Trusted Advisor Abuse: What it is and how to recognize red flags

by Gabriella Grant and Lorena Ukanwa on June 3rd 2020.

Additional resources

Additional resources

Additional resources

State Laws

All 50 states’ seclusion & restraint laws from a 2013 report by Jessica Butler (PDF)

State Licensing Boards Contact Information

Support Services

Saprea retreat and support (formerly The Younique Foundation)

Strategy article on implementing trauma informed care in youth inpatient psychiatric and residential treatment settings

Psych Ward Reviews

Psych Ward Reviews—a Yelp-like site for psych wards founded by Kit Mead, a disability rights activist


Article on 50 Warning Signs of Questionable Therapy

Article on 12 Questions Every Parent and Coach Should Ask from the GymCastic Podcast (PDF)


The Mental Illness Happy Hour with Paul Gilmartin, comedian and host

Relational Peer Support for Men and Women Who Have Experienced Trauma

Defeat the mental illness stigma with Intentional Peer Support

Bullying by a Coach

What is considered bullying behavior? (downloadable PDF)

Yoga Code of Conduct

Yoga teachers certified by Yoga Alliance are obligated to follow the code of conduct.

Financial Abuse

Wells Fargo has a web page and a PDF guide on protecting against elder financial abuse.


Why we need them to protect vulnerable people in the justice system

Children and Abuse

Give Your Child the Tools to Recognize Sexual Abuse—a New York Times article

Advocacy groups fighting abuse within various professions

Advocacy groups fighting abuse within various professions

Advocacy groups fighting abuse within various professions


Free patient advocates, patient navigators, case managers, elder care advocates, home health, medical billing advocates, legal and other forms of patient assistants who may be able to help manage health care challenges

Disability Rights California
California’s protection & advocacy system

Abuse by Faith Personnel

SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)

Advocacy group committed to lodging complaints against faith personnel

Database of Publicly Accused Priests in the United States

Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses
A nonprofit foscused on Watchtower policies that violate the fundamental human rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses


Focused on stopping ritual abuse and child abuse and to help those abused

Children’s Rights
Defending America’s abused and neglected kids


Therapy Abuse

Older Adults

National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse


U.S. Center for SafeSport
Creating safe and respectful sporting environments that reduce the risk of abuse 

Filing complaints via licensing bodies

Filing complaints via licensing bodies

Filing complaints via licensing bodies

The main reason to start a complaint or grievance against an abusive professional is to protect people when they may be at their most vulnerable by penalizing or removing unsafe professionals from the open marketplace of services. Additionally, it is highly likely that trusted advisor abuse is the type of offense that an abusive helping or healthcare professional has engaged in. While the patient might feel they are the first and only patient this type of abuse has happened to, in actuality most abusers are serial abusers who have been abusing for a very long time. California sexual assault reporting and filing abuse complaints about unsafe professionals is a primary protection for patients.

Typically, every publicly funded agency has its own grievance process and policies that are available either publicly or upon request.  As soon as any attempt to resolve concerns through the agency’s management has proven to be unsuccessful, it is time to move to the licensing or governing bodies overseeing the agency or the professional license.  These systems are not the easiest to navigate.  Here you will find some information to move forward.

If you have a complaint against a healthcare professional and you are unable to find the route you are looking for, contact the 100% free service called AdvoConnection. The AdvoConnection Directory is 100% free to use. All advocates and navigators employed there are members of the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates. They are absolutely ready to help solve whatever problems you may encounter in the healthcare system.

California Sexual Assault Reporting and Other Professional Abuse Complaints:

Medical Doctors (MD)

Medical Board of California BreEZe Resources Center

Medical Board of California Medical Malpractice Reporting Forms

Registered Nurses (RN)

California Board of Registered Nursing

Therapists and Psychologists

Board of Behavioral Sciences, Department of Consumer Affairs
to file complaints against any of the following occupations:

  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT)
  • Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCC)
  • Licensed Educational Psychologists (LEP)
  • Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW)

NASW | National Association of Social Workers
Filing a ‘Request for Professional Review’ (RPR) against a Licensed Clinical Social Worker


The Board of Chiropractic Examiners, Department of Consumer Affairs

Drug Treatment, Counselors, AA

Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Compliance Division
to complain about a treatment program or counselor

California Department of Healthcare Services

The central AA body states that legal professionals should be contacted if there is any abuse at AA events.

