Sexual Exploitation by Helping Professionals

When you seek someone’s professional help, you’re putting your trust in their hands to make decisions in your best interest. Sexual exploitation by a helping professional is a serious violation of your trust and, in many cases, the law.

What is sexual exploitation by a helping professional?
Sexual exploitation by a helping professional includes sexual conduct of any kind between a professional and the person seeking or receiving a service. Helping professionals include doctors, therapists, professors, police officers, lawyers, religious leaders, and any other professional who offers a helping service.

What are some common reactions?
You trusted a professional to respect your boundaries and protect your interests at a time when you were vulnerable or dependent on their expertise. Because of this relationship, inappropriate sexual advances or contact can feel like an act of betrayal. Some common reactions include:

  • Loss of trust
  • Difficulty with intimacy
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, anger, or confusion
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Sexual dysfunction

What can I do?
There is a very low reporting rate for sexual exploitation by helping professionals. Often, victims fear retaliation from the professional, are concerned they won’t be believed, or do not realize they were harmed until much later.

You are not to blame for what happened to you. If you have experienced sexual exploitation of any kind by a professional, you have options.

  • Contact the organization that employs the professional and file a report
  • Contact the licensing board or professional association
  • Report to law enforcement
  • File a civil lawsuit

Where can I get help and learn more?
To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual abuse by someone in the medical field and you have questions or need help, visit the Therapy Exploitation Link. TELL is a resource, referral, and networking organization that seeks to help victims of exploitation by psychotherapists and other healthcare providers find the support and resources they need to understand what has happened to them, take action, and heal.


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