California psychiatric hospitals are designed to assist patients suffering from mental health diseases to cope with their conditions and sometimes recover. Regrettably, not all facilities offer the nurturing setting the patients require, and the risk of sexual abuse increases when female and male patients are housed in the same treatment facility. The patients residing in these centers sometimes depend on staff members for care, making them vulnerable to abuse. They could have challenges reporting the incident, making it easier for the abuse to continue.

If you have been sexually abused while undergoing psychiatric care or treatment, you do not have to suffer alone. The skilled legal team at Sex Crimes Attorney is devoted to protecting your rights, ensuring you receive compensation for the harm you suffered, and making you whole again. We can meet with you to discuss your case, helping you identify the defendant and file a lawsuit against them.

Sexual Abuse in Psychiatric Treatment Facilities Prevalence

According to the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a supervisory body organization that investigates and exposes abuse in mental health institutions, sexual crimes committed by psychiatrists are 37 times higher than crimes in the general community.

Moreover, in another survey of psychiatrist-patient sex, 73% of psychiatrists who admitted they had previously engaged in sexual misconduct with patients claimed they engaged in it in the name of “pleasure” or “love,” with 19% claiming it was meant to enhance their patient’s self-esteem.

One reason for sexual misconduct in mental health facilities is that most patients with mental illness experience reduced awareness, impaired judgment, and hypersexual feelings, making it challenging for the victims to remember or report the sexual abuse. It also makes the patients more vulnerable to sexual abuse.

Another reason is that when patients file a lawsuit or take legal action, law enforcers often assume the victims are untrustworthy witnesses, even if they present persuading evidence. Moreover, staff in the treatment centers lack training and believe that the police can press charges against them or blame them once they report the matter.

What is Sexual Abuse in California?

Sexual abuse in psychiatric treatment centers encompassed many behaviors involving unwanted touching of the female breast, buttocks, anus, groin, or buttocks. The circumstances in which contact was made, and the type of contact define whether it was a crime. Please note that not all sexual abuse behaviors involve physical contact.

Sexual activity requires consent (clear, voluntary, and unambiguous agreement between the participants to engage in the conduct). Consent is an enthusiastic, ongoing, clearly communicated yes. It is not the absence of a “no,” and it is wrong to assume that once a person consents to a behavior, they agree to it later. 

Some actions constituting grooming for sexual abuse include the following:

  • Shaming or manipulating the patient.
  • Making threats to stop offering care if the patient fails to meet the doctor’s sexual demands.
  • Failing to listen to the patient’s complaints.
  • Withholding information or lying.
  • Encouraging dependency, which intensifies the patient’s susceptibility.

Psychiatric sexual assault is detrimental since it happens in a space where the victim expects to receive professional treatment and care. Also, most sexual abuse symptoms are identical to those of most mental diseases, making it hard to identify a sexual abuse victim.

Signs of Sexual Assault Among People with Mental Health Conditions to Watch Out For

Typically, people with severe mental issues may not understand what is taking place or have a way to communicate the assault to a trusted individual. And those who realize they were abused could not know it is illegal and that they have a right to say no. Due to threats to their well-being, the victim may never tell anyone about the sexual incident, particularly if committed by an authority whom they learn not to question.

Some signs of sexual abuse to watch out for include the following:

  • Identical physical injuries happening in a specific body part.
  • Physical injuries with no explanation.
  • Self-destructive behavior.
  • Becoming withdrawn, anxious, and fearful.
  • Changes in self-care routine and skills.
  • Challenges when walking or sitting.
  • Behaving differently in the presence of a specific individual.
  • Failure to communicate and being secretive.
  • Anxiety.
  • Appetite and sleep pattern changes.
  • Irritability.
  • Pain and bruises in genital areas.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Shame or guilty feelings.
  • Headaches or abdominal pain.
  • Stained clothing or underwear.

