Last Update: 7/13/2020
On November 30, a former staff psychologist at Travis Air Force Base’s David Grant USAF Medical Center was found guilty of six felony sexual assault charges. Heath J. Sommer is facing up to 11 years and 8 months in prison for tricking survivors of sexual assault into having sex with him under the guise of medical treatment, saying it could help ease their difficulties with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Prosecutors used the rarely-filed charges of rape committed by “the perpetrator’s fraudulent representation that the sexual penetration served a professional purpose when it served no professional purpose.”
A jury found Sommer guilty after six days of deliberation following a six-week jury trial.
Sommer treated two women at David Grant USAF Medical Center in 2014 and 2015. The psychologist used a method called exposure therapy, which his female patients testified in the trial including sex with Sommer, which worsened the emotional turmoil caused by their previous sexual assaults. The two victims from 2014 and 2015 testified in detail about Sommer sexually assaulting them under the guise of exposure therapy.
Bobby Thompson is an experienced lawyer for sexual abuse by doctors who fights for the rights of victims who bravely choose to take legal action against those who violated them. Here is Bobby’s perspective on the legal options available to those who have been sexually assaulted by the psychologists whom they trusted with their mental healthcare.
“The professional relationship between a psychologist and their customers is built, more than anything else, upon trust. While most psychologists are honorable professionals, a small handful has been proven to be sexual predators who abuse their positions in order to commit sexual assault. In some cases, these predators have been observed to trick their victims into thinking the assault is part of their psychological treatment,” Bobby explained.
He continued, “Survivors of sexual assault by psychologists or other types of therapists deserve answers and justice. The criminal justice system may handle the prosecution of the perpetrator, and this often helps provide some sense of justice for victims. However, it’s important for survivors to consider how the civil court system can also help. In many cases of such sexual assault, the victims may have grounds for a lawsuit against the medical practitioner and even the entity that employs them. This can provide financial support for the victim while also holding the facility responsible for failing to keep their patients safe.”