For more information on Types of Abuse click the button below to be linked to several papers that address different types of abuse

There are so many types of adult sexual abuse scenarios.  This section is dedicated to highlighting some of the major types of abuser that may rarely be identified and to offer information on these types of abuse. The types of abuse highlighted are Clergy Abuse, Doctor  & Therapist, Educators & Coaches, Military Leaders,Business Owners, Managers & Supervisors, Politicians, Lawyers, Judges & Police Officers, Massage Therapist & Fitness Instructors, Stranger and Acquaintance, and Narcissistic Abuse,. 


Our goal is to provide information to help the community understand each type of abuse and also help give them tools to recognize power abusers.  Unfortunately some of these types of abuse are severely underserved online.  You can read hundreds or thousands of stories within the news about occurrences of abuse, and there are thousands of victim’s accounts online. However there is not enough information available to identify give resources and support to adult victims of these types of abuse. We also want to bring awareness that some sexual violence happens as a one-time occurrence and others incidents present themselves as a relationship and happen repeatedly over time.



Our purpose is to provide information to victims of abuse to help them better understand their experiences and also let them know that they are not alone. It is unfortunate that there is not a community of support for each abuse type today, but hopefully in the future this will change. We hope to become a catalyst for that change. In the meantime Ibelieveyou.org is here to provide support and resources to all adult survivors of power sexual abuse.


If you believe that you have been a victim of power abuse or know of someone that you feel may currently be a victims please click on the following links to test these relationships.  Click on the Do You Need Help link to assess your safety and also use the Is There Something Wrong or Questionable in Your Treatment document to help understand your what is appropriate.  Both assesments are geared towards doctor or therapist relationships, however they are appropriate for any relationship where there is a power imbalance.


These are not fail proof tests, however they will give you a good general scope of information that can help you understand if the relationship is healthy or unhealthy.  If you take these assessments and are confused about your relationship with an individual in power please seek out a professional or contact your state or city Sexual Assault Organization and ask for help.  You can always contact them anonymously and still be provided information to help you make a healthy decision for you. You can also visit our Survivors Resources section on the website to get more information.


At I believe you.org we understand that there are many other power abuse situations, if you are aware of a power sexual abuse situation that you feel we should highlight to help other victims. Please Contact Us and give us your recommendations. 


Do You Need Help?



The following is excerpted from the booklet Professional Therapy Never Includes Sex published by the California Department of Consumer Affairs.


Warning Signs
In most sexual abuse or exploitation cases, other inappropriate behavior comes first. While it may be subtle or confusing, it usually feels uncomfortable to the patient. Some clues or warning signs are:

  • Telling sexual jokes or stories.

  • “Making eyes at” or giving seductive looks to the patient.

  • Discussing the therapist’s sex life or relationships excessively.

  • Sitting too close, initiating hugging, holding the patient or lying next to the patient.


Another warning sign is “special” treatment by a therapist, such as:

  • Inviting a patient to lunch, dinner or other social activities.

  • Dating.

  • Changing any of the office’s business practices (for example, scheduling late appointments so no one is around, having sessions away from the office, etc.).

  • Confiding in a patient (for example, about the therapist’s love life, work problems, etc.).

  • Telling a patient that he or she is special, or that the therapist loves him or her.

  • Relying on a patient for personal and emotional support.

  • Giving or receiving significant gifts.

  • Providing or using alcohol (or drugs) during sessions.


Signs of inappropriate behavior and misuse of power include:

  • Hiring a patient to do work for the therapist, or bartering goods or services to pay for therapy.

  • Suggesting or supporting the patient’s isolation from social support systems, increasing dependency on the therapist.

  • Any violation of the patient’s rights as a consumer (see “Patient Bill of Rights”).


Therapy is meant to be a guided learning experience, during which therapists help patients to find their own answers and feel better about themselves and their lives. A patient should never feel intimidated or threatened by a therapist’s behavior.


If you are experiencing any of these warning signs, trust your own feelings. Check on the therapist’s behavior with a different therapist. Depending on what you find out, you may want to find another therapist.

What If It’s Me? If you have been sexually abused or exploited by your therapist, you may be feeling confused.


You may feel:

  • Guilty and responsible — even though it’s the therapist’s responsibility to keep sexual behavior out of therapy.

  • Mixed feelings about the therapist — protectiveness, anger, love, betrayal.

  • Isolated and empty.

  • Distrustful of others or your own feelings.

  • Fearful that no one will believe you or understand what happened, or that someone will find out.

