Until the passage of state laws in the United States making it a criminal offense for psychiatrists and psychologists to have sexual relationships with or even rape their patients, mental health professionals could operate with impunity—above the law. With studies showing that six to ten percent of psychiatrists, for example, acknowledge sexual involvement with their patients, that’s a potential 4,700 offenders in the U.S. alone. There are now 26 U.S. states that have criminalized various aspects of psychiatrist, psychologist and psychotherapist sexual contact with patients. Of a sample of 120 mental health practitioners convicted for sexual crimes in the U.S., including possession of child pornography and assault of patients, more than two-thirds of the offenders were in states that have enacted such statutes. Shockingly, some of the sexual assaults in the sample were against children as young as nine years old and one was even against a 4 year old. Still, that’s not surprising given a national study of therapist-client sex involving minors that revealed therapists had abused girls as young as three and boys as young as seven.

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