The Wages of Seeking Help: Sexual Exploitation by Professionals

The Wages of Seeking Help: Sexual Exploitation by Professionals

The Wages of Seeking Help: Sexual Exploitation by Professionals

The Wages of Seeking Help: Sexual Exploitation by Professionals


Because women are more likely to seek professional help, and because they are more likely to be the victims of abuse by people in positions of power, women who do seek professional assistance may end up being victims of sexual exploitation by the very people from whom they seek help. Unlike other problems that primarily affect women, such as rape and domestic violence, this issue has received little public attention and has had little success in building a social movement to combat it. Bohmer analyzes the social construction of this unique problem and the response it has received from individuals, groups, and various institutions, such as the law and the regulatory process.


Tangled Case of Sexual Molestation Pits a Doctor against 8 Poor Women

--Lewin, 1995

Psychiatrists and Sex Abuse:
State Regulation Marked by Delay, Confusion, Loopholes

--Lehr, 1994

The last couple of decades have brought to public attention several issues of violence and exploitation against women. Domestic violence and rape have attracted the most attention, both from feminists and, more recently, from the general public. But other problems with women as their primary victims have not received much public attention.

Professional sexual misconduct (also called exploitation or abuse) is such an issue. Over the last few years we have learned that all professional relationships are not always the source of comfort and help they have been held out to be. For some, it appears that the cure may be worse than the disease. A patient who gets involved in a sexual relationship with her therapist "for her benefit" finds that the benefit was all for the therapist. An emotionally distraught divorce client receives demands for payment in sex as well as money for her lawyer's services. A woman goes to a clergyman for pastoral counseling and gets propositioned. A gynecological exam becomes the occasion for a doctor's sexual gratification.

Incidence studies have shown that 4-13 percent of all therapists engage in sexual contact with their patients, while the figure for lawyers is 7 percent (Schoener, 1989b; Murrell et al., 1993), and one estimate of priests puts the figure at 5-10 percent (Greeley, 1993). Approximately 80 percent of the perpetrators are male and the victims female, and a large number of the . . .

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