  • Confused about dependency, control and power.


You may even have nightmares, obsessive thoughts, depression, or suicidal or homicidal thoughts. You may feel overwhelmed as you try to decide what to do or whom to tell.


It’s essential that you face what happened. This may be painful, but it is the first major step in healing and recovering from the experience. You may have positive and negative feelings at the same time, such as starting to feel personal control, being afraid of what may happen in the future, remembering the experience, and feeling relieved that the sexual relationship is over.


The second step in the healing process is to decide what YOU want to do next. Try to be open-minded about your options.


Remember: It doesn’t matter if you, the patient, started or wanted the sexual involvement with the therapist. Therapists are responsible for keeping sexual intimacy out of the therapy relationship and are trained to know how to handle a patient’s sexual attractions and desires.



Where To Start
You may need to (1) talk to someone who will understand what you’re going through, (2) get information on whether the therapist’s behavior was illegal and/or unethical, and (3) find out what you can do about it. Three places to get help are:

  • Licensing Boards — In the Department of Consumer Affairs, three different boards license therapists. They can give general information on appropriate behavior for therapists and your rights for reporting what happened, as well as how to file a complaint.

  • Sexual Assault/Crisis Centers — These centers have staff trained in all types of sexual abuse and exploitation. They can provide general information on appropriate behavior for therapists, crisis services, your rights for reporting what happened, and names of therapists and support groups that may be helpful. Look in your telephone book under “sexual assault center” or “crisis intervention service.”

  • Professional Associations — Each licensed therapy profession has at least one professional association. Associations can provide general information on appropriate behavior for therapists, your rights for reporting what happened, and how to file a complaint. They can provide names of therapists who may be helpful.


What You Can Do
You can deal with your situation in several different ways. Take time to explore all of your rights and options. It may help to decide what your goals are:


Reporting the Therapist — Perhaps you want to prevent the therapist from hurting other patients. You may want to make it known that sexual exploitation is always wrong. If this is your decision, you have several reporting options. It is important to note that reporting misconduct is time-sensitive.


What can be done in response to the report of misconduct usually depends on:
— who the misconduct is reported to, and
— the length of time between the misconduct and when the report was filed.

Such a time limit is called a “statute of limitations.” As you consider your options, be aware of these time limits.

Your Recovery — You may also want to explore and process what happened between you and the therapist. If you decide to do this, you can look into therapy or support groups.


Moving On — You may wish simply to move on past this experience as quickly as possible and get on with your life. Remember — you have the right to decide what is best for you.


Your Reporting Options
If you decide to report a therapist’s behavior that you believe is unethical and illegal, there are four different ways to do so. All of these reporting options are affected by time limits, so you should consider reporting misconduct at the earliest appropriate opportunity. You may choose one or more of the options listed below.

  • Administrative Action — File a complaint with the therapist’s licensing board.

  • Professional Association Action — File a complaint with the ethics committee of the therapist’s professional association.

  • Civil Action — File a civil lawsuit.

  • Criminal Action — File a complaint with local law enforcement.


Source: Professional Therapy Never Includes Sex Copyright 2004, California Department of Consumer Affairs.



Is There Something Wrong or Questionable in Your Treatment?

Estelle Disch, Ph.D.


The purpose of this list is to alert you to boundary issues that frequently occur in poor or abusive treatment and health care. If you are currently in a treatment that doesn't feel right, and/or if several of the items below describe your treatment, I suggest that you find a consultant who does not know your current practitioner in order to assess whether or not the treatment is viable. If you have been in a treatment relationship that didn't feel good to you, this list might help you identify what went wrong. The list below is not exhaustive. It is intended to offer examples of the kinds of behaviors that very often accompany poor treatment. Although most items apply to psychotherapy, some can apply to other kinds of health care, pastoral counseling, or clergy relationships. There is a section on touch-based health care (including body work) at the end of this checklist.


Certain items below might not always reflect poor treatment. For example, it might make sense to break ties with abusive people in your life, and a practitioner might support this with your best interests in mind. If, however, the practitioner is encouraging you to break ties with all your close relationships with the sole purpose of making you extremely dependent on him or her, that is very likely to be poor treatment. A practitioner who encourages you to see him or her as often as you can afford might genuinely have your best interests in mind. The issue to examine is whether he/she is encouraging extra sessions as part of his or her own need to have you become excessively dependent. A practitioner might occasionally share something about him/herself in order to help you (e.g. let you know you're not the only one who has experienced that difficulty; offer some advice about what helped him/her in a similar situation). If, however, the practitioner talks about him or herself as a way of asking for help from you, as a way of having you serve as an audience, or as a way of derailing you from the issue you raised, there's probably serious trouble in your treatment.


