Anyone is capable of sexual harassment, misconduct or assault. However, when these crimes are perpetrated by a licensed professional that people trust to help them in vulnerable times, it can be especially disturbing. Unfortunately, sexual misconduct by professionals happens every day. New Jersey is cracking down on the problem.
Outrage exploded this past March after the state’s chiropractic board voted to reinstate a chiropractor’s license who was also a convicted sex offender.
The chiropractor served five years in prison for a 2008 charge of second-degree child luring. Afterward, he repeatedly violated an order not to see patients younger than 18 without a chaperone. He is on lifetime parole in New Jersey and also a convicted sex offender in Florida. None of this stopped the board from reinstating his license, which New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal unsuccessfully filed a motion to deny. Governor Phil Murphy concurred with Grewal that it should never have been granted in the first place.
On June 4, the New Jersey State Senate fought back by unanimously approving Bill S-3494, legislation prohibiting any healthcare provider convicted of a sexual offense from ever being licensed. The same bill plans to reform the chiropractic board by adding two public members and increasing its focus on reviewing applicant qualifications. It has yet to pass the State Assembly.
“Giving a convicted sex offender the sanctioned permission to return to the practice was irresponsible and illogical,” said Majority Leader Steve Sweeney. “Reforms are obviously needed to make sure the board makes the health and safety of the people of New Jersey its top priority.”
In April, the attorney general issued an executive directive to more than 700,000 licensed professionals regarding sexual misconduct. The directive orders the Division of Consumer Affairs to initiate changes and update best practices of over 50 boards and committees. Efforts will include prevention and accountability measures as well as victim support. These measures include:
- Improved applicant screening
- Mandatory initial and continuing education for professionals on sexual misconduct
- Encouraged reporting of observed misconduct by fellow professionals (which is already required by law) and consequences for failure to do so
- New legislation to protect complainants’ privacy
- Education for patients and consumers on how to recognize sexual misconduct
- Education and navigators for victims who come forward
What Qualifies as Sexual Misconduct by a Professional?
It varies depending on the profession, but it happens when the trusted professional violates your sexual boundaries or rights, whether physically or verbally. In most sexual misconduct cases, the professional may begin with other inappropriate behavior such as texts, phone calls or emails not related to therapy or treatment or telling sexual jokes or stories. Sexual misconduct could also include a physician having you undress more than necessary or asking inappropriate questions about your sexual activity.
Reactions to this crime can be devastating and permanent. Victims may develop depression and anxiety disorders, sexual dysfunction or intimacy problems, feelings of guilt and shame and even suicidal ideations. The reporting rate for sexual abuse is extremely low because most victims assume that no one will believe their word over the professionals. They can contact the physician’s employer or licensing board, but many of these reports go uninvestigated.
A licensed or helping professional is someone who provides a helping service (like education or health) to an individual or group of people. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Physicians, nurses, physical therapists
- Psychologists, counselors, social workers
- Teachers and school administrators
- Law enforcement and lawyers
- Plumbers, contractors, handymen
- Accountants and tax experts
Anyone who provides a service that requires a license is considered a helping professional.
How to Report Sexual Misconduct by a Professional
If you or someone you love experiences sexual misconduct at the hands of a licensed professional, you can inform the police, the facility where they work or your state licensing board. However, if you’re unfamiliar with your rights, it’s best to hire an attorney who represents sex abuse survivors and understands how to handle these delicate cases. Remember that if you come forward, it will encourage others to do the same.
Different factors apply when deciding whether you should pursue a civil or criminal suit. The experienced lawyers at D’Arcy Johnson Day have been helping New Jersey sex abuse victims for years. If you would like a free review of your case, please contact us online or give us a call at 609-641-6200.
From sexual abuse matters to personal injury and workers compensation, Jessica brings a wealth of experience to her practice at D’Arcy Johnson Day. Her fluency in both English and Spanish enables her to help so many members of the community, as she focuses on accident and personal injury cases, work injuries, medical malpractice, immigration, criminal law, and municipal court proceedings among other areas of practice.