Addressing Sexual Abuse
Kinesiologists are in a position of trust and power over their patients/clients during the clinical relationship, and often even after it has ended. This relationship is called the therapeutic-client relationship. Patients/clients trust their care to health professionals because of their unique knowledge and skills. They expect that health professionals will respect their needs and act in a caring and professional manner.
Sexual abuse of patients/clients by kinesiologists is a breach of trust and the therapeutic-client relationship. The impact of sexual abuse on patients/clients can have severe and long-lasting consequences. The Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHPA) reflects a zero-tolerance philosophy towards sexual abuse and the College upholds this philosophy by investigating all complaints or reports of sexual abuse. The ultimate goal is to prevent and eradicate sexual abuse in the healthcare context and the College takes this goal seriously.
Sexual abuse is defined broadly in the RHPA as:
- Sexual intercourse or other forms of physical relations between a kinesiologist and a patient/client
- Touching of a sexual nature, of the patient/client by a kinesiologist
- Behaviour or remarks of a sexual nature, by a kinesiologist towards a patient/client ("Sexual nature" does not include touching, behaviour or remarks of a clinical nature appropriate to the services being provided)
The definition above includes entering into an intimate or physical relationship with a patient/client during the course of treatment, even where the kinesiologist believes the patient/client consented to the relationship. Consent cannot be obtained from a person who does not have equal power in a relationship; kinesiologists are deemed to hold a position of trust and power in all clinical relationships. In some cases, entering into an intimate or physical relationship after the clinical relationship has ended may be deemed sexual abuse if it is found that the power imbalance was still present.
There are many special provisions in the RHPA to assist the College in addressing allegations of sexual abuse, such as making it mandatory for all health professionals to report suspected abuse; powers to suspend a kinesiologist’s registration pending investigation; and mandatory minimum penalties at a discipline hearing when a finding of sexual abuse is made.
Appropriate and inappropriate touching and behaviour
Often a kinesiologist may need to touch or feel different body parts or ask questions of a personal nature to fully understand your condition or injury.
When this occurs as part of assessment or treatment, the kinesiologist will:
- tell you what he or she is going to do before proceeding and ask permission.
- explain the need to ask certain questions or for touching.
You have the right to:
- ask the kinesiologist to explain the purpose and process of the treatment or assessment.
- stop the treatment or assessment if you feel uncomfortable.
A kinesiologist must respect your right to ask questions and refuse treatment.
If you are unsure of whether the behaviour was appropriate to the care provided, you may contact the Director, Professional Conduct for advice at (416) 961-7000 ext. 104.
It is the kinesiologist’s duty to maintain appropriate professional boundaries with each and every patient/client. Kinesiologists are responsible for adjusting their actions and communications according to your needs. Violations of boundaries include a broad range of actions or inactions, and your perspective is crucial. The following are examples of behavious that would be considered a boundary violation by a registered kinesiologist:
- asking to contact you after hours or inviting you to a social outing;
- commenting on your appearance in a suggestive manner;
- asking questions about your personal life which are not relevant to your health and the services being provided, or disclosing personal and intimate details of his/her own life;
- Offering services outside the normal operating procedures of the place of practice, such as appointments after hours.
The above behaviours often serve as warning signs and if not addressed appropriately can lead to further, more serious boundary violations and/or sexual abuse.
Reporting sexual abuse
You or any witnesses are encouraged to report any incidents of inappropriate behaviour to the College. The Director, Professional Conduct can assist in advising on what action can be taken and can accept a complaint made about a kinesiologist. The Director, Professional Conduct may be reached at (416) 961-7000 ext. 104 or by making a complaint.
While the process of addressing any allegations of sexual abuse may be very difficult for you, the College handles these matters with great sensitivity and strives to minimize re-victimization. You may have a support person with you throughout the process. When you come forward, a kinesiologist is held responsible for his/her actions and other patients/clients are protected from harm.
Sexual abuse is not the fault of the patient/client; the kinesiologist is responsible for understanding and maintaining an appropriate therapeutic-client relationship.
Funding for therapy and counselling
The College is required to establish a program to fund counselling services for patients/clients who have been sexually abused by a kinesiologist.
Eligibility rules are as follows:
- the Discipline Committee must find a kinesiologist guilty of sexual abuse.
- the funding provided is reduced by the amount that the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), a private insurer, or the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund is required to pay for therapy or counselling for the person during the legislated time period.
- subject to some minor restrictions under the RHPA , the patient/client is free to choose a particular counsellor or therapist, and funds are paid by the College directly to the therapist.
A person who is eligible for funding for therapy must apply to the College. Completed applications may be mailed to:
College of Kinesiologists of Ontario
Attn: Patient Relations Committee
160 Bloor Street East, Suite 1402
Toronto, ON M4W 1B9
Before submitting an application for funding, contact the Director, Professional Conduct, at (416) 961-7000 ext. 104 for more information.
The Patient Relations Committee will consider each application individually. The College will confirm receipt of the application within 14 days, and a final decision will be made within 60 days of receiving an application.