Good, boundaried psychotherapy, pastoral counseling, addiction counseling, bodywork, medical practice, etc. should always be oriented to your emotional and medical needs and not to the emotional needs of the practitioner. Practitioners who are lonely, need attention, have deep unresolved problems, and/or who lack good training in boundary issues, are apt to do marginal or poor treatment. There are good practitioners, and you have a right to be treated by them.  Many of the items listed below might fit into more than one category.


Business Practices

___Practitioner has offered to see me free or for a very low fee as a favor to me.

___Since my fee is so low, the practitioner expects me to bring food for him/her to the sessions, or to do other tasks in exchange for treatment.

___Practitioner bills insurance company for sessions that don't occur.

___Sessions frequently run over by half an hour or more.

___I am usually the last appointment of the day.

___There is usually no one else around when I have my appointments.

___The practitioner often keeps me waiting for long periods of time.

___I owe the practitioner over $1,000.

___I often don't know how long a session is going to last. Sometimes it's 20 minutes; other times it's an hour and a half.

___The practitioner frequently answers the phone during my sessions.

___If the practitioner is hungry, we go to a restaurant during my session.

Dependency, Isolation and Goal Derailment

___The practitioner has told me that I should break ties with most of my important relationships (such as those listed below) and I don't understand why:





            partner or spouse

            social groups

            religious activities

            treatment group

            close friend(s)

            political groups

            12-Step Programs



___The practitioner encourages me to see him/her as often as I can afford to do so, even if I don't feel a need to come so often.

___The practitioner encourages me to telephone him/her often even if I feel I don't need to.

___The practitioner tells me what she/he is doing in terms of personal growth and suggests that I do the same thing.

___The practitioner goes out of his or her way to accommodate to the frequent schedule changes which I request, even though it is very inconvenient for him/ her.

___The practitioner suggested that I drop out of school.

___The practitioner seemed to think that my plans to go to or complete school were a bad idea.

___The practitioner thought that my ideas to change my career for the better were not a good idea.

___The practitioner offered to see me free if I were to run out of money, even if I needed long-tern free treatment.

___The practitioner has given me his or her personal used clothing.

___The practitioner tells me what clothing to wear and/or how to wear my hair.

___The practitioner demands that I talk with noone about my treatment.

___I have said several times that I'd like to see another practitioner for a consultation about my treatment, but my practitioner is adamant that I shouldn't do it.

___The practitioner regularly offers concrete support to me such as visits to my home, accompanying me in difficult situations, frequent calling to see how I am. When I am in a crisis, he/she is even more available.

___I feel with this practitioner as though I've found the kind of help and understanding I've wanted all my life.

___The practitioner regularly reminds me that she/he is the only person in my life who really cares about me.

___The Practitioner regularly reminds me that he/she is the only person who really understands me and knows what's good for me.


Social Contact

___I have been to parties where the practitioner was and the practitioner didn't discuss the implications of traveling in the same social circles.

___The practitioner has invited me to parties.

___I have invited the practitioner to parties to which he/she came.

___I have invited the practitioner to parties to which he/she did not come but said it was because of a prior engagement.

___I have attended professional meetings with this practitioner, at his/her invitation.

___This practitioner and I usually attend the same AA or AlAnon (or equivalent) meeting.

___This practitioner often gives me a ride to the bus at the end of the session.

___This practitioner often gives me a ride home.

___I have stayed at this practitioner's house overnight.

___I have spent social time with members of this practitioner's family.

___I have been/am intimately involved with one or more members of this practitioner's family.

___This practitioner and I have close friends in common.

___Practitioner said or implied that we could be friends when treatment was over.

___The practitioner sometimes takes drugs or drinks alcohol with me.

___The practitioner has given me illegal drugs.

___I have seen my practitioner nude at the health spa, gym, etc.

___I have seen my practitioner at the gym or health club (dressed).

___My practitioner and I are on the same sports team.

___My practitioner and I are on competing sports teams and predictably see each other in that context.

___I have access to a lot of personal information about the practitioner from mutual friends or colleagues.

___We have never discussed how social contact outside the professional relationship might affect the professional relationship.