Occupational Therapist (OT) and Occupational Therapy Assistants

Hospitals, Nursing Homes and Residential Care Facilities

Hospitals: Contact the Joint Commission’s office of Quality Monitoring by calling 1-800-994-6610 or email complaint@jointcommission.org.

California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) complaint form and complaint process PDF

Medicare.gov nursing home complaint process

California Department of Social Services complaint process for state licensed community care facility or child care facility

Police Officer/Law Enforcement

The State Bar of California (Lawyers/Attorneys)

Why File a Complaint Against an Attorney

  • State Bar of California, California Attorney Complaint Form PDF in English
  • State Bar of California, California Attorney Complaint Form PDF in Spanish


Attorney Search: Enter attorney’s name or State Bar number to check status of practicing license

File an Unauthorized Practice of Law Complaint

  • Attorney Misconduct Complaint Process
  • Nonattorney Complaint Process


California Judicial Officer, Court Commissioner, or Referee

State of California Commission on Judicial Performance (CJP)

Teachers and Educators

California Department of Education Complaint Procedures

Financial Advisors

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:  Report problems with mortgages, student loans, payday loans, debt collection, credit reports, and other financial products and services

Yoga Teachers

Yoga Alliance certifies some teachers and schools. Email information to grievance@yogaalliance.org

Know your rights

Know your rights

Know your rights

Bills of Rights

California Crime Victims Bill of Rights (PDF)

California Department of Managed Health Care Example: Your Health Care Bill of Rights

A Recovery Bill of Rights for Trauma Survivors (PDF)

U.S. Department of Justice

A Guide to Disabilities Rights Laws

California Office of Patients’ Rights (COPR)

California law requires each California county mental health director to appoint patient rights advocates to protect and further the Constitutional and statutory rights of people receiving mental health services. COPR is a unit of the Disability Rights California nonprofit organization which is contracted by the California Department of State Hospitals to implement compliance with the law and which lists contact information for county mental health patients’ rights advocates in the Patients’ Rights Advocacy Directory: https://www.disabilityrightsca.org/post/patients-rights-advocacy-directory

California Department of Health Care Services

Rights for patients receiving mental health services—handbooks and posters available in multiple languages

California State Association of Public Administrators, Public Guardians, and Public Conservators (PA|PG|PC)

A collective of non-profit agencies that act as legal guardians or conservators for the gravely disabled and provide services to older and dependent adult Californians

Reported cases of Trusted Advisor Abuse

Reported cases of Trusted Advisor Abuse

Reported cases of trusted advisor abuse

Healthcare Provider/Practitioner

  • Michigan failed to act on warning signs as doctor molested athletes for decades, report finds
    • A law firm’s report of allegations of sexual misconduct against Robert E. Anderson, who worked in University of Michigan’s athletic department from 1981 to 1999, states that he routinely conducted medically unnecessary rectal and genital examinations. And top university officials failed to act on warning signs and ignored complaints dating from 1975.
  • He beat criminal child abuse probes, but former San Jose foster care doctor faces new legal jeopardy
    • A former chief pediatrician for Santa Clara County’s foster care system, Patrick Clyne is facing a civil lawsuit on multiple acts of ongoing child sexual abuse filed by his adopted foster child. The adopted son, Kyle, had testified before a criminal grand jury years ago and there had been multiple police investigations but none led to an arrest of Clyne.
  • A creepy feeling, a sideways glance – patients of former USC gynecologist share their stories
    • More than 350 victims between the ages of 17 and 29 came forward to report the abuse and trauma they endured at the hands of Dr. George Tyndall. The former USC gynecologist faces 53 years behind bars for sexual misconduct and pornography allegations.
  • Albany Chiropractor Accused of Sexually Abusing 2 Patients
    • Two female patients came forward and reported their chiropractor for sexual abuse. Both patients claim they were inappropriately touched and given sensual massages in the thigh, pelvic and genital areas. After a lengthy investigation, Dr. Seth Kohl was arrested on two counts of sexual misconduct.
  • California Doctor Sells Fake ‘Miracle Cure’ for COVID-19
    • In a global pandemic characterized by fear and uncertainty, a California doctor has managed to find himself in the middle of a fraudulent scheme. Dr. Jennings Ryan Staley is claiming to save lives with his “corona virus treatment packs.” Dr. Staley states that his treatment packs are a miracle cure for COVID-19 and could offer immunity from the virus for up to six weeks. Scientists warn that Staley’s treatment methods should not be taken as truth and that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin may pose serious risks to one’s health and safety.
  • Fake California Doctor Arrested for Cancer Treatment Scheme
    • A Northern California man was arrested for practicing medicine without a license and operating a clinic that claimed to provide oncology treatment for cancer patients. VIncent Gammill’s medical scheme went on for more than five years before he was arrested.


