Cases of molestation or sexual assault by a doctor are especially heinous. These cases are just as shocking when a teacher, pastor, or police officer commits a similar act. What makes these types of crimes so bad is the violation of the public trust, as well as the likelihood of there being multiple victims.
Unfortunately, these types of crimes occur all too often. Just this past week, a California doctor was arrested for allegedly assaulting multiple patients.
Victim Civil Lawsuits and Criminal Recourse
If a victim is molested or sexually assaulted by their doctor, or doctor's staff, they have legal recourses in both the criminal and civil courts. Initiating a criminal action requires reporting the incident to the police. Depending on the type of assault, getting an independent medical review, or taking photographs might be necessary to preserve the evidence (particularly in rape cases). Depending on your state, there may be a Victim's Compensation Fund, as there is in California, that may be able to provide some financial assistance for victims of crime.
Initiating a civil action is done by contacting a private personal injury or medical malpractice attorney. However, because state laws vary, there may be particularly short deadlines for filing a lawsuit, particularly if your case has a medical malpractice aspect to it. While a sexual assault by a doctor may not seem like medical malpractice or professional negligence, these may be claims your attorney would want to include in the lawsuit against the hospital, or even the defendant.
Unconscious and/or Afraid Victims
Unfortunately, unconscious victims may be unable to testify about what happened, and will thus have a more difficult time proving the assault took place, unless there is corroborating or independent evidence. This frequently leads to victims not reporting their suspicions due to fear of being embarrassed or humiliated, or worse, criminalized. Additionally, some victims just fear coming forward because it will be the "trusted" doctor's word against theirs, and they fear being victim-blamed, humiliated, and re-victimized.
However, victims should not hesitate to call the police and seek an independent medical evaluation if they believe or suspect they have been sexually assaulted or molested while unconscious. Additionally, a report can be made to the state medical licensing board, which can also lead to severe consequences for a doctor. A victim that comes forward, even if they are not completely certain about what happened, may find that they are not alone.
There are many organizations that provide crisis hotlines for victims of sexual abuse. If you are a victim and need someone to talk to, you can contact RAINN, a non-profit organization providing assistance to victims of sexual violence, at their hotline at 1(866) 656- HOPE (4673) or online via live chat. You should also contact a personal injury lawyer right away.