Psychiatric facilities are safe spaces where mental illness patients receive treatment. Unfortunately, some mental health patients often suffer sexual abuse from the hospital staff or other patients. Since mental health patients require constant help with basic life tasks, they can easily fall prey to the individuals tasked with helping them. As a result of the stigma surrounding mental health challenges in the United States, many patients who undergo sexual abuse feel frightened and may not open up about their ordeals.

If you or a loved one has suffered sexual abuse during psychiatric treatment, you have legal rights and could be entitled to compensation. Seeking compensation for sexual abuse can be challenging. This is because you will need to disclose the details of the traumatic ordeal. At Sex Crimes Attorney, we champion the rights of patients in mental health facilities and can help you sue the persons responsible for sexual abuse of your loved one in these facilities.

Overview of Sexual Abuse in Psychiatric Treatment Facilities

Individuals undergoing mental health issues may need to be confined in a psychiatric treatment facility to receive the care they need. Patients at these facilities are already undergoing mental challenges, making them vulnerable to different forms of abuse. Sexual abuse involves unwanted and non-consented sexual activity. Also, it is essential to understand that minors cannot consent to a sexual act. Therefore any sexual contact between a child and an adult is considered abuse.

In most cases, sexual abuse in these facilities is carried out by the facility's staff or even other patients. Doctors and other caregivers in mental health facilities are close to patients and could easily prey on their vulnerability. The following are some actions that constitute abuse or grooming for sexual abuse:

  • Manipulating or shaming the patients

  • Failure to listen to their complains

  • Threatening to terminate care is the sexual demands are not met

  • Lying or withholding information

  • Encouraging dependency which increases the patient's vulnerability

Psychiatric sexual abuse is damaging since the harm comes from people in a setting where the patient hopes to receive care. Additionally, many symptoms of sexual abuse are similar to those of mental illness. Therefore, it can be challenging to detect that the person is undergoing the abuse.

Symptoms of Sexual Abuse

When individuals choose to abuse a patient in psychiatric treatment sexually, they may behave in a manner that makes it challenging to be discovered. Even when a person is over eighteen years, individuals in psychiatric treatment facilities may not protect themselves against exploitation or harm effectively. Also, these individuals may be unable to realize that they are suffering abuse and thus fail to report it. Safeguarding vulnerable individuals in psychiatric treatment is the responsibility of all the employees and at the facility.

It can be challenging to identify when a patient is being abused, especially since most of these individuals are adults. Some adults could mask the signs of abuse for fear of the abuser. Some of the signs that could indicate that an individual is undergoing sexual abuse include:

  • Similar injuries occurring in the same part of the body

  • Physical injuries that have no explanation

  • Pain when sitting or walking

  • Becoming tearful, anxious, and withdrawn

  • Self-harm

  • Failure to communicate and being extremely secretive

  • Changes in their self-care skills

  • Behaving differently in the presence of a particular person

What to do When You Suspect Sexual Abuse in a Psychiatric Treatment Facility

An individual suffering from abuse could try to explain away their injuries or their behavior change. If you are a psychiatric facility employee or believe your loved one is suffering abuse while undergoing psychiatric treatment, you need to trust your instincts. You can begin the process of helping the alleged victim by:

  • Allowing the person to know that you have noticed a change in their behavior 

  • You need to listen to their explanation about the unusual changes carefully. Although they may be reluctant to talk, you should be patient.

  • It would be best to let the person know that whatever is happening is wrong and not their fault.

  • While you speak to the individual, you should ensure that they feel safe to talk to you. Opening about sexual abuse can be very challenging. Therefore, creating a safe space could help the victim open up more about their experience.

  • Report the issue. If you feel that an individual is still in danger of harm, you can report the matter to relevant authorities. Many sexual abuse cases occurring in psychiatric treatment facilities are not taken seriously by the police. However, you can still seek justice by filing a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator of the facility's abuse where the abuse occurred.

Mental Health Issues Resulting from Sexual Assault in Psychiatric Treatment

Individuals in psychiatric institutions are already going through mental issues, and an instance of sexual abuse could result in further damage. After sexual abuse, many survivors are taken away from reality and may feel like they are in a different body. Some people could feel shame, guilt, or blame themselves for the abuse. As a result of the negative emotions linked to sexual abuse, survivors may risk developing mental health conditions such as:

  1. Anxiety and Nervousness

Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, and self-doubt. Everyone feels some level of anxiety at a certain into in their lives. However, individuals who have undergone sexual abuse are at an increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Sometimes, anxiety causes obsessive and intrusive thoughts. Different people will portray the signs of anxiety differently. Some of the common signs of anxiety may include:

  • Restlessness

  • Fatigue

  • Irritability

  • Sleep problems

  • Difficulty focusing

  • Muscle tension

Although many factors could increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder, being in an abusive environment may heighten the feeling. If your loved one suddenly develops chronic fear and anxiety while undergoing psychiatric treatment, it may be a sign that they have undergone sexual abuse.

