Resources for patients

How to report sex abuse by your doctor

If you have been sexually abused by your doctor, here's what you should know

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s investigation of physician sexual misconduct found that one patient’s report of abuse often leads others to come forward with similar allegations. Here are several options for patients who suspect their doctors of sexual improprieties:

Police: Call your local police or sheriff’s department to report a sexual or physical assault.

State medical board: These agencies may revoke a doctor’s license or take other disciplinary action. Boards in some states won’t accept anonymous reports or don’t take complaints online.

Hospital or clinic affiliated with the doctor: Hospitals may have a formal process to investigate complaints of misconduct at their facilities. Patients may also report doctors to their medical group practice or clinic, many of whom have a human resources administrator or medical director.

Advocacy organizations: Groups such as SNAP, a network of survivors of institutional sexual abuse, offer advocacy and support for victims. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) helps patients report sexual abuse to authorities and take legal action.

Rape crisis centers: The National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-4673) directs victims to law enforcement or to health facilities for exams.

How can I know if my doctor has sexually abused patients?

Patients may find it difficult to learn if their doctor has been accused

In an era when intimate information about almost anyone is just a few keystrokes away, finding out whether a doctor has a history of sexual misconduct or other offenses can be remarkably difficult. Medical licensing agencies sometimes reprimand doctors in confidential proceedings, public documents may obscure the details of a physician’s transgression, or records of disciplinary cases may not be posted online.

With those caveats in mind, here are ways to learn more about a doctor’s qualifications and background.

State medical authorities: These agencies license medical professionals, investigate complaints about physician misconduct, and levy penalties. Most states offer online tools to determine whether a doctor has a disciplinary record.

The national Federation of State Medical Boards provides a free search tool — www.docinfo.org — that directs users to state medical boards that have files on specific physicians.

HealthGrades.com: This free website collects data on doctors’ board certifications, malpractice claims, disciplinary actions and other information. Reports are more complete on doctors who practice in states where medical boards publish more material online.

Internet search: Doctors who have been accused of abusing patients may be the subject of news reports or social media posts. In some states, court records or police reports also may turn up.

Tell us about your experience

If you have been abused by a doctor or know of sexual misconduct involving patients, let us know.

Acts of misconduct

In the guise of medical exams, doctors may sexually exploit patients. Here’s what experts say are among the acts of sexual misconduct.

  • Deliberately watch a patient dress or undress or help a patient undress, unless the patient is incapable of doing so
  • Fail to provide draping or gowns
  • Subject a patient to an intimate examination in the presence of others without the patient’s informed consent
  • Examine or touch genitals without use of gloves
  • Make sexual comments about a patient’s body or underclothing; sexualized or sexually demeaning comments; or comments about potential sexual performance during an exam
  • Use the physician-patient relationship to solicit a date or romantic relationship
  • Initiate conversations regarding sexual problems, preferences or fantasies of the physician
  • Perform an intimate exam or consultation without clinical justification
  • Perform an intimate exam or consultation without explaining to the patient the need for it
  • Conduct an intimate exam in an unusual manner, such as conducting a breast exam from behind the patient; leaving both breasts exposed; or ordering the patient to assume positions to expose the patient’s genital or rectal areas, without clinical justification
  • Request details of sexual history or sexual likes or dislikes when not clinically indicated for the type of exam or consultation
  • Make genital to genital contact, mouth to genital contact, mouth to anal contact or genital to anal contact
  • Rub or press their groin against a patient
  • Kiss in a romantic or sexual manner
  • Touch breasts, genitals or any sexualized body part for any purpose other than appropriate exam or treatment or when patient has refused or withdrawn consent
  • Encourage the patient to masturbate in the presence of the physician
  • Expose their genitals to a patient
  • Offer to provide drugs or other practice-related services in exchange for sexual favors
  • Have sexual relationships with a patient’s immediate family member

Source: Federation of State Medical Boards