Criminal ramifications for sexual abuse by mental health professionals in Oklahoma are nonexistent. To find out where your state stands on the issue, click here: https://amynordhues.com/states-with-laws-outlawing-psychiatrist-patient-and-psychotherapist-patient-sexual-relationships/
The following are the current criminal statutes for sex crimes in Oklahoma, according to information provided by the Coyle Law Firm website. https://www.coylelaw.com/criminal-defense/sex-crimes/index.html
Sexual Battery: The act of making unwanted and sexually offensive contact with an intimate body part of another person or causing another person to believe that such act will occur. This crime is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Rape: The act of sexual intercourse involving vaginal or anal penetration accomplished with a male or female who is not the spouse of the perpetrator and who may be of the same or the opposite sex as the perpetrator. Depending on the severity of your alleged offense and if aggravating factors are present, you may face a felony punishable by 15 years to life in prison.
Click here to read my comparison of rape and therapist abuse: https://amynordhues.com/sexual-assault-vs-sexual-assault-by-a-therapist-in-oklahoma-a-side-by-side-comparison/
Obscenity and indecent exposure: Obscenity is viewed as content containing lewd, filthy, or disgusting words or pictures as well as indecent materials or depictions. Since obscene material is primarily based on opinion and cultural standards (which change frequently), the legal process is not typically straightforward and clear-cut. Indecent exposure involves someone lewdly exposing their person or genitals in any public place, or in any place where other people are present or nearby who would likely be offended or annoyed.
If convicted of either crime, you may have to register as a sex offender and suffer a felony charge punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Internet Sex Crimes: It’s illegal to use a computer to commit any crime involving minors, including sex crimes such as child pornography and child sexual abuse. If convicted of this felony offense, you could face up to 5 years in prison.
Now let’s look at sexual assault by a person in a position of power, in this case, a therapist and a vulnerable client.
Abuse by Mental Health Professionals: The act of using a position of power, in this case, mental health professionals, to take advantage of and harm vulnerable clients in their care. LEGAL. It is not illegal for therapists who hold all the power in the counseling relationship to engage in sexual activity with vulnerable patients in the state of Oklahoma. Sadly, only 32 of our states see this as a criminal offense.
After I was abused in 2014 by a “Christian” psychiatrist, I sought legal counsel. Multiple attorneys, all knowledgeable in this type of abuse informed me that what was done to me was not criminally illegal in my state, that the trial would destroy me and my family, and that the abuser would likely walk. So much for justice, huh?
As a result of my case, then Oklahoma Senator Brecheen tried a second time to implement legislation that would make therapist abuse a crime. Here is what he proposed.
Johnny Edwards stated in an article by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, “Brecheen’s ‘Protection Against Sexual Exploitation By a Mental Health Services Provider Act’ would make a single act with one patient a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $5,000 fine, multiple acts with one patient a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $10,000 fine, and multiple acts with more than one patient a felony punishable by up to a $20,000 fine. The law also covers sexual acts with former patients.”
The bill was shut down due to lack of interest. Therapist abuse wasn’t even deemed serious enough to be categorized with traffic violations and other misdemeanors despite studies showing that the damage caused by therapist abuse is incalculable. “11% of victims of therapist-patient abuse end up in the hospital, 14% attempt suicide, and 1% actually commit suicide (Pope and Vetter) To read Pope and Vetter’s full article on the effects of therapist abuse: https://kspope.com/sexiss/sexencyc.php#:~:text=Pope%20and%20Vetter%20published%20a,only%20after%20termination%20of%20therapy.).
Two victims, myself and later another woman came forward with allegations of abuse against Stewart. A third woman who committed suicide while under the doctor’s care was discussed, but her death wasn’t confirmed as a direct result of her involvement with Stewart. According to Johny Edwards in the AJC article, “Though Brecheen’s bill had failed, charges could have been possible based on other aspects of Stewart’s behavior, according to an Oklahoma legal expert.” The article went on to state that the Bartlesville police did nothing with the information, nor did they report Stewart to the state medical board.
Instead, I was the one to report the doctor to the Oklahoma Medical Board. Even though Stewart admitted to predatory sexual behavior against me, the board allowed him to surrender his license and essentially retire. They decided not to report anything to law enforcement.
Knowing the horrors that awaited me in a possible criminal investigation, I was relieved when the board decided not to involve the police. After all, in Oklahoma therapists may engage in sexual activity with patients without incurring criminal consequences. Besides, Stewart often bragged that he was best friends with the local District Attorney.
One of the investigators with the medical board who handled my case, a retired police officer, told me that I might have strong enough evidence to file rape charges. But I’d already been warned about what would be in store for me and my family if I did so. On top of that, it would be my word against a doctor’s. Not to mention, mental health providers can say anything they want to about their patients’ mental states. In my case, I learned that Stewart informed his cohorts that I was delusional and had imagined the abuse.
With criminal charges off the table, I decided to pursue civil litigation. I found a wonderful attorney, Stan Spero who specializes in abuse by therapists and clergy and together we pursued a medical malpractice suit. The civil suit was yet another way I could stand up to this tyrant, this bully, another way to seek some semblance of justice. It’s hardly fair, but it’s all we have in Oklahoma…for now.