Sexual Exploitation Litigation Issues

Sexual exploitation of the professional-client relationship is universally regarded as highly unethical and in some states it is a criminal offense. Depending on the state in which you live, specific statutes have been enacted to deter this form of abuse. The laws vary widely from state to state, and it is important that you seek professional legal counsel if you have been a victim of such abuse.

Sexual contact with a client is a violation of the professional’s “fiduciary” duty to that client. In a fiduciary relationship, a client is placing confidence, trust, faith, and reliance in another whose professional knowledge, assistance, advice or protection is sought. In pursuing litigation, various aspects of statutory and case law may apply. In a sexual exploitation case, there may be numerous legal causes of action including:

  • Sexual Exploitation/Assault Statutes
  • Negligent Breach of Fiduciary Duty
  • Malpractice
  • Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress
  • Battery
  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
  • Fraudulent Misrepresentation
  • Breach of Contract / Breach of Warranty
  • Spouses may also assert a separate and independent claim for damages:
    **Many of the same listed above, plus:
  •   Loss of consortium
  • Alienation of affection

Of course, not all sexual exploitation survivors pursue litigation. This decision should be weighed carefully. Unfortunately, the legal system can, in some circumstances cause the victim to feel even more victimized, but that is not true in all cases. Many options are available, such as filing a complaint with licensing boards, etc. The choice is up to the individual. The important thing to do is make an informed choice. Seek the advice of a lawyer, and also note there are good books and articles providing legal information on this topic.


  • Breach of Trust: Sexual Exploitation by Health Care Professionals and Clergy, John C. Gonsiorek, Editor
  • Chapter 20, Sexual Contact in Fiduciary Relationships: Legal Perspectives
    Linda Mabus Jorgenson
  • Chapter 21, Employer/Supervisor Liability and Risk Management
    Linda Mabus Jorgenson
  • Chapter 22, Employer/Supervisor Liability and Risk Management: An Administrator’s View
    Gary Richard Schoener
  • Chapter 23, The Effects of Criminalization of Sexual Misconduct of Therapists: Report of a Survey in Wisconsin
    Andrew W. Kane
  • Chapter 24, Criminalization of Therapist Sexual Misconduct in Colorado: An Overview and Opinion
    Melissa Roberts-Henry
  • Chapter 25, How Churches Respond to the Victims and Offenders of Clergy Sexual Misconduct
    Margo E. Maris and Kevin M. Mcdonough
  • Betrayal of Trust: Sex & Power in Professional Relationships
    Joel William Friedman, Marcia Mobilia Boumil
  • Chapter 5, Filing a Complaint Against Your Therapist: The Mental Health Paradigm Revisited
  • Chapter 6, Bringing Your Therapist to Court: The Costs and Benefits of Private Lawsuits
  • Chapter 7, Legal Recourse for Sexual Exploitation by Other Professionals: The Emerging Law
  • Chapter 12, Plotting the Stress of Litigation: Carolyn’s Progress as Recorded by Psychological Test Data
  • Chapter 5, The Ambivalence of Reporting One’s Therapist: Is This What I Want to Do?
  • Chapter 4, The Labyrinth of Civil Litigation: Where are We Going, and When Will We Get There?
  • Sex in the Therapy Hour: A Case of Professional Incest
    Carolyn M. Bates, Annette M. Brodsky
  • Patients as Victims: Sexual Abuse in Psychotherapy & Counseling
    Derek Jehu
  • Chapter 10, Regulation in the U.S.A.
    Linda Mabus Jorgenson and Gary Richard Schoener
    Hypothetical case study – Common law causes of action – Civil statutes
    Criminal statutes – Administrative statutes and regulations – Ethics complaint
    Complaint to employer – Mediation and processing sessions
    The professional as a reporter or client advocate – The special case of post-termination
  • Chapter 11, Regulation in the U.K.
    Civil suits – Criminal prosecutions – Professional misconduct – N.H.S. complaint
    Reporting colleagues – False allegations
  • Ch. 43 — The New Laws
  • Ch. 42 — Legislative models for dealing with therapist/Patient sex
  • Ch. 28 — Processing sessions
  • Ch. 27 — Filing Complaints against therapists who sexually exploit clients
  • Ch. 26 — Advocacy: Assisting Sexually exploited clients through the > complaint process
  • Ch. 10 — The Assessment of Damages
  • Psychotherapists’ Sexual Involvement with Clients: Intervention & Prevention
    Gary Schoener, Jeanette Milgrom, John Gonsiorek, Ellen Luepker, & Ray Conroe
    1989 Walk-In Counseling Center, Minneapolis, MN
  • Sex in the Forbidden Zone
    Peter Rutter, M.D.
  • Chapter 6, A Guide for Women: Guarding the Sexual Boundary
    Defending the Boundary / Filing an Ethical or Legal Complaint
  • Sexual Abuse by Professionals: a Legal Guide
    (1995, with 1997 and 1999 supplements) Steven Bisbing, Linda Jorgenson, & Pamela Sutherland, Michie Co., Charlottesville, Va.
  • Sexual Exploitation in Professional Relationships
    Glen O. Gabbard, M.D.
  • Chapter 4, Therapist-Patient Sex Syndrome: A guide for Attorneys and Subsequent Therapists to Assessing Damage
    Kenneth S. Pope, Ph.D.

Additional Books


  • Ten Simple Steps to Success in Litigating Therapist Abuse Cases
    John D. Winer, Esq.
  • Understanding the Dynamics of the Attorney-Client Relationship in Professional Abuse Cases
    John D. Winer, Esq.
  • Sexual Abuse by Therapists, Physicians, Attorneys and Other Professionals
    Pamela K. Sutherland
  • Litigating Sexual Misconduct Cases – A Plaintiffs’ Attorney’s Perspective
    Pamela K. Sutherland
  • Liability of Physicians, Therapists and Other Health Professionals for Sexual Misconduct With Patient
    Linda Jorgenson and Pamela K. Sutherland
  • Abstracts from Selected Articles
    Pamela K. Sutherland
  • Special Report: Legal Consequences for the Sexual Exploitation of Patients by Mental Health Professionals
    Steven B. Bisbing, Psy.D., J.D.
    Joseph T. Smith, M.D., J.D.
    Medical Malpractice – Verdicts, Settlements & Experts; May, 1987; Vol. 3, No. 5
  • Therapist-Patient Sexual Exploitation and Insurance Liability
    Linda Jorgenson, Steven B. Bisbing, and Pamela K. Sutherland
    Tort & Insurance Law Journal, Volume XXVII, Number 3, Spring 1992

Additional Articles

Other Resources

Note: Information provided here does not represent legal advice. If you face a specific legal situation, you should conduct independent inquiries with legal professionals to determine what your legal rights are in your state or country.

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