  1. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

An individual who has undergone sexual abuse could experience intense memories of the incident. PTSD is a common reaction for individuals who have undergone traumatic and stressful events at a point in their lives. Some people often experience PTSD through dreams and memories. Some of the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder include:

  • Avoidance of incidents that remind one of the traumatic events

  • Ignoring events or emotions that are related to the event

  • Flashbacks of the encounter

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Anger outbursts

  • Exaggerated negative beliefs

  • Lack of passion for activities that you previously enjoyed

  1. Depression

The loss of control of your life can be challenging to come to terms with. This could create a feeling of despair and lower the sense of self-worth. Depression is a common and severe condition associated with sexual abuse. An individual in psychiatric treatment could be very vulnerable to depression if they undergo sexual abuse. Common symptoms asocial=ted with depression include:

  • Feeling of worthlessness 

  • Anger

  • Anxiety

  • Unexplained ailments such as muscle pain and headaches

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Changes in eating habits

When individuals undergo depression, they can find it challenging to cope with daily life stresses. Simple activities like waking up from the bed and personal grooming could also become challenging.

  1. Personality Disorders

A personality disorder is a long-standing pattern of adaptive behavior or thoughts. Personality disorders often cause emotional disturbance and impairment in personal life when left untreated. Individuals who display signs of emotional disturbance may require treatment for this condition. Incidences of childhood or early adulthood trauma often contribute significantly to personality disorder development.

Sexual abuse in psychiatric facilities can worsen personality disorders like borderline personality. Most individuals who have undergone continuous abuse could develop these disorders to adapt to the abuse.

  1. Addiction

Research has shown that many individuals who have been victims of sexual abuse often result to drug use to help cope with the situation. When the issue is not quickly resolved, dependence on drugs could result in addiction. Most victims of sexual abuse will use drugs to escape their reality.

Liability for in a Sexual Abuse in Psychiatric Treatment

Patients in psychiatric facilities require extra care, attention, and supervision. One of the most significant reasons sexual abuse is prevalent in these facilities is the lack of supervision. With the increase in the number of patients in these facilities, the qualified staff is not enough. While trying to cover the gap, it is easy for sexual abusers to be near the patients and take advantage of them. When sexual abuse occurs in psychiatric treatment, liability for the abuse could fall on:

Other Patients

Sexual abuse of patients in mental institutions by other patients is a real problem in America's mental healthcare system. One factor that encourage this kind of abuse is that both male and female patients are often housed in the same facility. Although the adoption of single-sex wards may not completely eradicate abuse, it could reduce it significantly. If you or your loved one is a victim of sexual abuse by another patient in a mental health facility, you can file a claim to hold them accountable for their actions.

Staff Members

Staff members of psychiatric facilities have been known to sexually abuse patients. Most patients receiving treatment are dependent, and the staff helps them with the daily tasks. Sometimes, even the doctors and nurses in these facilities take advantage of the patient's vulnerability. Knowing that the patient's credibility may be dismissed based on their mental condition, the staff members could be confident that no legal action would be taken against them.

Abused patients may be unable to keeve the hospital or access phones to report the abuse. When abuse is reported to other staff members, they may fail to believe the victim or report the incident. By protecting their colleagues, the staff members allow the abuse and harm of the patients to continue.

The psychiatric facility

Psychiatric facilities are meant to be a safe space for individuals undergoing mental health complications to receive the treatment they need. These facilities have a liability to ensure that all the patients are safe from any form of harm while undergoing treatment. Unfortunately, many of these facilities have failed the patients and families by creating a conducive environment.

Many mental health facilities are understaffed or have unqualified staff interacting with their patients. If your loved one is a victim of sexual abuse in a psychiatric hospital, you can file a claim against the facility for their negligence. Allowing a patient to be harmed signifies that the facility has breached its duty of care.

Individuals who run psychiatric treatment facilities can help prevent sexual abuse by hiring qualified staff. Carrying out a background check on their staff is crucial in spotting potential sex predators. Also, taking the instances and reports of sexual abuse seriously would help hold the perpetrators accountable and avoid future incidences.

The law requires psychiatric facilities to develop policies and procedures that ensure that their staff is effectively trained to care for the patients. There is a clear consequence for misconduct.

Civil Lawsuit Against Psychiatric Sexual Abuse

America's mental healthcare facility is failing society. By failing to protect the patients in these facilities effectively, the instances of sexual abuse by staff members and other patients have increased significantly. It is common for psychiatric facilities to fail to investigate allegations of sexual abuse or deny them to protect their image. Patients need to be treated with respect, and they deserve justice when another patient, doctor, or staff member violates them sexually.

Since these treatment facilities are understaffed and underfunded, the environment attracts predators who can easily take advantage of the patients and violate them. When the health sector and the criminal justice fail psychiatric patients, the civil court could rescue them. Filing a civil lawsuit can help bring to justice the perpetrators of sexual abuse in mental health facilities. Also, you can hold the institutions accountable for their negligence.