Steps to Take If You Suspect Sexual Assault is Occurring or Has Occurred

If you believe that a mental health patient is a sexual abuse victim, please take the steps below:

  • First, ensure the victim’s safety and meet all their immediate care needs.
  • Report the incident to the psychiatric facility and the individual in charge of the center.
  • Call 911 or law enforcement to report the sexual abuse allegations (Encourage the victim not to bathe, wash or change their bedding or clothing, urinate, gargle, or brush their teeth to preserve physical proof of the sexual misconduct).
  • Seek medical attention for the victim and obtain support from victim’s services programs (Tell the victim the need for a rape kit, gain consent, and then ensure they get it done).
  • Call Adult Protective Services (APS). California APS will investigate the reported suspicion.
  • Continue connecting with the victim to monitor their recovery progress from the sexual abuse.
  • It would be best to assure the victim that whatever happened is not okay and that it was not their fault.

Mental Health Conditions Arising from Psychiatric Sexual Abuse

Due to the negative emotions and trauma associated with sexual abuse and assault, survivors are at risk of developing the following mental health illnesses:

  • Anxiety — A sexual abuse survivor could fear the abuse could reoccur. Some could experience panic attacks, while others could develop a chronic fear of any person that matches the description of the person that assaulted them. Other signs and symptoms ­of anxiety include difficulties focusing, sleep challenges, irritability, fatigue, muscle tension, and restlessness.
  • Depression — The loss of bodily autonomy is challenging to manage. It can result in despair or hopelessness and a reduced sense of self-worth. Depressive feelings can be mild or severe and long-lasting.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder — A sexual abuse survivor could have intense memories of the occurrence. Some symptoms of PTSD include avoiding events that remind them of the hurtful incident, flashbacks of the event, anger outbursts, loss of interest in activities that they previously enjoyed, exaggerated negative beliefs, and challenges concentrating.
  • Personality disorders— Personality disorders are long-standing patterns of adaptive thoughts or conduct. They often result in impairment and emotional disturbance in the survivor’s life, particularly if left untreated. A common type of personal disorder exhibited following sexual abuse is borderline personality, characterized by fear of abandonment.
  • Addiction — Sexual abuse victims are 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs than persons who have never been sexually abused. Typically, victims abuse drugs to manage the abuse trauma, deal with low self-esteem, and self-medicate. It is also a manifestation of self-destructive conduct.

Who Can Bring a Psychiatric Treatment Sexual Abuse Claim

A sexual abuse lawsuit is a common civil case that demands compensation for the alleged victim. The compensation aims to make the victim whole again.

Victims of rape, sexual battery, statutory rape, oral copulation by force, child sexual abuse, nonconsensual touching, or forcible penetration using a foreign substance can bring their suits in California.

Other people that can also bring the suit include:

  • Witnesses could have a negligent infliction of emotional distress against the defendant(s).
  • Domestic partners or spouses can include a loss of consortium damages to the alleged victim’s claim.
  • Legal heirs or relatives could bring a wrongful death claim if the victim succumbed to sexual abuse in a psychiatric treatment center.

Potential Defendants in Sexual Assault in Psychiatric Facilities

A patient in a psychiatric facility requires supervision, attention, and care. One reason sexual abuse in these centers is common is the absence of supervision. With the increased number of people suffering from mental health conditions, the number of qualified staff in these centers is often inadequate. When attempting to meet the need, it is not uncommon for sexual abuse perpetrators to be near patients. Common defendants include the following:

Other Patients Residing in the Institution

Sexual abuse in mental health centers by other patients is common, particularly if female and male patients share the same facility. While adopting one-sex wards cannot eradicate abuse, it can significantly reduce it.

Medical Health Institution Employees

Many patients receiving psychiatric treatment and care are dependent, and the employees help them with their daily tasks. Unfortunately, some workers take advantage of the patient’s vulnerability. Recognizing that the victim’s credibility could be questioned based on the mental health condition, the perpetrator could be assured that the victim cannot press charges against them.

Also, patients cannot access their cell phones to report the matter. When they report the abuse to other employees, the staff could fail to report the crime, allowing the sexual abuse to continue.

