I received a nice e-mail recently from Cindy Boling of AdvocateWeb. She complimented this blog and suggested I look at her organization, which was formed in order to help victims of abuse or exploitation by trusted professionals. The site has good information and will be a great resource for anyone who might have been molested by a doctor or cheated by another type of professional. Here is information from the site:
AdvocateWeb is a nonprofit organization providing information and resources to promote awareness and understanding of the issues involved in the exploitation of persons by trusted helping professionals. We are attempting to be a helpful resource for victim/survivors, their family and friends, the general public, and for victim advocates and professionals.
If you believe in our mission, please DONATE NOW. We need your support in order to keep these services available.
AdvocateWeb has existed as a web site since January 1998 and since that time, we have aggressively worked to provide free public information resources on the web for people who have been emotionally/sexually exploited or abused by someone in a “trusted helping profession”. On September 27, 1999, AdvocateWeb was incorporated as a Texas nonprofit corporation, we then changed our Internet address from advocateweb.com to advocateweb.org, and on December 27th, 1999, the IRS classified AdvocateWeb as a charitable tax-exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
Exploitation of patients/clients by “helping professionals” is an alarmingly common societal problem. Professionals in mental health-related services, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, therapists, psychiatric nurses, ministers, as well as medical professionals, doctors, nurses, home-health-care nurses, attorneys, professors, teachers educators, social workers, emergency / crisis counselors, drug abuse counselors, victim services, and law enforcement officers are entrusted and empowered by society to have authority and power in people’s lives. When this power is abused, tremendous damage can result for the victims, and their families.
This is not a gender-specific problem. Victims can be male or female. Perpetrators can be male or female. The issue is not really about sex. It is about the misuse of power by a professional to exploit a client’s trust, vulnerability, and need for the professional’s help, to meet the professional’s own personal desires at the expense of the client.
The “cost” to the victim is immeasurable. The shattered lives and families are the greatest toll of this abuse of trust. Secondarily, there is a cost to society. Sexual exploitation by professionals has been recognized as a problem of great magnitude in recent years. Current estimates reveal one-third of all money awarded in medical malpractice claims is due to sexual misconduct. In some specific professions, such as psychology, this monetary figure is estimated at greater than fifty percent! Thus, this serious problem directly affects health-care and insurance costs, and any attempts to reduce the prevalence of this problem can have a positive impact on the economy. Thirdly, there is a cost to the profession. When a professional abuses a client, they damage the profession they represent.
Traditionally, many of these professions have done a poor job of addressing such abuse, or even acknowledging it. Employers and institutions often address “problems” that arise by minimizing the abuse, or even worse, blaming the victim, in an attempt to protect the image of the institution or the perpetrator. Victims are left in isolation to deal with their injuries alone, sometimes losing their families, their churches, their friends, their jobs, and are left fearful of turning to others in the same profession as their abuser for the help they need.
Even when there are professional organizations which have genuine concern for consumers, they are limited in what they can reasonably offer victims given both the reality and perception of their built-in conflict of interest. Furthermore, there are some in professional roles who operate on their own, completely outside of either professional organizations or the requirements of licensure. Examples would include a large number of people who call themselves “counselors” (although there are some professional organizations to which they could belong, and the fact that some states license them), clergy operating outside formal faith groups, and a variety of types of “therapists.”
By offering these resources to victims and their families, AdvocateWeb also offers a unique referral resource for those who are assisting them. Therapists cannot themselves deal with the isolation that such people feel nor satisfy their needs to network. Furthermore, many victims seek, and benefit from, reading materials related to abuse, something that they can access through AdvocateWeb.
AdvocateWeb offers hope for victims, family members and others who are “secondary” or “associate” victims, others affected by the abuse, and those who seek to assist them – advocates, followup therapist, etc. Victims and their families do not have to suffer alone. AdvocateWeb uses the Internet as a medium for reaching a worldwide audience about this widespread problem, breaking the isolation for victims. AdvocateWeb also addresses the commonality of the problems which result for victims, independent of the type of professional who violated them. Several advocate groups have been formed over the years, but most focus on specific types of abuse such as clergy sexual abuse, therapy abuse, or educator abuse. AdvocateWeb spans these professions, bringing victims together for peer support and uniting professionals, experts, authors, ethicists, educators, and advocates to further empower them in their advocacy work. Bringing these advocates together, spanning professions and spanning the world, brings power through unity and a stronger voice to speak out against this type of abuse.
AdvocateWeb’s impact begins with the information resources it provides over the Internet, but does not stop there. Uniting victims and advocates places AdvocateWeb in a central position to publish the latest information about advocacy work, new legislation, links to news stories, updates on what professional organizations are doing (or not doing) to address these problems, and in the future: publish newsletters, provide resources for the news media, foster the formation of local survivor support groups, provide referrals for victims seeking professional (counseling or legal) help, host retreats for victims, and organize regional and world conferences for professionals and victims.