USA--Victims respond to “damning” new series about predatory doctors
For immediate release: Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Statement by Mary Dispenza, volunteer Seattle director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (425-644-2468, Seattle@SNAPnetwork.org)
The Atlantic Journal-Constitution (AJC) has conducted a sweeping investigation analyzing 100,000 disciplinary orders against doctors filed since 1999: doctors.AJC.com
It found “Of the 3,100 doctors that the newspaper identified as having been sanctioned for sexual misconduct, 2,400 of them had a violation involving a patient and half still have active medical licenses. These figure represents only a fraction of the actual accusations of sexual abuse by doctors because these cases are often dealt with in secrecy or ambiguity by state regulations and hospital officials.”
We applaud the AJC for this ground-breaking investigation and urge readers – especially law enforcement personnel - to look at it thoroughly.
Here are the “take-a-ways” from the series so far:
--No institution can police itself.
--Almost always, the dangerous doctor is the one we least expect.
--Secrecy benefits only the wrongdoers, rarely the victimized or the vulnerable.
--Anyone – no matter how charming, charismatic, popular or professionally accomplished – can be a predator.
--Predatory physicians, like child molesting clerics, often carefully chose victims who are less able to tell, less apt to be believed or less inclined to report the assaults.
--No one has a God-given or Constitutionally-guaranteed right to be a doctor. All of us, however, have a basic human right to be safe from rapists, predators and molesters.
--Most predators, in every occupation, benefit from supervisors and colleagues who range from timid to corrupt and who ignore or hide knowledge or suspicions of sexual crimes or misdeeds. Rarely are these “enablers” ever charged or disciplined, so this irresponsible behavior continues.
--Predators in every walk of life exploit archaic, legal loopholes like the statute of limitations. (According to the AJC, for example “Medical boards may decline to investigate some patient complaints because of time limits. California can only act on complaints reported within 10 years by adult patients. In New Hampshire, the statute of limitations for most board investigations is five years.”)
--Predators offer the same disingenuous, self-serving, victim-blaming excuses: “She was the aggressor,” “She was dressed provocatively,” “I was drunk,” “I was stressed,” “It only happened once,” and “I used poor judgment.”
Here’s what should happen now:
--Disciplinary bodies must dramatically change course, replacing secrecy with openness. They must retain records for decades and make these records easily accessible by the public at no charge.
--Lawmakers must stiffen penalties for those who know or suspect sexual misdeeds but stay silent or hide them.
--Legislators must give disciplinary boards more power and mandate that they be more transparent.
--Police and prosecutors must more aggressively pursue doctors who commit sexual misconduct and sex crimes AND their colleagues or supervisors who break the law by not reporting.
--When examining sex crimes and sexual misdeeds, authorities must stop considering how much medical school costs, how long medical training is, how severely rural areas need doctors and other similar factors. The safety of the public must always come first.
--We must publicly castigate officials who think and speak like this to deter such “pro-predator” decision-making.
--We must reform or repeal predator-friendly laws like the statute of limitations so more victims can expose more predators and deter more cover ups through the time-tested, open court system.
Finally, we applaud all the victims and witnesses and whistleblowers and authorities who played a role in exposing these dangerous doctors: Erin Vance, Betty Pichon, Patrice Gable, Dawn Marie Basham and many others. They are to be praised for their courage and compassion. Without their bravery and persistence, many more patients would be at risk and many more wounded adults would feel alone, ashamed and powerless. Because they took risks and spoke up, many are safer now who might otherwise be at risk. Again, we applaud them for acting responsibly and courageously.
No matter what lawmakers or medical boards do or don’t do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered sex crimes or sexual misconduct - and cover ups by doctors or in disciplinary panels - to protect patients by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling law enforcement, get justice by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)