Sexual abuse suffered in a medical setting is a disturbing and traumatic experience. Often, victims of sexual abuse are left feeling confused and isolated.
However, the sad truth is that sexual abuse in a healthcare setting is more common than you may realize. While many victims are afraid to come forward, plenty of others have—sometimes making headlines, and sometimes quietly bringing their abuser to justice. And whether you remain anonymous or not (the laws around anonymity vary), take comfort in knowing that speaking out can stop your abuser from harming future victims.
This post shares real-life instances of doctors and medical professionals who have grossly overstepped the line of professionalism into criminal behavior—and what we can learn from these situations.
1. Larry Nassar and the Women’s National Gymnastics Team
The convicted rapist’s name is synonymous with heinous crimes after a widely publicized trial revealed Nassar abused hundreds of women (including children) while working as the team doctor for the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team, USA Gymnastics, and Michigan State University. He was sentenced to more than 200 years in prison. Additionally, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee agreed to pay a $380 million settlement to Nassar’s victims.
Key takeaway: Your voice matters. Without the strength and resiliency of the victims who spoke out against Nassar, he would likely still be abusing women today.
2. Pain Management Physician Ricardo Cruciani
The former physician was accused of intentionally over-medicating and then sexually assaulting multiple female patients over years of medical practice. A federal indictment describes how Cruciani intentionally prescribed highly addictive pain medication that required the patients to see him regularly in order to get prescription refills. During the appointments, he would ask the patients extremely personal questions and perform medically unnecessary exams, during which he allegedly sexually abused them. He’s awaiting trials for both state and federal charges.
Key takeaway: If a doctor asks you questions you’re uncomfortable with or performs an exam or procedure without discussing it with you first, it’s a red flag. Learn about other red flags in this blog post.
3. Former Ohio State Wrestling Coach Richard Strauss
Dr. Richard Strauss, who was the Ohio State wrestling team doctor, died in 2005 after allegedly abusing hundreds of athletes. Victims filed multiple lawsuits against Ohio State University for its failure to stop the abuse, as investigations found the University had knowledge of the abuse for decades. Some suits are no longer within the statute of limitations and have been thrown out by the court, while others are ongoing—though Strauss is effectively disgraced as a medical professional.
Key takeaway: Sometimes, the institutions victims trust to protect them fail—either through intentional cover ups or poor leadership. In those instances, they must be held responsible, even if the abuse has since stopped.
4. Chicago-Area Gynecologist Fabio Ortega
Former Cook County obstetrician/gynecologist Fabio Ortega was sentenced to three years in prison in October 2021 after pleading guilty to sexually abusing two former patients during exams. There are still pending lawsuits against him for similar accusations.
Key takeaway: Victims of this nature of crime can get justice for the horrors they’ve endured. The legal system can provide closure for victims if they find a trustworthy and experienced attorney to represent them.
If You’re a Victim, We’re Here to Help
Hurley McKenna & Mertz has represented thousands of sexual abuse victims, and we have the valuable experience needed to bring abusers to justice. If you have questions about your situation, don’t hesitate to reach out. Your consultation is completely free.