Sexual Assault Program
SEXUAL EXPLOITATION BY
What is sexual exploitation by a helping professional?
When the professional misuses his or her power through sexual involvement and violates the trust
of a client with whom they have a helping relationship.
Who is a helping professional?
Sexual exploitation is unethical
- Social Worker
- Chemical Dependency Counselor
- Clergy Person
- Others who identify themselves as helping professionals
Most professionals have a code of ethics to follow. Sometimes they choose not to follow the ethical
guidelines of their professional association.
Sexual exploitation is illegal
Sexual exploitation is against the law. It is a criminal offense to engage in sexual activity with
clients. It makes no difference if the client and the helping professional are of the same or opposite
sex. It makes no difference if the client agrees to any of the sexual activities. The helping professional
is responsible. It is his or her responsibility to keep sexual exploitation from happening.
Examples of sexual exploitation
- Scheduling appointments after regular office hours or out of the office
- Giving or accepting expensive gifts
- Having a social or business relationship with the client
- Asking the client to keep any part of the relationship or therapy a secret
- Confiding in the client about his or her personal sexual life
- Using alcohol or drugs during appointments
- Suggesting clothes be taken off as part of therapy
Unwanted touching, requests for sex, sex as a method of therapy, sexual joking or language, requests
for dates or dating, or any sexual contact.
Sexual exploitation is never the client's fault
If you are at all concerned about any professional helping relationship, trust your feelings. Talk with
somewone you trust about your concerns.
Normal reactions to sexual exploitation
- Shame - blaming yourself; remember, you did nothing wrong, the professional is responsible
- Fear - of not being believed, of "causing trouble" for the professional, of retaliation
by the professional, of reactions by friends and family
- Anger - at yourself for what happened even though it wasn't your fault, at the professional
for betraying you, at others for their reactions
- Inability to trust - not trusting your feelings, your judgement, or your decisions, not trusting
other helping professionals
- Grief - about the violation of yourself, your needs not being met, the end of what you thought
was a caring relationship
- Confusion - about the relationship, about your feelings and thoughts, about what to do about
the sexual exploitation
Options for taking action
If you think you have been or are being sexually exploited by a helping professional, here are some actions
you might consider taking:
- Keep a record of what has or is happening
- Contact the professional's supervisor, agency director, or religious authorities
- File an ethics violation complaint with the person's professional association
- File a complaint with the licensing or registration board for the professional
- File a criminal complaint or report with local law enforcement
- File a civil law suit
- Talk to someone you trust
- Seek help and support yourself
Developed by the Rape & Abuse Crisis Center of Fargo-Moorhead
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