dangers of sex assault inside institutions like psychiatric facilities. It can advocate for institutional improvements that could help prevent others from suffering the same misfortune as you.

Lastly, an agreement or a favorable jury verdict may be able to reimburse you for costs and losses incurred as a result of the violation, such as:

  • Medical bills from the past and the future

  • Medications

  • Psychotherapy

  • Lost future earning capability

  • Psychological pain and emotional suffering

  • Relocation

  • Loss of wages or employment privileges

  • Suffering and pain

  • Legal fees and expenses

When a loved one dies as a result of sexual abuse, his or her living members of the family and dependents may be entitled to compensation for the deceased's losses, as well as for the family's sorrow and burial and funeral expenses. Contact your sexual abuse lawyers today to assess how much your claim may be worth.

Find a Los Angeles Psychiatric Treatment Sexual Abuse Attorney Near Me

If you were subjected to sexual abuse while at a psychiatric facility in Los Angeles, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the perpetrators and hold them accountable for their actions. It doesn't matter when or where you were abused sexually; our attorneys at Sex Crime Attorney want to hear your story. We understand how tough it is to come out with reports of sexual abuse. However, we can help you as you seek justice and get the compensation you deserve. Call us at 424-835-9799 today to speak to one of our attorneys.