How a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Can Implicate the Psychiatric Treatment Facility

You can also file a claim against the psychiatric facility or the hospital that runs the psychiatric treatment facility. Taking legal action against your abuser’s employer allows you to receive compensation. Your attorney can help you hold the employer responsible under either of the following legal theories:

  1. Vicarious liability, or.
  2. Negligent supervision or hiring.
  • Negligent Supervision or Hiring

You can claim that the mental health facility should be held accountable because it negligently supervised or hired your abuser. To prove your claim, you should demonstrate the following:

  1. The psychiatrist did not qualify for the work they were employed to do.
  2. The hospital should have been aware that the psychiatrist was a threat to the patients.
  3. The psychiatrist's unfitness hurt you.
  4. The hospital's or facility's negligence in employing, supervising, or hiring significantly harmed you.

By proving that the company created a hazard or risk by employing or retaining the psychiatrist, you extend responsibility to them.

Medical health centers are also tasked with the following:

  1. Creating and imposing policies that protect mental health patients from abuse.
  2. Employing proper security in mental health centers.
  3. Creating reporting policies for patients, their loved ones, and staff members to report suspected abuse or abuse.
  4. Training workers on how to prevent sexual misconduct.
  •  Vicarious Liability

Vicarious liability uses the legal idea of respondeat superior, a Latin term that means “Let the boss answer.”

For the employer to be accountable, the employee should act within their employment scope. In other words, the employee should be doing something their boss reasonably expects them to do at their job, whether it is part of the worker’s responsibility or not.

Statute of Limitations for Bringing Your Civil Case

The statute of limitations (SOL) is the timeframe for bringing your lawsuit.

If you were over 18 during the sexual abuse, you have two years from when the abuse happened to file a lawsuit in civil court. Otherwise, you will lose the right to legal action, irrespective of whether the liable party is prosecuted.

Nevertheless, if the at-fault party is charged and convicted of a felony, you have a year from the date the judge pronounces the judgment to file your lawsuit, even when your claim would otherwise be time-barred.

SOL for Childhood Sexual Abuse

If you were sexually assaulted in a psychiatric center as a minor, you could bring your claim until:

  • You are forty.
  • Five (5) years from when you learned or reasonably should have learned that a psychological disease or injury that happened after turning 18 stemmed from the sexual abuse or assault (delayed discovery).

If you are over 40, you should acquire certificates of merit from:

  • Your lawyer indicating that the attorney has reviewed your case and the mental health expert’s findings and determined your case is meritorious, and.
  • A psychiatrist who did not treat you indicating that you have valid reasons why you could not have learned your harm sooner.

How a Civil Lawsuits Differ from a Criminal Charge

A California civil lawsuit for sexual assault in a psychiatric treatment center differs from the criminal charge the defendant can face. These cases can be confusing, particularly if they are proceeding simultaneously. Here are the notable differences:

Focus is Compensation Instead of Punishment

California civil cases focus on compensating the alleged victims for the injuries suffered and losses incurred and making them whole again. On the other hand, criminal cases focus on punishing the defendant for the wrongdoing.

The difference manifests itself in what occurs once your case is resolved.

As a sexual assault victim, you could benefit from a criminal conviction when you see the defendant serve jail time and pay for their criminal conduct. However, a conviction will rarely result in significant restitution for you.

A Civil Case Has a Lower Standard of Proof

In California criminal cases, the prosecution must establish that the defendant violated the criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt. It requires about 98% certainty that the defendant committed the crime.

On the other hand, in civil cases, the plaintiff should prove the defendant committed the sexual assault by a preponderance of the evidence. It often requires 51 percent certainty, and you have to prove that sexual misconduct more likely happened than not.

Criminal Charges Can Affect Your Civil Case

A sexual abuse criminal charge against a psychiatrist or mental health treatment facility can impact a civil case for the same crime.

If the at-fault party is convicted, your civil lawsuit will become easier. The judge who convicted the accused can be used as proof in your civil lawsuit. Also, the prosecution’s evidence can strengthen your civil claim.

The move can weaken your civil case if the judge acquits the defendant. Nonetheless, you can still prevail and receive compensation.

Damages Awarded in Civil Lawsuits

For sexual assault survivors who are successful in their civil lawsuits, the jury will award them damages for the losses they incurred. Damages are monetary awards the defendant pays the victim. Since every case has unique circumstances, it is challenging to state the exact compensation amount.

