The bill that will put an end to therapist abuse in Maryland, also known as Lynette's Law, will be heard at the Maryland State House before the General Assembly in Annapolis on Thursday, January 24 at 1:00 PM. Originating as a grassroots effort to spread the awareness of therapy sex abuse, its effect on victims, and the state's lack of accountability concerning their therapists, Lynette's Law is now one of the top bills this session.
Nurtured by the sensitive nature of the therapist-patient dynamic, it is quite common for patients to admire and feel attracted to their therapists as they work through personal issues. Some therapists have abused that attraction and trust by controlling, manipulating, and sexually exploiting their clients. Lynette's Law would make that exploitation by these predators a criminal offense in Maryland, the 24th state to do so if passed. The last state to pass legislation against therapist abuse, New York, classified the offense as statutory rape.
The effects of therapy sex abuse are long-lasting. In a national study conducted by Kenneth S. Pope, Ph.D., ABPP, author of Ethics in Psychotherapy and Counseling, “about 90% of patients are harmed by sex with a therapist. About 11% required hospitalization; 14% attempted suicide; and 1% committed suicide. Of those harmed, only 17% recovered fully.” Pope's research also observed the following common reactions of victims that have been involved with therapist-patient sex: ambivalence between escaping the abusive therapist and protecting him or her, cognitive dysfunction (including attention, memory, and concentration), emotional lability or intense emotional eruptions, emptiness and isolation, impaired ability to trust, guilt, increased suicidal risk, role reversal and boundary confusion, sexual confusion (including believing their only worth is to provide sexual gratification to others), and suppressed anger which may lead to self-loathing, self-punishment, and self-destructive behaviors.
A related bill to be heard that also originated with the Lynette's Law movement is one that would require background checks of all mental health professionals in Maryland. Currently, the state does not require any sort of check for these highly sensitive positions and anyone can slip through the wide open crack. In one case, Richard O'Meara falsified his license application by neglecting to state he was a convicted felon in Pennsylvania for aggravated assault, committed therapist abuse in Maryland, and was allowed to simply “surrender” his license, which means he can move on to another state that also doesn't require background checks and get licensed again. There was also no criminal charge for falsifying the application.
The Lynette's Law website (www.lynetteslaw4maryland.com) provides a wealth of information about therapist abuse, including a very moving and emotional video, and links to the bill and other important related web sites. Additionally, the State of California provides an entire supplement, Professional Therapy Never Includes Sex, devoted to therapist abuse awareness and the severe ramifications of therapy sex abuse.
Following the hearing at the Maryland State House on Thursday will be a rally to support Lynette's Law on Monday, January 28. This will be held at Lawyer's Hill in Annapolis from 6:00 – 8:00 PM.