"He says do a quick spin for me and so I did and then he pulled me close to him and he bear hugged my legs and then he rammed his fingers inside of me," Heather recalls.The Maryland mother of two didn't know where to turn.
"It's a cop out, is what it is," Heather believes.And many times, it's less than that; their license is restricted or put on independent probation.
Still, it's information you, as a patient, might want to know--but it's hard to find."The only thing we do have in place is the National Practitioners Databank," Heather says, "and that is not open to the public."
Another problem in the system we've uncovered is many times when these allegations of sexual exploitation pop up, as in the case of former Chesterfield counselor Adam Glatt, the counselor starts state-hopping. Meaning, they leave the state where they're in trouble and get license to set up shop in another state.For example, in Glatt's case, he had been practicing in Florida when a patient filed a complaint in 2012 with the State Department of Health, alleging he introduced her to bondage and domination...a "BDSM lifestyle."
She says the therapist had sex with her and flogged her.The victim says, "I found myself in a space of not knowing what to do or where to go."
While her complain sat with the Board in Florida, Glatt fled to Virginia and had no problem getting a license to practice in Chesterfield County. He was counseling patients here for two years before Virginia suspended his license.Dr. Stein says our health boards make it easy for counselors like Glatt to state hop; they're not talking with one another.
"There needs to be some kind of registry board where it is posted, where people can see what's going on," says Jeanne Hix, who used to work in a mental and substance abuse treatment center in Northern Virginia. She had to walk away, because what she saw was too upsetting."I was aware of sexual relations between staff members and clients," she says. "A lot of times these relationships that go on between staff members and clients are seen as consensual. Well, they're in treatment, they're there for a reason."
"We don't have sufficient protections in place for our patients," says Senator Petersen. "You have very vulnerable people, very vulnerable situations highly open for exploitation, so seems to me we need to change and tighten up the law."Hix says, "What I am asking for is complete and consistent FBI background checks and I am asking for stricter policies. I am asking for a registered database where people can see who has committed these crimes."
Meanwhile Heather Lynette is now fighting for other victims: she recently passed Lynette's Law in Maryland. The measure requires criminal background checks for all mental health professionals. She's now attempting to get a law passed there that would make it a crime for a counselor to engage in sex with a patient."I think our legislators, they need to step in because the public is at risk," says Heather.
We should point out that here in Virginia, if a therapist becomes sexually involved with a patient it's a violation of standards, but it is not against the law.
Senator Petersen is planning to put his legislation together in the fall. Meanwhile, Lynette's Law has started a Facebook page devoted to cases and victims in Virginia, click here to learn more.
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