Understanding Sexual Abuse

An optician is not allowed to engage in any sexual act with a patient, and may not make comments of a sexual nature or behave in a sexual way toward a patient.

What is sexual abuse?

“Sexual abuse” has a different meaning for health professionals than it does in the criminal context. Under the legislation sexual abuse of a patient occurs whenever a health professional:

  • Has physical sexual relations with a patients
  • Touches a patient in a sexual manner
  • Behaves in a sexual way toward a patient (e.g. kissing or hugging in a sexual way)
  • Makes sexual remarks toward a patient  (e.g. sexually suggestive comments or jokes)
How long does a person remain a “patient”?

Under the legislation, a person remains a “patient” for one year after the optician/patient relationship is terminated. As a result, an optician is not allowed to engage in any sexual interactions with someone who was his or her patient until a full year has passed since that professional relationship ended.

Can a patient consent to a sexual relationship with an optician?

All health professionals, including opticians, occupy a positon of trust in relation to their patients. They have specialized knowledge and access to patients’ personal health records. This position of trust gives rise to a power imbalance, and for this reason, any sexual relationship between an optician and a patient is sexual abuse. It does not matter who initiated the relationship or if it was consensual.

In addition, the legislation does not exempt spouses from the definition of patient. This means that it is not permitted under the legislation for an optician to treat his or her spouse.

What should I do if I suspect sexual abuse?

If you believe that you or someone else has been sexually abused by an optician, please contact the College. The College investigates a wide range of concerns relating to optician conduct, including boundary violations, sexual misconduct and abuse.

If you are a regulated health professional or you operate an optical business and you suspect an optician is sexually abusing a patient, you have an obligation to report this to the college. Business owners / operators can click here  for further information. Health professionals can click here.

Why should I report sexual abuse?

The College understands that reporting this behaviour can be difficult or uncomfortable, but it is important to hold opticians accountable for their actions. Reporting the behaviour can also play an important role in protecting others from harm.

What will the College do with this information?

The College takes sexual abuse very seriously and will investigate the matter. The manner in which the investigation proceeds may depend on how the information came to the College’s knowledge.

For more information on the complaints process, click here.

For more information on registrar’s reports investigations, click here.

What is the consequence for an optician who is found guilty of sexually abusing a patient?

An optician who is found to have sexually abused a patient will be guilty of professional misconduct and may lose his or her registration and right to practice.

What assistance is available to someone who has been sexually abused by an optician?

The College administers a fund to cover the costs of therapy and counselling for patients in relation to sexual abuse by opticians. Please click here for more information.

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