Children as young as 3 years old have been sexually abused by therapists, according to a survey by an American Psychological Association committee.
Kenneth S. Pope, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles and chairman of the American Psychological Association's ethics committee, said Monday that the committee's recent survey of what he called "distinguished psychologists" nationwide disclosed 82 instances of sexual intimacy between therapists and minor patients."From the 90 who replied to the survey, 24 percent said they knew of instances where therapists abused minor patients," he said. "Five percent said they knew of hearsay accounts."
Of the 82 cases reported, he said, 56 percent of the victims were female and the rest were male.
The ages of the male victims ranged from 7 to 16, with a mean age of 12.5, he said. Among female victims, the ages ranged from 3 to 17, with a mean age of 13.75.
Pope said the survey results will be published next year.
The survey is the latest attempt by the mental health profession to examine itself and to purge its ranks of therapists who take advantage of their position to have sexual relations with patients.
A report published in the July issue of American Psychologist said studies have shown "therapist-patient sexual intimacy to be a major problem for all major mental health professions" despite the threat of multimillion-dollar malpractice suits, censure by the profession and, in some states, new laws that make such practices a felony.
"This practice (sexual intimacy with patients) causes deep and lasting harm both to the clients and to the integrity of the profession," said the report in the association journal. "The scope of the problem is extensive."