Protecting Patients from Sexual Abuse and Misconduct
Speech-language pathologists and audiologists provide professional services in a range of settings to a variety of individuals. ACSLPA recognizes that there may be a power imbalance between regulated members and the patients to whom they provide services. In recognition of ACSLPA’s zero-tolerance position in the areas of sexual abuse and sexual misconduct, ACSLPA added to the Standards of Practice so that every recipient of speech-language pathology and audiology services should feel safe and protected.
The addition to the Standards of Practice are intended to ensure professional boundaries are defined and maintained while protecting from sexual abuse and sexual misconduct by speech-language pathologists and audiologists. They build on the existing Standards of Practice (2015) regarding Professional Relations & Boundaries. These standards are part of the overall legislative scheme and form a continuum with other documents including the Code of Ethics, advisory statements, position statements, guidelines, protocols, and the Competency Profile. These Key College Documents can be viewed on our website.
Defining Sexual Abuse and Sexual Misconduct
The Health Professions Act (HPA) provides the following definitions used within our Standards of Practice:
Sexual Abuse: means the threatened, attempted or actual conduct of a regulated member towards a patient that is of a sexual nature and includes the following conduct:
- Sexual intercourse between a regulated member and a patient of that regulated member
- Genital to genital, genital to anal, oral to genital, or oral to anal contact between a regulated member and a patient of that regulated member;
- Masturbation of a regulated member by, or in the presence of, a patient of that regulated member;
- Masturbation of a regulated member’s patient by that regulated member;
- Encouraging a regulated member’s patient to masturbate I the presence of that regulated member;
- Touching of a sexual nature of a patient’s genitals, anus, breasts or buttocks by a regulated member.
Sexual Misconduct: means any incident or repeated incidents of objectionable or unwelcome conduct, behaviour or remarks of a sexual nature by a regulated member towards a patient that the regulated member knows or ought reasonably to know will or would cause offence or humiliation to the patient or adversely affect the patient’s health and well-being but does not include sexual abuse.
The ACSLPA Standards of Practice defines a patient as any individual to whom a regulated member provides a health service in their capacity as a speech -language pathologist or audiologist, but does not include:
- a patient’s substitute decision-maker, legal guardian, or parent, or
- the regulated member’s spouse, adult interdependent partner or other person with whom the regulated member is in an existing sexual relationship if the health service is provided in accordance with these standards.
When You Believe a Professional Boundary has been Violated
We recognize that coming forward with a complaint about sexual abuse or sexual misconduct can be very difficult. ACSLPA’s primary objective is to remove the barriers that hinder reporting of sexual abuse and misconduct by creating a safe reporting environment. ACSLPA cannot perform its mandate in protecting the public and putting a stop to these behaviours if we are unaware of the issues. When you believe a speech-language pathologist or audiologist may have committed sexual abuse or sexual misconduct our priority is you. Once you are in a safe place and you are able, please review our website information.
Our Complaints Against a Member page describes the complaints process in easy actions including the steps for Filing a Complaint. If you wish to speak to someone directly, please contact the Complaints Director through a confidential number at 587-635-0204. Once you contact us, we can assist you with tools such as our Patient Relations Program. We can also put you into contact with a Patient Advocate to assist you in the process.
Within 30 days of receiving a complaint, the Complaints Director must give written notice to the complainant of the action that will be taken. The process for sexual abuse and sexual misconduct is similar to that of Acting on a Complaint with the exception that:
Section 55(1)(2)(a) &(b) does not apply: The Complaints Director will not encourage the complainant and the investigated person to communicate with each other and resolve the complaint; nor make a referral to an alternative complaint resolution process under Division 2.
Dismissal of a Complaint
If a complaint were to be dismissed by the Complaints Director (s.68 of the HPA), you will be provided with the decision in writing including reasons. Additionally, you will be notified of your right to apply to the hearings director for a review of the dismissal. Once you have been notified in writing, you will have 30 days to apply, in writing, with reasons as to why you believe the complaint should not be dismissed.