New York law could allow therapist sex assaults to go unreported?

Note from Psych Rape Reporter: Anyone who files a complaint of sexual abuse/assault with a medical or other health care licensing board in any state should also forward a copy to Citizens Commission on Human Rights, 6616 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028, Attn: Public Advocacy Secretary. They will review the complaint and, if it contains criminal acts, will be forwarded to the appropriate police department and/or district attorney. However, patients who have been sexually assaulted by their therapist should also file a report directly with the local police and, in the case of sexual intercourse, should go immediately to the nearest hospital for a rape exam (“rape kit”) and should retain any articles of clothing which might have the offender’s biological fluid on them. It’s evidence.

The state authority charged with overseeing licensed psychotherapists in New York is not required to forward complaints of statutory rape to law enforcement, the News 4 I-Team has learned.

A Long Island woman who accused her psychotherapist of rape last year believes that could leave rapists free to prey on patients.

“The agencies that were put in place to help me, failed me, heinously,” Denise Weisbrod told the I-Team.

Under New York law it is third-degree, or statutory, rape when a mental health provider engages in a sexual relationship with a patient undergoing therapy, regardless of age.

“The patient is unable to consent and that’s what the criminal statute here in New York recognizes,” said Weisbrod’s lawyer, Audrey Bedolis. “Consent isn’t there because emotions have been manipulated by the therapist.”

In Nassau County recently, psychiatrist Marshall Hubsher was accused of manipulating a patient into having sex with him in his office. Hubsher has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual misconduct and statutory rape.

“I was infuriated because it mirrored my case, almost exactly,” said Weisbrod.

One difference: Hubsher is a psychiatrist – a medical doctor whose license to practice is overseen by the state Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC), a division of the Health Department.

Weisbrod’s counselor was not a doctor, but a state-licensed clinical social worker or psychotherapist whose license was overseen by the state Office of Professional Discipline (OPD), a division of the Education Department.

According to state law, OPMC is required to report to law enforcement any cases where a psychiatrist is in a sexual relationship with a patient undergoing therapy.

OPD has no such requirement for psychotherapists or licensed clinical social workers.

“I don’t think there’s a person out there that’s not going to be outraged by that,” said Kathleen Rice, Nassau County district attorney. “Whether you look at a psychiatrist or a psychotherapist, they’re in that very intimate relationship where someone is very vulnerable and coming to them for help.”

Rice’s office is prosecuting the case against Hubsher.

In neighboring Suffolk County, Weisbrod’s counselor, Scott Burzon, was not charged with the crime. He committed suicide in March 2012, according to sources.

Burzon had both a private practice and was an administrator of the Brentwood Mental Health Clinic – a facility run by Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

“I went to Scott Burzon because I was raped when I was younger and I realized I needed to deal with those issues,” said Weisbrod.

Over four years, Weisbrod said she revealed painful details about once being date-raped and told Burzon she had issues trusting men.

As part of her therapy, Burzon suggested the two have sex in his office as a way to help her trust men again, Weisbrod said.

“I would do anything at that point that I could to get better,” said Weisbrod. “I wanted to get better so I believed him because everything he said for four years seemed to be trustworthy, that he was going to help me.”

While it all seemed consensual, it was illegal.

According to Weisbrod, she was on the verge of a breakdown and confided in a friend who was a registered nurse. She also began seeing a new therapist, and Weisbrod said she was quickly convinced to file a complaint against Burzon. She reported him to OPD in August 2011.

She said she first heard nothing from a state investigator. She called the office again in October and asked about the case and was told another person had also come forward with similar accusations.

“He was called in to be interviewed and admitted to both cases,” said Weisbrod.

An OPD spokesman did not dispute Weisbrod’s story, but explained that confidentiality laws prevent the agency from releasing any details.

Rice believes the confidentiality rules at OPD are the heart of the issue.

“You have to have better communication between law enforcement and the medical community so we can root out the bad people,” she said.

She believes it should be mandatory for OPD to report any and all complaints of therapists having sex with patients — similar to OPMC’s mandate for psychiatrists.

For seven months following Weisbrod’s complaint, Burzon still had his license and could see clients.

Ultimately, Weisbrod did complain directly to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. In a statement to the I-team, a representative from the DA’s office said they declined to prosecute due to a lack of evidence.

In March 2012, Burzon was found dead in a hotel room near MacArthur Airport.

Weisbrod has filed a lawsuit against the estate of Burzon, who was married. His wife did not return calls, nor did the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

Source: Chris Glorioso and Tom Burke, “I-Team: State Law Could Allow Therapist Sex Assaults to Go Unreported, NBC-4 New York, May 17, 2012.

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6 responses to “New York law could allow therapist sex assaults to go unreported?

  1. i was physically sexually assaulted by my pschiatrist while working for him, i was on a lot of medications. he kept telling me that this is what drs do. and that it was my disorder that was making it seem wrong, after i tried to commit suicide and in the hospital for two months the social worker told me to say something. the dates when it happened were fuzzy so he got his wife to cover for him and he got away with it. i know find out he had a malpractice case brought against him. can this son of a bitch be brought up on my case.

    • IF I were you, I would contact the lawyer who is representing the plaintiff who has the malpractice suit. Ask and find out.

      Did you file a complaint with the licensing board or did you file a criminal complaint with the police?

      Sincerely,

      Sue

      • i filed a report with licensing board because it was long time after the incident when i could bring myself to do report it after my suicide attempt. do you know how i would get the information on who the lawyer is for the malpractice suit.

  2. IF YOU DONT KNOW THE ABOVE INFORMATION DOES ANY ONE ELSE KNOW. IS THERE ANYWHERE I CAN POST WHAT HAPPEN WITH HIS NAME WITHOUT GETTING IN TROUBLE SO OTHERS ARE AWHERE. IF I CANT BRING THE CASE UP AGAIN

    • Hi,

      It’s risky to post or issue a story containing allegations against someone which have not been proven. Have you contacted the journalist who wrote the news story?

      Sue

      • ok thanks.. no its about what happened to me, just wanted others to be aware. and not go through what i went through.. thank you for answering my questions…

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