___Other kinds of social contact. Please describe:




Feeling Special

___The practitioner told me that I was his/her favorite client.

___The practitioner talked about other clients in my presence.

___The practitioner took calls from other clients in my presence and let me know who they were.

___The practitioner said that she/he had never known anyone like me before.

___The practitioner gives me lots of presents and says they're a reflection of how important I am to him/her.

___The practitioner tells me about other clients in a way that makes me feel important, trusted and special.

___The practitioner told me I was special.

___Other ways the practitioner helped you feel special. Please describe:




Cult Themes

___There are many clients who seem close to this practitioner. I have met them or heard about them.

___The practitioner likes to foster a sense of family and community among his/her clients which I have been part of.

___There are often parties or social meetings at the practitioner's home that I have attended.

___The practitioner often takes former clients on as trainees at his/her training institute.

___The practitioner plays the role of "guru" for his/her clients. He/she has a vision about how the world should be and is trying to develop a community of clients as followers/participants.

___I have been part of the planning group for the community the practitioner hopes to develop.

___The practitioner talks about other clients I know with no respect for their right to confidentiality.

___Ritualized group activities such as ceremonies were part of my relationship with the practitioner and his/her community.

___The practitioner is the "Guru" of the group in which she/he is involved.

___Ritualized sadistic activity in the presence of others.

___Other ways the practitioner established a community or family-type atmosphere. Please describe:




Mind Control

___The practitioner uses hypnosis as part of the treatment and I often don't know what's going on. When I ask, he/she refuses to answer.

___I feel as though I've been hypnotized or somehow in a trance-like state in the practitioner's presence, though he/she doesn't seem to obviously use hypnosis.

___I remember the practitioner making hypnotic suggestions with which I don't feel comfortable.

___After treatment was over, I began to remember some of the things the practitioner said or did while I was in a trance-like state which in retrospect feel very uncomfortable or abusive.

___The practitioner suggested that I kill myself.

___The practitioner failed to take my suicidal feelings seriously. The practitioner suggested or implied that I might be better off dead.

___The practitioner fostered a lot of dependency, and then started trying to get me to do things I didn't want to do.

___The practitioner insulted what I believed were the good parts of my life.

___A short time after I started treatment, my life began to fall apart. The practitioner didn't seem concerned about my life. Rather, he/she seemed concerned that I stay dependent on him/her. Sometimes I feel/ felt drugged after sessions.

___Other ways the practitioner affected your thinking or undermined your strength. Please describe:




Sexual Activity

___The practitioner engaged (with or without physical force) in overt sexual contact such  as: kissing of mouth, breasts, genitals; sexual hugs (prolonged full body hugs, pelvic  thrusts, obvious erections); partial or total disrobing for the purpose of sexual contact;  fondling of breasts or genitals (with or without clothing) masturbation; oral sex; vaginal  or anal intercourse; use of sex toys; sexual activity while I was drugged.

___Practitioner engaged in sexual activity with me against my will.

___Practitioner initiated sexual activity with me on the condition that I keep quiet about it by saying things like: If this gets out it will ruin me and/or my family.

___After the sexual part of my relationship with the practitioner ended, he/she told me that if I told anyone she/he'd be ruined.

___After the sexual part of my relationship with the practitioner ended, he/she threatened to expose embarrassing parts of my psychological history if I ever told anyone  in authority or filed a complaint.

___Practitioner threatens that if I don't work on my repressed sexuality by being sexual with him/her, I'll never get better.

Seductive Language and Nonverbal Interaction

___practitioner says, "if only I'd known you back then, we'd have made a good  couple..."

___practitioner compliments my body.

___practitioner discusses his/ her sexual attraction to me.

___practitioner says, "if only we both weren't married."

___practitioner seems to have a voyeuristic interest in my sex life.

___practitioner sends me love letters.

___practitioner gives me sex toys to use at home, tells me how to use them, and asks for  details about how I'm doing with them.

___practitioner makes frequent comments on my appearance with the goal of having me  appear as "sexually attractive" as possible.

___practitioner often suggested or implied that we could have an affair when treatment  was over.

___practitioner looks at me in a voyeuristic way.

___After treatment ended, the practitioner called to ask me for a date.

___A short time after treatment ended, I started a sexual relationship with the practitioner.


Treatment Process

___Practitioner tells me his/her problems so that I can offer help or advice.

___Practitioner talks a lot about him/herself, and I don't understand the relevance of what she/he is sharing for my treatment.

___Practitioner seems to free associate to what I say and spin off into his/her own thinking. I feel like my issues aren't being addressed.