A civil lawsuit helps create awareness of the abuse and demands these institutions to device protective measures to keep their patients safe. Additionally, victims can recover compensation for the losses and injuries resulting from the abuse. Civil lawsuits for sexual abuse in psychiatric treatment have a lower burden of proof when compared to criminal cases. In your lawsuit, you do not need to prove that the alleged perpetrator committed the act of sexual abuse without a reasonable doubt.

Even when no criminal charges are filed against the person who committed the abuse, you can recover compensation for the experience. However, a conviction in criminal court may help make claiming compensation easier. Some of the common compensation benefits available for victims of sexual abuse in psychiatric treatment include:

Past and Future Medical Expenses

An individual who commits sexual abuse to a patient in psychiatric treatment will be responsible for their medical expenses. Most instances of sexual abuse are forceful and may result in significant bodily injuries for the victims. Instances such as rape and penetration with foreign objects could leave serious physical wounds. Additionally, a victim could find themselves with sexually transmitted infections.

If you or a loved one has undergone sexual abuse in a mental health treatment facility, you need to ensure that you seek treatment for your injuries. Some injuries that result from sexual abuse may require you to have long-term conditions that require prolonged treatment.

Most facilities will not want to ruin their reputation by accepting liability for the abuse. Therefore, you may have to cover the medical expenses. If your lawsuit is successful, the compensation could include current and future medical expenses. Often compensation for medical expenses in a sexual abuse lawsuit will cover the following:

  • Emergency medical care

  • Prescription medications

  • Consultation with specialist

  • Surgeries

  • Rehabilitation

Psychological Therapy

Individuals in psychiatric treatment facilities are already undergoing mental health problems. A patient's condition could worsen if they are victims of sexual abuse in the facility. In addition to the medical treatment required to treat your physical injuries, you may need to undergo a further mental health assessment and counseling to recover from the trauma of the incident. When you file a lawsuit claiming compensation for sexual abuse, you can recover the amount you used to seek counseling and psychological therapy.

Lost Wages and Employment Benefits

Physical and emotional trauma resulting from sexual abuse can make it challenging for an individual to return to work even after a discharge from the psychiatric facility. In some situations, you could be forced to miss work for a while as you nurse the serious physical wounds resulting from the ordeal.

Lost wages are the amount you lose by failing to go to work as you deal with the effects of the abuse. When you file a civil suit for sexual abuse, you can recover compensation for the lost wages.

Pain and Suffering

Being a victim of sexual abuse could cause serious psychological and physical pain. Even when you do not have visible injuries, the nature of the ordeal could leave you with serious psychological trauma. It is common for individuals who have suffered sexual abuse in psychiatric facilities to experience depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or even suicidal thoughts.

When you file a civil suit against an abuser or the psychiatric facility, there is no limit to the amount you can recover for the pain and suffering you experience from the ordeal. Although monetary compensation cannot reverse the harm caused by sexual abuse, it can help you sort out other issues in your life and reduce further distress.

Legal Expenses and Attorney Fees

Liable parties do not automatically accept responsibility for the harm they cause you and your family once you bring a claim. Sometimes, you must battle through an extensive legal process to bring the perpetrators and other responsible parties to justice. When you navigate the claim, you will require the services of a competent sex crimes attorney.

Your attorney will help you collect the relevant evidence and negotiate with the insurance providers so you can recover the compensation you deserve. As part of your compensation benefits in the sexual abuse lawsuit, you may be able to recover the amounts you used to pay for legal representation.


The effects of sexual abuse could take a toll on a person's mental health. Individuals undergoing treatment in psychiatric facilities are already in distress, and abuse could worsen their condition, making it difficult to cope. Additionally, the fear and stigma associated with such events may prompt the victim to want to move. If you are a victim of sexual abuse and wish to relocate, the persons liable for the abuse could be held responsible for your relocation expenses.

Wrongful Death

Sexual abuse ranges from non-violent acts like kissing or fondling to more serious acts like rape and sodomy. Sometimes, extensive acts of sexual abuse in psychiatric treatment could result in the death of a victim. If your loved one has lost their life resulting from sexual abuse in a mental health treatment facility, you can recover compensation for their wrongful death.

Find a California Sex Crime Defense Attorney Near Me

Psychiatric treatment facilities are aimed at helping mentally challenged individuals to cope with their conditions and begin the process of recovery. When we pace our loved ones in these centers, we expect them to be safe and receive the help they desperately need to lead a normal life. Unfortunately, not all treatment facilities offer the safe and nurturing environment that psychiatric patients require to enhance their journey towards recovery. Many patients in psychiatric treatment have reported instances of sexual abuse within the facility.

Since many psychiatric patients lack the necessary mental and physical capability to protect themselves, they are highly vulnerable to other patients and caregivers abuse. Additionally, the dangers of sexual abuse are heightened because both male and female patients are housed in the same facility. If you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual abuse in a psychiatric facility, you can seek justice by filing a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator of the facility's abuse. At Sex Crimes Attorney, we will offer the legal guidance and representation you need to file a successful sexual abuse lawsuit in California. Call us today at 888-666-8480.