The idea of a doctor grooming patients may sound absurd to some, but it is a terrifying reality for many women. Over the last few years, more and more victims have come forward with claims that their doctor sexually assaulted them.
Michigan State University has spent nearly $500 settling claims against former sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar.
Former Columbia University Gynecologist Robert Hadden has reportedly abused patients for over 20 years.
Doctors hold positions of power and esteem in our society. Doctors are trusted and respected, and often doctors are the last hope for patients struggling with rare or deadly conditions.
Most doctors are respectable, honorable, and committed to the care of their patients, but some abuse their position of power for self-gratification at the expense of others.
A 2017 analysis that examined instances where physicians in the U.S. had sexually abused patients found that all 101 cases involved physicians who were men, nearly all of whom were over the age of 39 (92%), working in private practice (94.1%), and had been born in the U.S. (84.2%), reported James DuBois, PhD, ScD, of Washington University in St. Louis, and colleagues in the Sage Journals article Sexual Abuse.
Typically, most physicians in these cases (70%) were not board certified — although three-quarters of those who were certified remained so while under investigation.
This is an absolutely terrible tragedy, and a failure of the healthcare system.
We urge you to contact the sexual assault attorneys at Merson Law PLLC if you were sexually assaulted or coerced by your doctor.
How Predatory Doctors Groom Patients
Predatory doctors, like other sexual predators, often use their position of power to manipulate or coerce victims.
It is alleged that Ricardo Cruciani, a former neurologist for Drexel University and Beth Israel Medical Center, blackmailed patients. Cruciani specialized in rare pain disorders and was one of only a few doctors in the New York area that could treat these disorders. According to his victims, Cruciani coerced patients into sexual acts with the implicit threat that he would end their treatments if they declined his advances. This is a horrific example of a doctor grooming patients.
Some predatory doctors may try to convince patients that inappropriate actions are actually part of a routine examination or special procedure.
Robert Hadden allegedly preyed upon young and unsuspecting victims. As a gynecologist, patients already understood that he would examine and touch them, but Hadden likely tried to blur the lines between accepted medical practice and sexual assault.
In a previous article, we covered what to expect from a gynecologist appointment.
It can be difficult to identify sexual assault in the moment, especially in a medical setting, and especially when you already entrust your doctor to examine you and touch you.
Identifying Grooming or Abusive Behaviors
It can be difficult to properly identify these behaviors in a doctor, or to fully understand when something crosses the line. It’s important to remember that you have the right to expect certain protections in a medical setting, including:
- Asking the doctor to stop doing anything that makes you uncomfortable
- Asking that someone else be in the room during your exam, including a friend, family member, or another healthcare professional such as a nurse
- Asking for a doctor who is the same gender as you
- Privacy when changing clothes and during the exam
- Having questions answered about what the staff are doing
- Provide information to you in the language you speak
- Asking the doctor to stop if something hurts
You should also have an understanding of what a doctor shouldn’t do, like:
- Examining your private areas without gloves
- Refusing to stop doing something that makes you uncomfortable
- Refusing to explain what they are doing
- Refusing to allow another person in the room
- Insisting that you undress the body areas under examination
- Asking inappropriate questions about your sexual activity
You should ask questions about what a doctor is doing during an exam if necessary. And you have the right to expect an answer.
What to do When a Doctor Touches You Inappropriately
It is within your rights to call the police if you were sexually assaulted by a doctor. We understand however that many victims do not wish to do so, as investigation into crimes of sexual assault can be triggering or traumatic to victims.
Still, if you feel as though you are able to do so, it may be in your best interest, and in the interest of other potential victims, to contact the police to report this crime. As more survivors come forward and make this issue know, we will get closer and closer to a world where a doctor grooming patients is only a scary story.
It is also important for you to retain the services of a sexual assault lawyer if you wish to pursue legal action.
Sexual predators often deny accusations and use the legal system to silence victims. Having an attorney on your side can help you defend yourself against this.
If you are looking to sue your assailant, you will certainly need the help of an attorney, as your assailant will almost certainly retain their own lawyers to defend themselves in court.
The sexual assault lawyers at Merson Law PLLC are available and ready to help you with your legal needs. Call us today for a free consultation or to speak with our in-house physician.