  • ‘They thought they were doing good but it made people worse’: why mental health apps are under scrutiny
    • As experts worry over privacy issues, ineffectiveness and even harm, the UK is looking at whether the plethora of digital mental health tools needs regulating.
  • Freudian Slip: Therapist Jailed for Sexual Relationship with Patient
    • Therapist-client sexual relationships have been criminalized in a number of states across the country as they are a clear breach of trust and patient safety. These behaviors cannot be considered consensual due to the power differential that exists. Wisconsin therapist Kristin Marchese committed a crime by engaging in sexual relations with her client Mark Huckeby. Huckeby was extremely vulnerable to Trusted Advisor Abuse, given his past history of substance abuse issues and mental illnesses.
  • When Therapists Instill False Memories
    • For decades, psychotherapists have relied on the theory that some events are so traumatic that they can only be retrieved through flashbacks and dreams. This theory, later proved to be completely irrational and unsupported by scientific research, has led to court cases in which therapists instilled false memories in their clients and coerced them into taking responsibility for egregious actions they did not commit. This first story describes a Nebraskan psychotherapist who coerced his client into falsely confessing to the rape and murder of an elderly lady. This second story involves a woman with mental illness whose therapist implanted false memories about eating human flesh, molesting children and possessing over 300 personalities.
  • Therapy NEVER Includes Sex–Learn How To Protect Yourself
    • A brief list of client rights
    • Warning signs of Trusted Advisor Abuse
    • Helpful information on how to file a complaint against your therapist


  • Former Child Psychologist Sentence to 16 Years in Prison for Molestation and Child Pornography
    • Dr. John William “Bill” Visher was a trusted psychologist who practiced for over 30 years providing treatment to kids in Capitola and Santa Cruz, CA. In 2016, Visher was issued the maximum sentence of 16 years for molesting under-aged clients and possessing over 1,000 files of child pornography. Visher violated the ethical principles that are integral to being a child psychologist by utilizing his position of power to engage in sexual conduct with minors.
  • Psychologist Administers Abusive and Harmful Treatments to Children at Special Ed Schools
    • This case of Trusted Advisor Abuse involves victims who are particularly vulnerable to abuse and neglect—i.e., disabled persons. Dr. Matthew Israel was responsible for designing special education programs for Tobinworld Schools in Antioch, CA. His programs were a clear violation of civil rights and human safety. Israel instructed teachers to employ aversive techniques such as depriving students of food and water, inflicting physical pain and denying them access to use the bathroom.

