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More than 1,200 sexual assault survivors helped since 2023.
More than 1,200 sexual assault survivors helped since 2023.

Doctor Sexual Assault: Patient Rights and Reporting Options

Video Transcript

Today we’re addressing the very important and deeply troubling topic of sexual assault by doctors and medical professionals. This breach of trust can have lasting effects on individuals who often do not realize what happened to them in the moment and how to label their experience. In this video, we’re going to discuss what constitutes doctor sexual abuse and assaults, some notable cases that have made headlines recently, and most importantly, what you can do if you or someone has been affected. Sexual assault by a doctor includes any unwanted sexual contact or behavior that occurs in a medical setting. Some examples include touching intimate areas without gloves, performing unnecessary, gynecological, or other types of procedures, especially of intimate areas causing unnecessary pain during a medical procedure or sexually assaulting a patient while they are under a sedative. Many individuals who experienced this form of harm do not realize it in the moment.

They often cite feeling that things happen normally at first, but then became harmful, such as a normal gynecological exam, or the doctor then does something medically unexplainable or unexpected, or that they did not label it as sexual abuse in the moment due to the inherent trust in medical professionals. In recent years, several high profile cases have brought attention to this issue. Dr. Larry Nassar, a former USA gymnastics team doctor was convicted of sexually abusing hundreds of young athletes under his care under the guise of medical treatment. He was convicted of several crimes and is currently serving a total of over 100 years in prison. The survivors of his abuse sued the USA gymnastics organization and reached a $380 million settlement for the survivors in 2021. Another horrific case involved Dr. Hadden, a former New York based gynecologist. He was found liable of sexually assaulting hundreds of women under his care as his patients at Columbia University and New York Presbyterian Hospital.

The hospital that Hadden worked for had to pay $236 million in damages to settle civil lawsuits by patients who had been subject to his abuse. If you or someone has experienced what you believe to be doctor or medical sexual abuse, you have rights and options. First, it is most important that you are physically and psychologically safe and away from the situation. If you haven’t already, you should document everything you remember about the experience. This includes what you remember about what happened, who was involved, the date and time, and how it made you feel. From there, we highly recommend contacting a lawyer who specializes in doctor sexual abuse cases. They can help you understand what happens, create a plan of action, and help draft any reports or documents necessary. Typically, the next step in the process is filing a report with the medical board or institution that employs the individual.

While you do not need a lawyer to do this, it can be incredibly helpful to have someone there to support you during this process and capture the most important information when filing a report. It’s critical to keep documentation of your initial report, their response, and any communication between you and the hospital or medical board. From there, a lawyer can help you understand your best options, including potentially filing a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator or the medical institution for the harm that happened to you. In the last few years, victims have come forward with their experiences and have helped stop repeat perpetrators who often have hundreds or thousands of victims due to their powerful positions in inherent trust. While the headlines have started to shed light on the serious issue, there are thousands of more people impacted by Doctor sexual assault each year, and they deserve to know that help is available. Here at Helping Survivors we can help you understand your experience and connect you with experienced law firms who can get you the help you need and deserve.

Featured in this Video

Kathryn Kosmides

Survivor Advocate of Helping Survivors