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January 30th, 2013

Sex Abuse by Doctors and Medical Professionals – The Culture of Silence

Abuse by doctors and medical professionals is alarming and does occur. In fact, last year a Delaware pediatrician was convicted of committing horrific acts of sexual abuse on his young patients, even infants. In a resulting civil case, a recent settlement was reached against a local hospital, a medical society and other doctors. They were accused of failing to report suspicions about the doctor (Source: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/11/19/judge-approves-123m-settlement-in-lawsuit-over-del-pediatrician-sexual-abuse-1755949702/).

Reporting Child Sex Abuse and the Culture of Silence

Many states require certain people to report child sex abuse, especially those in the medical profession, such as:

  • doctors,
  • nurses, and
  • hospitals.

For example, in Pennsylvania, nearly all medical professionals (doctors, chiropractors, interns, nurses, etc.) are mandatory reporters under 23 Pa. C.S. 6311. Likewise, in Delaware, medical professionals as well as hospitals and health-care institutions must report sex abuse.

The culture or conspiracy of silence we live in perpetuates child sex abuse, and it must stop. Victims are understandably silent, given the extent of the physical and mental trauma; but adults who unintentionally or negligently hide or shield abusers are creating a cycle of abuse, and those who do so knowingly are worse than the abusers themselves.

In civil sex abuse cases, employees of a school, hospital, nursing home or other facility are often deposed about what they knew, when they knew and why they did nothing about it. Not surprisingly, there is an overwhelming similarity in the responses and they usually go something like this: “I didn’t realize that the allegation was true” or “I just didn’t think it was my place to say anything, because I never actually witnessed the abuse,” or “We were never told about what we were supposed to do in this situation.”

The people being deposed are earnest. They don’t believe they intentionally did anything wrong. In reality, of course they didn’t intend to shield a child molester in their midst. But we, as adults, must judge ourselves by our actions, not our intentions.There is a proverb that hell is filled with good intentions and heaven is filled with good actions.

The problem isn’t an overabundance of good intention, it’s a real scarcity of individual courage. At least there is a simple solution: medical facilities must set clear guidelines on what employees are to do in cases of suspected sex abuse and provide training on a continual basis, at least once per year. Failure to do so may result in liability, and rightfully so.

Child sexual abuse is, in my view, one of the most horrific traumas which can be inflicted on a child, usually far worse than physical abuse. The conspiracy of silence only serves to perpetuate abuse. Even if a fellow doctor or other medical professional is trying to avoid embarrassment and fails to report a colleague for sexual abuse, the end result is usually far, far worse – additional victims.

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Guy D’Andrea – Sex Abuse Lawyer

Guy D’Andrea is a former sex crimes unit prosecutor who now fights for justice on behalf of victims of crime and abuse.  For more information, visit our abuse by professionals page, or call Click To Call.

Our sex abuse attorneys serve victims in the following areas: Allegheny County, PA; Berks County, PA; Bucks County, PA; Chester County, PA; Delaware County, PA; Lehigh County, PA; Montgomery County, PA; Northampton County, PA: Philadelphia County, PA; Atlantic County, NJ; Burlington County, NJ; Camden County, NJ; Cumberland County, NJ; Gloucester County, NJ; Salem County, NJ; New Castle County, DE; he County, DE; Atlantic City, NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Newark, NJ; Doylestown, PA; Media, PA; West Chester, PA; Norristown, PA; Camden, NJ; Wilmington, DE; Newark, DE; Georgetown, DE; and New Castle, DE.

Our lawyers are available for a free, no obligation legal consultation, and can obtain special admission in other states, such as New York or Delaware, on a case by case basis.

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