Maintaining healthy boundaries preventing sexual abuse and allegations
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Maintaining Healthy Boundaries: Preventing Sexual Abuse and Allegations . David Goldfoot, PhD and Gary Sater, PhD Mental Health Solutions, S.C. Madison, WI October 30 th , 2009. Goals of this presentation: 1. Improve understanding of the nature of sexual abuse and boundary violations

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Maintaining healthy boundaries preventing sexual abuse and allegations l.jpg

Maintaining Healthy Boundaries: Preventing Sexual Abuse and Allegations

David Goldfoot, PhD and Gary Sater, PhD

Mental Health Solutions, S.C.

Madison, WI

October 30th, 2009


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Goals of this presentation: 1 Allegations

  • Improve understanding of the nature of sexual abuse and boundary violations

    • In schools

    • In the therapy setting

  • Review legal and ethical guidelines regarding sexual misconduct with minors and inappropriate relationships

  • Heighten awareness of appropriate professional boundaries


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Goals of this presentation: 2 Allegations

  • Discuss effects of sexual and professional relationship misconduct on students/clients, psychologists/clinicians, teachers, other school staff, parents and the school and community

  • Develop prevention and intervention plans to address this ongoing problem


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Some definitions… Allegations

  • Chapter 948 (Crimes Against Children)

    • Child means a person who has not yet attained the age of 18

    • Sexual assault of a child (sexual contact; 948.01(5) or intercourse; 948.01(6))

      • 1st degree (if intercourse) and not yet 12 (Class B Felony)

      • 1st degree if not yet 13 and causes great bodily harm (Class A)

      • 1st degree (if sexual contact) and not yet 13 (Class B)

      • 2nd degree if not yet 16 (Class C Felony); if force or violence (Class B) and 1st degree

      • Failure to act of a person responsible for the welfare of such child (as read from 948-02(3)

    • Repeated acts of sexual assault of the same child

      (948-025)


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More definitions…948 Allegations

  • Sexual exploitation of a child

    • Any involvement with a child for the purpose of recording or displaying in a sexually explicit manner

    • Any person responsible for the child who knowingly permits, allows or encourages the above to occur

  • Causing a child to view or listen to sexual activity

  • Incest, enticement, use of computer to facilitate a child sex crime

  • Sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 16 by another who is 16 or older (948.09)


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And more definitions…948 Allegations

  • Sexual assault of a student by a school instructional staff (948.095)

    • Any employee who serves the school or school board

    • Sexual contact or intercourse (student is enrolled and defendant is a member of the staff)

  • Exposing a child to harmful material or harmful descriptions or narratives (948.11), including sexually explicit material

  • Possession of child pornography

  • Child sex offender working with children


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Laws regarding psychotherapy clients and therapists Allegations

  • Wis. Stat. 940.22 reads, “Any person who is or hold themselves out to be a therapist and who intentionally has sexual contact with a patient or client during any ongoing therapist-patient or therapist-client relationship, regardless of whether it occurs during treatment, consultation, interview or examination is guilty of a Class F felony.”

  • Wisconsin was the first state to make sexual contacts with psychotherapy clients a crime (1983) and the second, to Iowa, to make it a felony (1986).


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More on 940.22… Allegations

  • Sexual contact means any intentional touching by the complainant or defendant, either directly or through clothing by the use of any body part or object, of the complainants or defendant’s intimate parts if that intentional touching is either for the purpose of sexually degrading; or for the purpose of sexually humiliating the complainant or sexually arousing or gratifying the defendant or if the touching contains the elements of actual or attempted battery under 940.19(1) causes bodily harm with intent to do so without consent.


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Wis. Stat. 940.22(3)a Allegations

  • Reporting sexual contact by another therapist

    • Client or patient seen in the course of professional duties, cause to suspect that sexual contact with another therapist has occurred

    • “As soon thereafter as practicable”, ask the client if she/he wants a report to be made (not needing to identify the victim, unless that is requested, as well)

    • Within 30 days such report is made to the “department”

    • The DA of that county in which the alleged sexual contact was made

    • Failure to do so is a Class A misdemeanor


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What about ethical codes of conduct? Allegations

  • APA-well developed (Gary’s rating!)

  • WPA- adopted national standards of APA

  • NASP-well developed

  • WSPA-(in the process of adopting NASP language???)

