Understanding Sexual Abuse - Patient Guide

As a regulator, the College of Naturopaths of Ontario exists to protect the public interest in any dealings with Naturopathic Doctors.  That includes possible sexual abuse.  The College views any form of sexual abuse or sexual boundary crossing as unacceptable, and has a zero tolerance policy.

The relationship between a patient and a Naturopathic Doctor is a professional one, based on trust.  Patients should expect that the Naturopathic Doctor will always respect their needs and act in a caring and professional manner.  The College’s standards describe these professional obligations.

We want you to understand the conduct we expect of Naturopathic Doctors, and what you can do if you experience anything you feel is inappropriate. 

What is sexual abuse?

Regulated health care providers like Naturopathic Doctors are not allowed to:

  • Have sex of any form with a patient;
  • Touch a patient in a sexual manner; or
  • Make comments of a sexual nature or behave in a sexual way towards a patient.

What is appropriate touching?

The primary objective of the Naturopathic Doctor is the prevention of disease through the encouragement of a healthy lifestyle and controlling risk factors.  To assess and provide treatment to patients, Naturopathic Doctors use their hands to touch various parts of the body.  When that happens, you should expect that the Naturopathic Doctor to:

  • Tell you what he/she is going to do before touching you.
  • Ask your permission to touch you.
  • Give you the opportunity to ask questions or express any concerns.
  • Treat you with respect.

Once the Naturopathic Doctor starts touching me, can I ask him or her to stop?

Yes.  You can ask that an activity be stopped if you are feeling uneasy.  Consent to an activity is up to you, and you can withdraw it at any time.  You can also ask the Naturopathic Doctor to explain what he/she is doing and why he/she is doing it.

How can I recognize sexual abuse?

Inappropriate behaviours can be obvious or subtle, and words can be as damaging as actions.  The following list includes some examples of actions or behaviours that are likely inappropriate on the part of the Naturopathic Doctor.  Please contact the College if you experience any of the following:

  • Any unwanted sexual attention or behaviour, e.g. kissing or hugging in a sexual way.
  • Sexual touching, e.g. touching your buttocks, breasts, genitals or any other area in a way that is not needed for treatment or assessment;
  • Sexually suggestive or seductive remarks, e.g. comments about your sexual relationships or sexual orientation, or inappropriate sexual remarks or questions about your appearance or clothing etc.
  • Sexually insulting or offensive comments or jokes.
  • Being asked to meet you outside the clinic or practice setting.
  • Being asked to have an intimate, personal relationship with you, e.g. dating.
  • Not asking for permission before touching.

Is it sexual abuse if I as the patient consent to an intimate relationship?

Even if you consent, Naturopathic Doctors are not allowed to have an intimate personal relationship with a patient, in or out of the clinic or practice setting.  The Naturopathic Doctor is always the one responsible for understanding and maintaining appropriate professional boundaries with a patient.

What should I do if I suspect sexual abuse by a Naturopathic Doctor?

If you are being sexually abused, or have reason to suspect that someone else is being sexually abused by a Naturopathic Doctor please contact the College of Naturopaths of Ontario.  The College takes these matters seriously and will investigate the matter.

Accusations/complaints can be uncomfortable, but it is important to hold Naturopathic Doctors accountable for their behaviour.  Complaints can also assist with learning and protect others from harm.

How will the College help me if I’ve been a victim of abuse by a Naturopathic Doctor?

The College administers a fund to cover the costs of any therapy or counseling that patients need related to sexual abuse by a Naturopathic Doctor.  Please contact the College of Naturopaths of Ontario for information on the fund and to learn about your eligibility.