Physical therapists at risk of sexual harassment from patients

According to a survey, more than 80 percent of physical therapists said they experienced sexual harassment from their patients. These incidents of sexual harassment in Tennessee and around the country included sexual touches, indecent exposure and even sexual assault. In fact, approximately 50 percent of those who said they experienced sexual harassment said that incidents occurred within the last year.

Of those who reported sexual harassment from patients, 25 percent said that they suffered psychological consequences, like depression and anxiety, as a result. Part of the problem is that many physical therapists are not taught how to properly deal with the incidents. Further, incidents of sexual harassment coming from a patient versus a supervisor or boss is different in that the physical therapist has a duty to provide care for the patient. As such, dealing with sexual harassment can be difficult due to the entanglement of legal and ethical obligations.

There were certain factors that increased the risk of therapists experiencing sexual harassment. For example, those who routinely worked with patients who suffered brain impairments were more likely to experience such unwanted behavior. Further, those who had less than five years of experience dealing directly with patients were more likely to experience incidents of sexual harassment. Not surprisingly, harassment was more common when the therapist was female and the patient was male.

When workers are not given support when dealing with situations that could involve sexual harassment from clients, customers or patients, they could be harmed by the resulting hostile work environment. If a worker makes a sexual harassment claim and nothing is done to stop the incidents or the worker is punished for making the report, an attorney could outline the available legal options.

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