  • NEA-moderately well developed

  • AFT-not present

  • WEAC-not present


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APA Ethical Guidelines - 2002 Allegations

  • General Principles

    • A-Beneficence and Nonmaleficence

      • Strive to benefit and do no harm

    • B-Fidelity and Responsibility

      • Establish and maintain relationships of trust and responsibility

    • C-Integrity

      • Promote accuracy, honesty and truthfulness

    • D-Justice

      • Recognize fairness and justice entitle all people to benefit

    • E-Respect for People’s Rights and Dignity

      • Respect the dignity and worth of all people and rights to privacy, confidentiality and self-determination


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Relevant APA Standards - 2002 Allegations

  • 1.05 – Reporting Ethical Violations

  • 2.06 – Personal Problems and Conflicts

  • 3.02 – Sexual Harassment

  • 3.04 – Avoiding Harm

  • 3.05 – Multiple Relationships

  • 3.06 – Conflict of Interest

  • 3.08 – Exploitative Relationships

  • 7.04 – Student Disclosure of Personal Information

  • 7.07 – Sexual Relationships With Students and Supervisees

  • 10.05 – Sexual Intimacies With Current Therapy Clients/Patients

  • 10.06 – Sexual Intimacies With Relatives or Significant Others of Current Therapy Clients/Patients

  • 10.07 – Therapy With Former Sexual Partners

  • 10.08 – Sexual Intimacies With Former Therapy Clients/Patients


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NASP – Principles for Professional Ethics Allegations

  • Guideline for Professional Relationships (6)

    • This provision specifically prohibits any sexual interaction with students, although it does not provide the specificity of the APA code of ethics


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WSPA – Current Ethical Code Allegations

  • WSPA website was down

    • Current ethics code?

    • NASP code adoption?


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NEA – Code of Ethics Allegations

  • Principle 1 – Commitment to the Student

    • …reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions harmful to learning or to health and safety

    • …not intentionally expose the student to embarrassment or disparagement

    • …not use professional relationship with students for private advantage


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Rationale for this training program: Allegations

  • Teaching and therapy are “high risk” professions for sexual abuse and allegations of such with clients/students

  • Most offenders are not pedophiles (prepubescent children as targets) or hebephiles (adolescent children as targets)

  • Teachers receive little or no training in recognizing their emotional and sexual feelings and needs

  • Psychologists receive variable training

  • The problem is not going away with punishment alone


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High Risk Professions… Allegations

  • Of, course it is wrong…by any standard of decency

  • It violates the law and for some, their professional codes of ethics (the special case for teachers and other school employees)

  • Then, why does this happen with such frequency?


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Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature

  • June 2004 document completed by Charol Shakeshaft of Hofstra University and Interactive, Inc.

  • Prepared for the U.S. Department of Education

  • A response to the mandate in Section 5414 of ESEA of 1965




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Sex of Offenders Literature





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Wisconsin Update: Literature

  • Attny Sheri Pollock at DPI

    • Not much has changed since 2001 presentation, either in frequency of allegations and violations, or the absence of significant efforts in intervention or prevention

  • On average 15 to 17 educators lose their licenses for immoral actions each year (i.e. endangers the safety, health, education or welfare of students)

  • On average 8 to 10 lose their licenses due to sexual misconduct

  • Many more allegations

  • Likely even more infractions that go unreported


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Therapist violations: Literature

  • A 1977 study by Holroyd and Brodsky received a 70% rate of return on a therapist self-report instrument; 2% of females and 11% of males reported at least one incidence of erotic touching with clients/patients and 80% of those had multiple victims of the same sort

  • It has been estimated that only 1 in 20 actual sexual misconduct violations are reported to licensing boards


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Educators/Psychologists and Boundary Violations Literature

  • Ultimate breach of trust and high risk professions; teachers and therapists rank as two of the highest professions in which sexual abuse occurs

    • Sherry Bithel in her 1991 book, Educator Sexual Abuse, reports 1 in 20 teachers has engaged in sexual misconduct with students, ranging from obscene comments to sexual intercourse

    • Wisconsin DPI has consistently seen allegations of teacher misconduct range from 40-60 each year, most of which are for sexual misconduct


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Factors that lead to “high risk” status of these professions:

  • Uniquely ongoing intimate relationships of care and dependency

  • Existing power differential

  • Vulnerable clients and students

  • Both are promised to be safe environments in which appropriate intimacies are likely to be shared

  • Inadequate training, supervision and continuing education in this area of professional responsibility, knowledge and skills


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University training contacts: professions:

  • School of Education-UW-Madison

    • No consistent training after all these years

    • “It already takes teachers 5 years to…”

    • Men generally supportive and women enthusiastically supportive of this training

    • Differences between psychologist training and teacher training

      • Legal and ethical standards and consequences


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What can be done? professions:

  • Improved educational preparation for educators and psychologists/therapists (transference/counter-transference type training for all staff?)

  • Improved supervision during training

  • Improved consultation with colleagues

  • Enforced monetary damages due victims from school districts (US Supreme Court decisions related to Title 9); someone with the authority to take corrective action must have known of the harassment and acted with deliberate indifference; what about “pass the trash” behavior of school districts?

  • Mandatory training upon licensing or hiring


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What can be done…? professions:


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