Typical damages awarded in sexual abuse in a psychiatric treatment facility lawsuit include the following:

  • Medical costs, including the expenses of treating and taking care of mental and emotional trauma stemming from the sexual assault.
  • Lost income during your recovery.
  • Lost earning capacity.
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Loss of the plaintiff’s enjoyment of life.
  • Loss of consortium and companionship with loved ones.

Typically, sexual abuse plaintiffs receive punitive damages. A punitive damage award forces the defendant to pay more than they would compensate you. These damages are designed to punish the defendant for acting with a willful disregard of the plaintiff’s rights.

 How to Prove Your Civil Case

While you have a right to compensation, you should prove the sexual abuse to receive compensation. Here are pieces of evidence to strengthen your case:

The Alleged Victim’s Testimony

Your testimony is essential to winning civil cases. Most cases rely on the plaintiff identifying the person who sexually assaulted them.

The jury/judge determines whether the alleged victim is telling the truth (credibility).

To attack your credibility, the defendant’s lawyer will analyze previous statements to compare them with your testimony. If what you told law enforcement differs from what you are saying, the defense attorney will argue that you should not be believed.

DNA Evidence

Following sexual misconduct, the patient should not go to the washroom, shower, wash their hands, or change their clothing. Acting so can destroy DNA evidence like bodily fluids, fingerprints, loose hair, and skin cells. Biological proof can prove that sexual assault happened.

Physical Evidence at the Sexual Assault Crime Scene

Physical items like bedding and clothing are valuable evidence after a sexual assault. They can have biological proof to prove the assault happened.

Photos and Sketches

After a law enforcement agency learns about sexual assault, it will send forensic investigators to the crime scene. The investigators will capture images of the crime scene from different angles and take sketches to document evidence and prove spatial relationships to corroborate the victim’s account.

Witness Testimony

Sometimes a witness can either:

  • watch the event leading to a sexual assault like the abuser slipping drugs into the victim’s beverage, or.
  • see sexual misconduct occur.

Typically, witnesses are rare, and when available, their testimony can assist in proving the events’ timeline and strengthen the victim’s side of the story.

Medical Records

If you have been sexually assaulted in a psychiatric treatment facility, it is wise to prioritize your safety and health. The doctor will examine you, document all physical signs or injuries, and collect every piece of DNA evidence that could be present.

Counseling Records

Typically, counseling records provide a professional and comprehensive assessment of the alleged victim’s emotional state, mental health symptoms, and the impact of the sexual assault on their overall well-being. These documents function as corroborating evidence to support the survivor’s claim.

Frequently Asked Questions

Any California personal injury lawyer will tell you that they have previously asked the following questions:

  • Will You See the Perpetrator in Court?

You could. Sometimes your attorney can negotiate outside of the courtroom to obtain your compensation. If the defendant meets your demands for satisfactory compensation, you will neither proceed to trial nor see the perpetrator.

  • How Much Does It Cost to Retain an Attorney?

Most California personal injury lawyers work on a contingency-fee-basis. You will only pay your attorney a cent once they win your civil case. After prevailing, the attorney fees will not be deducted from your total award, so you do not have to be burdened with the bill later.

  • Do You Need an Attorney?

Some of the services your sexual abuse lawyer can offer include the following:

  • Explaining various requirements involved in bringing your case, including the SOL and filing the lawsuit on your behalf.
  • Determining the at-fault parties or entities that could be potentially accountable in your case.
  • Determining the total value of your civil case.
  • Representing you in court.
  • Negotiating with the defendant for a fair settlement amount.
  • Collecting evidence.

Find Skilled Legal Representation Near Me

Sexual assault in any California psychiatric treatment facility can result in anxiety, depressive disorder, loneliness, loss of life enjoyment, emotional distress, and pain and suffering. Counseling can lessen the burden and accelerate your healing process, but it is inadequate.

If this describes you, contact Sex Crimes Attorney to bring a civil case against the defendant. Our legal team understands how challenging it is to talk about this traumatic event and can listen to you in a confidential setting, offer legal advice, and answer your questions. We are dedicated to ensuring the defendant compensates you for your damages, including lost income, mental anguish, pain and suffering, and medical expenses. We invite you to contact us at 888-666-8480 to schedule your initial free case review.