mental health, Military, psychology, true crime

Repost: It’s never the client’s fault when a therapist commits sexual abuse…

Yesterday, I reposted my review of Doc, a book about a Wyoming doctor who sexually abused his patients. My friend Alexis, who was a loyal reader and commenter for years until her own career in medicine kicked up, commented about another doctor– this one in Idaho– who molested patients. I was reminded of Dr. Heath J. Sommer, who was in the news in December 2018 and early 2019 for convincing his patients that having sex with him was “therapy”. Because I might write more about the case Alexis brought to my attention, I am reposting my two posts about the Sommer case, as/is.

Alright then.  Now I have a topic I need to discuss.

This morning, I read an article from the Air Force Times about a lowlife “psychologist” named Heath Sommer, who was working at Travis Air Force Base.  Sommer was convicted of six sexual assault charges, which included one count of rape.  He is now sitting in jail, awaiting his sentencing, scheduled to be handed down on January 25th.  According to the Air Force Times, he could be sentenced to a maximum of eleven years and eight months.

Three of Sommer’s clients, all of whom were female Air Force officers, came forward during the trial to tell their stories.  They had gone to Sommer seeking help with trauma caused by sexual assault and other ordeals.  Sommer’s brand of “help” was more sexual assault.  He used his position to manipulate the women, abuse their trust, and re-victimize them by telling them his assault was part of their “therapy”.

A somewhat longer article about this case explains in more detail the nature of Sommer’s “therapy sessions”.  In one case, a colonel was convinced to meet Sommer at his home, where he had her repeatedly describe the sexual assault she experienced in Afghanistan.  The Afghans had served her partially cooked goat meat before assaulting her, so Sommer had her put dirt in her mouth and eat meat from leftover Chinese food.  Then he told her that she needed a “positive” and “loving” sexual experience, which he was prepared to provide.  Over the course of two months, this woman had sex with Sommer nine times.

Now…  I suppose it’s easy to wonder what made this colonel think what she was getting was “therapy”.  Indeed, I read the comments for this article, which was an Air Force Times piece, but was also shared by the Army Times.  The comments I read on the Air Force Times article are, so far, appropriately empathetic to the victims.  I can’t say I was surprised to read several less empathetic comments from Army Times readers.

The first comment I encountered questioning the victim was this…

I’m confused as to why the victims went along with this “therapy”

It was followed by this comment…

I was asking myself the same thing, especially since one of the victims is a colonel. But then again you never know what their state of mind is having been assaulted before. I feel that they must be evaluated to determine if they can continue serving in the military; after all, they were manipulated by him. I’m not so sure I would trust them with sensitive information.

That’s right.  Colonels are supposed to know better, right?  In case it’s not obvious, that’s sarcasm.  It doesn’t matter that the victim was a colonel.  She went to Sommer looking for help.  He was supposedly a qualified psychologist.  He violated his position of trust and took advantage of her.  He broke the law and disregarded his code of professional ethics.  Sommer is completely to blame for this.

Reading on, I encountered this comment.

Hey everybody! The faceless edgelord is here to virtue signal…. Please make sure to give him your undivided attention and adulation….God knows what this country needs is more habitually triggered, SJW, liberals with savior complexes. Where would we be if we didnt have them constantly lecturing us in every related and unrelated comment thread about the plight of (insert alleged victim group).

Um… maybe if there weren’t so many ignorant, offensive, obnoxious comments from people who have their heads so firmly lodged in their assholes, the social justice warriors wouldn’t feel the need to set them straight.  It’s clear that this person didn’t listen to enough lectures from smart people when he was growing up; therefore, he is in need of some schooling from the more evolved.

OMG..who would believe that sexual assalt was a treatment for sexual assalt????

Sadly, it’s not just the men who have their heads in their asses.  This comment was left by a spelling challenged woman.  Granted… I suppose it does seem crazy that sexual intercourse would be offered as therapy for sexual assault.  However, many people are conditioned to trust healthcare providers.  That’s why it’s so very important for healthcare providers to be ethical.

