By Jessica pride
Published on
August 18, 2022
Last Updated
April 5, 2024

Sexual Assault in Psychiatric Facilities: Why Is It So Common?

Heading 1

Heading 2

Heading 3

Heading 4

Heading 5
Heading 6

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur.

Block quote

Ordered list

  1. Item 1
  2. Item 2
  3. Item 3

Unordered list

  • Item A
  • Item B
  • Item C

Text link

Bold text




A watchdog group filed over 6,000 complaints about potential negligence and sexual and physical assaults on patients in psychiatric facilities in one year alone. Why are these specific types of abuses so common? Why aren’t we hearing more about these incidents? And what can be done to eliminate them?

Awareness campaigns such as the #MeToo Movement have illuminated many areas of sexual abuse. However, sexual assault of patients in psychiatric wards has largely been left out of the conversation. This specific type of sexual assault raises alarming questions about the safety and conditions in our country’s psychiatric facilities and mental health prisons.

Underreporting, lack of data, and inadequate legal enforcement have all contributed to the conditions that allow sexual assault in psychiatric facilities to persist. Recognizing the issue and raising awareness of it are some of the first steps we can take to eradicating these egregious acts.

Legal action also provides strong avenues of change and justice for issues such as this. In some instances, lawsuits can bring about more immediate results and awareness in ways that are faster than legislation or other means.

If you or a loved one have been affected by sexual assault in a psychiatric facility, contact The Pride Law Firm at 619-516-8166. Our firm exists to return power to survivors by providing them with the necessary resources and representation they need to heal, recover, and move forward again.

Why Is Sexual Assault in Psychiatric Facilities So Common?

In a word, lack of reporting and data is perhaps the main reason why sex abuse in psychiatric facilities is so common.

According to statistics from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the majority of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Only 310 out of every sexual assaults are ever reported to authorities, meaning 2 of 3 incidents go unreported. RAINN cites various reasons for non-reporting, including fear of retaliation and a belief that the police will not do anything.

For sexual assault survivors at psychiatric facilities, failure to report can be even more intensified.

What Prevents Sexual Assault in Mental Health Facilities From Being Reported:

• Fear of their environment
• Barriers to contacting law enforcement (both real and perceived)
• Feelings of not being believed
• Survivors may often be highly medicated and held against their will

Due to the historical lack of reporting for these types of sexual assault cases, data is severely limited. There is no nation or state-wide requirement for reporting instances of sexual assaults within such facilities.

As a result, we do not have accurate data regarding:

  • The number of actual reports
  • The process for investigating such changes
  • The level of detail included in any existing reports

Another note is that patients tend to report sexual assault only when discussing what happened to their support systems. Strong support systems of patients are consistently the reason that they come forward to make a disclosure.

Psychiatric Ward Assaults


Who Are the Perpetrators of Sex Abuse in Psychiatric Treatment Centers?

Perpetrators of sex abuse in psychiatric treatment centers generally fall into two categories:

  • Staff to patient
  • Patient to patient

In staff to patient cases, the abuse can occur due to certain dynamics between the staff member and the patient. For instance, the staff member may use their position of authority to intimidate the patient into abusive conduct or situations.

In patient to patient cases, the abuse often occurs in situations where the patients are left alone, such as in a shared room or in a secluded area of the facilities. Inadequate supervision due to understaffing may play a role in these types of cases

Lastly, the abuse can also occur in cases where there is a visitor to the facility. This is especially the case when the visitor is there regularly or for extended periods of time.

All types of abuse are egregious wrongs that often occur under conditions of secrecy, and often involve threats or coercions that prevent the survivor from reporting the incident.

One of the strongest ways to raise awareness of the conditions in such facilities is to hold responsible parties liable through a lawsuit.

Who Is Responsible for Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence in Mental Hospitals?

While specific persons may be identified as the perpetrator in a sexual assault incident at a mental hospital, various other persons can also be held liable or responsible for the overall situation.

For instance, the staff, medical professionals, or security may be found negligent for allowing certain conditions where the abuse can occur.

Such conditions can include:

  • Not providing adequate monitoring and security for patients (often a result of understaffing)
  • Lack of thorough background checks when hiring on-site employees
  • Failure to report incidents to law enforcement or the proper authorities
  • Actively “covering up” and failing to acknowledge the existence of sexual abuse
  • Ignoring sexual assault laws and protocols for psychiatric facilities

These types of factors are similar to those found in other situations, such as school assaults, workplace sexual assault or religious sexual assault. In such settings, upper management or leadership may actually contribute to systemic, repeated cycles of assaults, allowing them to exist for years and even decades. Conditions in mental health facilities are also often highly similar to those in rehabilitation facilities.

While there may be scattered policies regarding sexual risk, staffing requirements, and sex-based room separations in psychiatric facilities, they can often be ignored and leave patients even more vulnerable to attacks.

The bottom line is that mental health patients are not to blame when they are sexually assaulted — it is our job as attorneys to investigate the circumstances and bring the liable parties to light so justice can be served. In doing so, further instances of assault can be prevented, and entire structures of abuse dismantled.

Contact a Lawyer for Assistance With a Sexual Assault Lawsuit

Sexual assault in psychiatric hospitals and faciliites is an ongoing issue that happens far too often without the public knowing about the situation. One of the strongest ways to raise awareness of the conditions in such facilities is to hold responsible parties liable through a lawsuit. 

Legal action can help bring the matter into the light of the public eye, and can help uncover further instances of abuse. At The Pride Law Firm, we have helped people from all walks of life heal from sexual assault and have helped them obtain justice for their losses. 

Whether you have questions or just need support for your experience, you can confide in our team. Contact us at (619) 516-8166 to discuss your claim in a completely confidential, private setting where your needs will be heard with the utmost compassion and sensitivity. 

Ready For Your Free Consultation?