Iowa Law: Sexual Exploitation by a Counselor, Therapist or School Employee

sexual exploitation

An article I read on this morning about sexual exploitation charges peaked my interest mainly because I am handling a similar case. The KCCI story discusses charges filed against an Iowa City Counselor who engaged in sexual conduct with a patient. These cases are widely reported but the crime itself is often misunderstood. I want to explain the crime of Sexual Exploitation by a Counselor, Therapist or School Employee.

Iowa Code Section 709.15 criminalizes sexual contact between “therapists”, “counselors” and “school employees” and their patients, former patients and students. The statute prohibits persons in certain positions of authority, from using that authority to engage¬†sexual conduct.¬†Unlike some sexual exploitation statutes, age is not a factor.

The title of the law “Sexual Exploitation by a Counselor, Therapist or School Employee” is somewhat misleading. The definitions of “Counselor” and “Therapist” in Iowa include a wide range of occupations:

  • Physicians
  • Nurses
  • Social Workers
  • Professional Counselors
  • Marriage and Family Counselors
  • Clergy Members
  • Alcohol and Drug Counselors
  • Any person who purports to provide mental health services

In Iowa a “School Employee” includes

  • Administrators
  • Teachers
  • Coaches
  • Other Licensed Professionals Providing Educational Assistance

Committing the crime of sexual exploitation by a school employee is fairly straightforward. A school employee who engages in sexual conduct with a student, regardless of age or consent, commits sexual exploitation.

Sexual conduct includes:

  • Kissing
  • Touching of the Inner Thigh, Breast, Groin, Buttock, Anus, Pubes of Genitals (clothed or unclothed)
  • A Sex Act as Defined in Iowa Code Section 702.17

Committing sexual exploitation by a counselor or therapist is a bit more complicated. Any counselor or therapist who engages in sexual conduct with an emotionally dependent patient or former patient commits sexual exploitation. An “emotionally dependent patient or client” is one who the counselor or therapist knows or has reason to know is significantly impaired in the ability to withhold consent to sexual conduct.

Additionally, any counselor or therapist who engages is sexual conduct with a patient or client to whom they provide mental health services also commits sexual exploitation. This is true for one year following termination of the counselor/patient relationship.

Depending on the type and extent of the conduct, the penalty for Sexual Exploitation by a Counselor, Therapist or School Employee ranges from a Class “D” felony to a Serious Misdemeanor. Moreover, prison is often mandatory in these cases. In Iowa a Class “D” felony carries a five-year prison term. Additionally, loss of one’s professional license is a real possibility and placement on the sex offender registry is guaranteed.

These charges are serious. You need serious representation. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime call Stowers & Sarcone, PLC now. 515.224.7446