Why do people think so many gymnasts submitted to Larry Nassar’s “therapeutic” efforts for so long?  It’s because he was a doctor, and people in authority were telling the gymnasts that he was an expert.  They wanted to make the Olympic team.  Nassar was “nice” to them and convinced them that his brand of therapy was real.  They liked and trusted him, so he was able to victimize hundreds of them.  No, the gymnasts weren’t “dumb”.  They were abused.  Same thing goes for Heath Sommer’s victims.

I would imagine the situation Nassar’s victims were in is similar for people in the military, who must regularly see doctors and other healthcare professionals.  Often, the providers people in the military see are not necessarily of their choosing.  Obviously, Sommer was hired to work with the military population.  His victims believed he was qualified and they trusted him to help them.  They did not approach him for sex; he convinced them that sex was what they needed in order to get well.

Moreover, there is such a thing as a “sexual surrogate“, which are people who legitimately have sex with their clients as a form of therapy.  Sexual surrogates are not “romantic”; the point of it is to help clients get past sexual hangups.  There’s even a documentary about this, which I have seen (it used to be available on Netflix).  Although it sounds a little like prostitution, if you watch the documentary, you see that it’s a very clinical process that truly has helped some people.  I’m not saying Sommer’s victims thought of him in a “sexual surrogate” role, but I do think it’s plausible that he had convinced them that what he was doing was “therapeutic”.

A trailer for the documentary, The Story of a Sex Surrogate.

This man should burn in hell for sure but at the same time, how did he get away with having sex with the woman 9 times. She came to his house for 8 of those times. Another woman gave him oral sex?!?! Seriouslly!!! Who else read the article? I feel like I’m missing some important information. I don’t understand how a woman can be forced to drive over and have sex with you 8 times after doing it once in the office. I understand he may have been manipulative but still….

Here’s another comment from someone who thinks the victims should have known better.  If you’re mentally healthy and haven’t been sexually traumatized, I can imagine that it seems “stupid” that a client could be convinced that Sommer’s brand of therapy was legit.  But again… consider that the victims were traumatized and vulnerable, and they trusted their therapist.  He violated their trust.  It’s 100% his fault, and he belongs in prison.

As a psychologist, Sommer has more knowledge of the human psyche than most laypeople do.  He had a professional role and was hired to perform that role by people who should have been able to judge his qualifications.  I would certainly expect he had a valid license to practice, which would have been granted to him by other professionals who, one would hope, knew what they were doing.  I don’t know anything about Sommer, but as someone with a master’s degree in social work, I do know something about this subject myself.  From day one in my accredited MSW program, it was impressed upon us that we had a code of ethics that we must adhere to and that the client’s needs came first.  Sommer is a psychologist, but I would expect that he was bound by similar ethics.

More of the same…

This guy deserves to be beat to death, but at the same time, how dumb are you to fall for therapy that requires you to have sex with the therapist under the guise of “exposure therapy”? I mean c’mon, you’ve got to be pretty dumb to fall for that…

Logically I can see your point. But I think those females were so hurt and traumatized that once they fully trusted him, they truly thought he was there to help them. The human mind is complex and I think when someone’s mind gets screwed up from terrible things the mind can really get wacky

I get that, but you can Google anything. If something doesn’t sound right, I.E. “having sex with your therapist and calling it exposure therapy” you can look it up. At what point do you not ask yourself, does this seem right?

…that’s very true. He could have taken advantage of their vulnerability and maybe those females could have ended up developing feelings for him because of that.

These women weren’t “dumb”.  They got help from the wrong person, who took advantage of his position and their trust.  It is not their fault that he victimized them.  In fact, they are to be commended for coming forward so that Sommer was taken out of service.  Moronic, ignorant attitudes like the ones displayed in the comment sections on Facebook can prevent people from seeking a legal remedy when they are victimized.  When people don’t come forward, lowlife scumbags like Heath Sommer are allowed to continue committing crimes, damaging innocent people, and ruining lives.  So please don’t blame the victims.  It’s not their fault at all.

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2 thoughts on “Repost: It’s never the client’s fault when a therapist commits sexual abuse…

    • Unfortunately, that attitude is very typical in military circles. Although there can be a lot of camaraderie in military groups, there’s also a lot of victim blaming and low empathy. Many people in military communities are not particularly deep thinkers. It kind of makes sense in some ways, since they are trained to follow orders.

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