Sexual Abuse by Medical Professionals: Everything You Need to Know

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Few wrongs are as cruel as sexual abuse—especially when perpetrated by a person you trust. And in our society, almost no one garners as much implicit trust as a medical professionalHospital Bed in Medical Practice

The reality is that gaining medical knowledge and expertise is hard-won. It takes years of education and training to become proficient, and because of that, we automatically assume our doctors know what’s best for us. Unfortunately, some medical professionals abuse that trust, and when they do, they need to be held accountable.

The best way to bring sexual predators to justice is through criminal proceedings, where they will be tried and sentenced. Although putting an abuser in prison can offer relief and a sense of closure to victims, it doesn’t do anything to compensate them for their pain. Luckily, victims of sexual abuse can also file civil lawsuits against their abusers and pursue compensation

If you’ve suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a medical professional, you need to understand that there is hope: Hope for healing, for justice, and for financial restitution. This article will explain everything you need to know about filing a civil sexual abuse lawsuit and how a compassionate personal injury attorney can guide you through the process.

Why Does Sexual Abuse by Medical Professionals Occur?

Sexual abuse by medical professionals is a pervasive issue in our society, affecting individuals across demographics. Research suggests that sexual abuse committed by medical professionals goes vastly unreported, even in comparison to other types of sexual abuse. As a result, determining its exact prevalence is extremely challenging. 

It’s important to understand that sexual abuse is not limited to a specific medical field. It can occur in any health care setting and can be perpetrated by a wide variety of medical professionals, from doctors and nurses to therapists and dentists. 

Although countless factors contribute to its occurrence, research suggests that a few play larger roles than others. These include the inherent power dynamic between patient and provider, the vulnerability of patients during a medical procedure, and general reluctance to come forward. Many victims choose not to report the abuse because they are afraid of the repercussions or they feel shame about being a victim. Others simply assume that no one will believe them. 

Types of Sexual Abuse by Medical Professionals

Sexual abuse by medical professionals can take a variety of forms, from verbal harassment to physical assault. While some types of abuse are easy to recognize, others are more difficult to spot. Here are a few of the most common forms: 

  • Verbal abuse. Sexual abuse doesn’t always involve physical contact. In some cases, it occurs when a medical professional makes sexually explicit comments, innuendos or unwelcome advances.
  • Non-consensual touching. In some cases, sexual abuse occurs when a medical professional touches a patient inappropriately without their consent during an examination or procedure. It may include touching a patient’s intimate areas or engaging in unnecessary physical content. 
  • Invasion of privacy. Some medical professionals use hidden cameras or other invasive methods to watch or record their patients for sexual gratification nonconsensually. This sort of exploitation is also a form of sexual abuse. 
  • Sexual assault. In the most extreme cases, a medical provider will subject patients to non-consensual sexual acts, molestation or rape—all forms of sexual assault with devastating consequences for the victim. 

No matter what form it takes, sexual abuse by health care professionals is a gross violation of medical ethics and the law. Victims of sexual abuse often face lifelong consequences that take a massive toll on their quality of life. That’s why it’s critical that perpetrators are held fully accountable for their crimes. 

How to File a Civil Sexual Assault Lawsuit in California

Although criminal proceedings are necessary and beneficial, they don’t provide financial restitution to victims. Luckily, California law allows any victim of sexual assault or abuse to file a civil lawsuit to pursue monetary compensation from their abuser. Civil lawsuits can be brought whether or not the victim pressed criminal charges or reported the abuse. 

In order to file a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse, victims only need to be willing to testify under oath about the facts relating to the sexual abuse. This testimony is typically supported by evidence such as medical records illustrating injuries resulting from the abuse or testimony from factual witnesses

Although sexual abuse lawsuits are public records, a victim’s name won’t necessarily be. That’s because California’s rules of civil procedure allow victims of sexual abuse to conceal their identities in publicly filed court documents. In place of their full name, these documents may simply refer to the victim by their initials or by Jane Doe. 

Suing a Third Party in Sexual Abuse Cases

Ideally, a plaintiff would be able to collect compensation directly from the individual who harmed them. However, doing so isn’t always the best option for plaintiffs, or even possible (if the would-be defendant has died). Unless a defendant is very wealthy, the plaintiff is unlikely to receive the amount of compensation they deserve. 

It often makes more sense for a plaintiff to pursue a lawsuit against a third party with deep pockets, such as a hospital, organization, church or organization. All of these can be held liable if the victim is able to prove they were somehow negligent in preventing or stopping the sexual abuse. 

Evaluating Settlements in Sex Abuse Lawsuits

When evaluating California sexual abuse lawsuits, a court will take a variety of factors into account. These factors help to determine the most appropriate settlement amount and include the following: 

  • Strength of the plaintiff’s evidence
  • Severity of the alleged abuse
  • Statute of limitations on the alleged crime
  • Breadth of the victim’s damages
  • Extent of organizational liability
  • Financial resources of the defendant 

Although not directly evaluated by the court, perhaps the most important factor in determining the final settlement award is the quality of the plaintiff’s lawyer. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you pursue a wide range of damages, including compensation for medical expenses, therapy, lost wages, pain and suffering and more. 

Case Barnett Law: Compassionate Legal Advocates for Survivors of Medical Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse by medical professionals is a pervasive issue in our culture, and the ramifications can’t be overstated. Too often, abuse victims carry the burden of their recovery alone, unable to access the resources they need for recovery. 

If you’ve endured sexual abuse at the hands of a medical professional, we want you to understand that you have legal options. Even if you never reported the abuse to the authorities, you can still seek compensation from your abuser in a civil lawsuit. 

Ready to learn more? The compassionate injury attorney team at Case Barnett Law is here to answer your questions. Call us at (949) 409-0055 or contact us online to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

Case C. Barnett
Costa Mesa Personal Injury Attorney practicing in child injury law, car accident injuries and elder abuse law
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