___Practitioner always acts like he/she knows what's best for me without asking me.

___Practitioner is cold, distant, and rigid.

___Practitioner gets very angry, sometimes yells at me.

___Practitioner interprets everything that happens between us as transference, even when ___I'm sure he/she has had a clear effect on how I feel.

___Since starting treatment, I've felt worse rather than better, and the practitioner doesn't seem concerned that this is happening or explain why it might be happening.

___After starting treatment, my life began to fall apart. Rather than being concerned about the quality of my life or my state of mind, the practitioner seems more interested that I stay dependent upon him/her.

___Since starting treatment, I've felt suicidal for the first time in my life; the practitioner doesn't seem concerned.

___Practitioner is hostile, sadistic.

___Practitioner seems to enjoy my pain.

___Practitioner fails to take my suicidal feelings seriously.

___Practitioner suggested, either directly or indirectly, that I kill myself (e.g. that I would be better off dead; that s/he dreamt that I was dead; that suicide might be a reasonable alternative for me, etc.).

___Practitioner insults parts of me over which I have little or no control such as my physical characteristics and abilities, weight, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, hospitalization history, etc.

___Practitioner insults other aspects of my life. She/he seems more interested in tearing me down than in building me up.

___Practitioner threatens that if I don't do what he /she says, I'll never get better. Sometimes that feels right, sometimes it doesn't.

___The practitioner diminished the importance of a prior abusive treatment.

The practitioner refuses to address my current needs, always insisting that my current problems must be addressed by working with my earlier experiences.

___The practitioner repeatedly yells at me in a loud voice.

___I often say that I don't think treatment is going very well and the practitioner brushes me off.

___When I raise questions about what is happening in my treatment, the practitioner refuses to discuss the treatment process, how he/she works, what I can expect from the treatment, etc.

___The practitioner would not tell me what his/her credentials are.

___The practitioner misrepresented his/her credentials.

___The practitioner advertised services for which he/she is not qualified to deliver.

___The practitioner uses drugs or alcohol with me.

___The practitioner encouraged me to use drugs or alcohol, even though he/she knows that I have a history of troubles with drugs or alcohol.

___The practitioner seemed drugged or drunk in sessions.

___The practitioner and I used drugs or alcohol together during treatment sessions or office visits.

___The practitioner insults me for having the problems I have.

___The treatment ended without a termination process.

___The treatment ended with me feeling very upset and the practitioner didn't suggest a referral to another practitioner.

___The practitioner talked about me with other people without my permission.

___The practitioner failed to carefully explain the limits of confidentiality.

___Other aspects of the therapy process which didn't feel right. Please describe:




Dual Roles

___The practitioner is my clinical supervisor (or vice versa).

___I work for the practitioner.

___I work for the practitioner in exchange for treatment sessions.

___The practitioner is/was my teacher, dissertation advisor, etc.

___The practitioner and I are friends apart from the treatment.

___The practitioner is a relative of mine.

___The practitioner is a close friend of my family.

___The practitioner and I are colleagues or peers in a work setting.

___The practitioner and I are engaged in a joint business venture.

___The practitioner has borrowed money from me.

___Other dual roles. Please describe:




In Bodywork, Health Care, etc. Involving Physical Contact

___This practitioner touches parts of my body that seem unrelated to the issues I've presented and I don't understand why. When I ask, I don't get an adequate explanation.

___This practitioner's touches seem more like sexual caresses than the kind of touch that feels appropriate in a medical treatment or examination.

___This practitioner's hands seem to linger too long on my body during a physical examination or treatment.

___This practitioner touches me in ways that hurt without preparing me for what will happen and without negotiating what my treatment or diagnostic alternatives might be.

___This practitioner seems to enjoy the fact that some of the physical contact he/she initiates is painful to me.

___This practitioner blames me for the health problems I have and acts as though I deserve them.

___This practitioner seems hostile towards my body.

___This practitioner makes comments of a sexualized nature about my body.

___This practitioner has not asked me whether there are parts of my body that I would prefer not to have touched.

___This practitioner does not explain what she/he is doing or what I should expect in an exam or treatment.

___This practitioner leaves parts of my body uncovered after she/he has finished examining or treating those parts, even though I have requested that my body be covered except for those parts being treated or examined.

___If I take a friend or advocate along when I see this practitioner, he/she addresses communication to that person rather than to me.


Estelle Disch, Ph.D.
Boston Associates to Stop Treatment Abuse
528 Franklin Street
Cambridge, MA 02139

Copyright © 1998 BASTA!  All rights reserved. Used with permission of the author.

© Copyright 2005 Therapy Exploitation Link Line


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