We place an immense amount of trust in our doctors. A doctor’s visit comes at a sometimes-desperate time in your life when you’re ill or hurting and need answers. You rely on your doctor to put you back on the path to wellness.
Sadly, some physicians abuse this power dynamic. Doctors who exploit this dynamic through sexual abuse can traumatize their victims for years, sometimes without facing real punishment. Doctor-patient sexual abuse can take many forms including inappropriate touching of sexualized body parts unrelated to the exam, trading prescription drugs for sexual favors, and more.
While not a regular occurrence, this abuse still occurs too often, and we have enough reported incidents to have data on doctor-patient sexual abuse. Some of the saddening numbers include:
- Women comprise most of the victims. Nearly 90 percent of sexual abuse reports come from female victims.
- If it can happen once, it will likely happen again. Research shows that repeat abuses occurred in more than 95 percent of cases and 88 percent of cases involved multiple forms of abuse. Studies show that abuses commonly occur over multiple years.
- There is a profile of an abuser. Of 101 doctor-patient sexual abuse cases, the abusers were all men and more than 9-of-10 were over age 39 and worked in a private practice.
- Abuse incidents are likely under reported. Just 1-in-4 women go to the police with sexual abuse allegations against their doctor and may be unsure if they experienced abuse or an uncomfortable medical exam.
- Doctors may continue practicing after sexual abuse investigations. While more than two-thirds of doctors in sexual abuse cases were not board certified, just 25 percent of certified doctors lost their certification.
You shouldn’t have to suffer in silence
Someone must hold your doctor accountable for exploiting their relationship with you. Too often it’s the victim and not the abuser that deals with the long-term effects of the abuse. Fighting the battle by yourself may be overwhelming but there are people who want to help you achieve justice.