Bringing Your Therapist to Court:
The Costs and Benefits of Private Lawsuits
In many cases exploited women who seek to pursue their abusers are content to have the licensure board or criminal courts, discussed in the previous chapter, process and act upon their complaints. The consequences to the professional range from private censure and formal disciplinary procedures to loss of license or membership in professional organizations to ultimate imprisonment in some states. Although the vast majority of abusive therapists are never subjected to any formal sanction, the costs to those who are can be enormous. It is not unusual for such a practitioner to be ostracized from the professional community and even to lose his ability to practice and earn a living. Yet there is another, potentially more devastating consequence: the risk of a civil lawsuit. Not only can this result in substantial awards of money damages to a successful victim, but the emotional costs of defending a civil lawsuit can be even greater than those connected with an administrative proceeding. This is now a public forum, unprotected by privileged procedures or confidentiality. This chapter will highlight the civil remedies that may be available to a victim as well as the defenses and obstacles that she may be required to endure.