Counselor — Drug/Behavioral Treatment

  • Alcoholics Anonymous Can be an Environment for Violence and Abuse
    • How AA Can be a Playground for Violence-Prone Members
      • Each year, the legal system orders more than 150,000 people to join AA instead of going to jail. That means that AA meetings can include drunk drivers, sexual offenders, drug offenders and perpetrators of domestic violence. These individuals then mingle with the AA clientele who are voluntarily seeking treatment for their drinking problems. This particular article details the abusive relationship and sexual violence that took place between repeat offender Eric Allen Earle and AA-newcomer Karla Brada Mendez.
    • When AA Hurts
      • One woman is advocating against AA, stating that the group hindered her recovery in many ways. According to her testimony, her AA group inflicted further trauma and psychological damage by having a lack of accountability within the group, engaging in victim-blaming and highlighting each other’s character defects rather than lifting each other up. Although AA can be a great resource for those recovering from alcohol addiction, it is important to be aware of the potential dangers of Trusted Advisor Abuse.
  • Hanna Boys Center cited for ‘failure to protect its clients’
    • The Department of Social Services (DSS) cited Hanna, a Catholic group home and school for at-risk boys, for failing to protect its “clients” from bullying, not properly reporting incidents, and for failing to clean up a trail of blood left during a student fight.
  • 5 Arrested in $3.2M Sober Living Home Fraud Scheme
    • Five people were arrested in connection with a sober living home fraud scheme in Southern California. The five perpetrators preyed on and swindled money from vulnerable patients recovering from substance abuse issues. The conspirators ultimately exploited these peoples’ addictions with no regard for their lives, health or recovery.
  • Man Convicted of Sex Trafficking Girls from Hawthorne Cedar Knolls in Westchester
    • Luidji Benjamin was found guilty of sex-trafficking and prostituting underage girls from Hawthorn Cedar Knolls, a former residential treatment center for troubled youths. Not only did Benjamin “callously exploit young, vulnerable girls for his own financial gain” but he ruined these young girls lives by “advertising their bodies for commercial sex.” He currently faces up to 17 years in federal prison for his heinous crimes.

Athletic Coach, Trainer

  • $14 Million Settlement for Water Polo Players Who Accused Coach of Abuse
    • In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs said that USA Water Polo and International Water Polo Club did not do enough to protect the twelve female water polo players in California from their former coach, Bahram Hojreh. He also faces criminal charges for sexually abusing them when they were minors.
  • Bail increased in Santa Cruz child molestation case
    • A Santa Cruz County Superior Court judge raised the bail for Pleasure Point surfing mentor Lucas Klatt to $250,000 during his first court appearance on July 2nd, 2020.
  • Bay Area women file sexual abuse suit against USA Swimming and former coaches
    • Six women file civil suits alleging USA Swimming didn’t do enough to stop sexual abuse by coaches. The suits allege that USA Swimming and its top officials were aware of the predatory behavior exhibited by their coaches Andy King, Mitch Ivey, and Everett Uchiyama but refused to address it, further enabling the culture of abuse to exist.
  • Simone Biles, survivors ask court to force USOPC to provide answers in Larry Nassar Cases
    • Famous gymnast Simone Biles demands answers as she was unaware at the 2016 Olympics that USOPC officials knew about sex abuse allegations against Nassar 14 months earlier than they had notified her and her parents. The settlement agreement does not address the extent to which USA Gymnastics, USOPC and FBI officials were aware of Larry Nassar’s predatory behavior and what measures they had taken to conceal that sexual abuse from unknowing potential victims.
  • She Accused a Coach of Abuse. Then More Than 30 Gymnasts Backed Her Up.
    • A gymnastics coach at Chelsea Piers sports complex in Lower Manhattan by the name of Chris McClain was suspended after a former gymnast accused her of abuse and wrote about her experience on Facebook. Over 30 gymnasts came forward with complaints of emotional and mental abuse that spanned over 10 years. This is one of the biggest cases involving emotional abuse that the U.S.A Gymnastics Federation has seen.
  • He Thought He Was Getting Football Physicals. He Was Being Abused.
    • Hundreds of victims came forward after the University of Michigan revealed a secret long-running investigation on a vast sexual abuse scandal involving football team doctor, Robert E. Anderson. One victim, Chuck Christian, had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and decades after the assaults connected his fear of doctors and medical exams to his abuse at the university.
  • 44 years. 41 Allegations. How the Past Caught up to a Former Olympian.
    • Former Olympian and track coach Conrad Mainwaring was accused of sexually abusing 41 male athletes at summer camps, high schools and colleges for over four decades, before he was charged with sexual battery in 2016. Mainwaring was infamously known for providing “physiotherapy” sessions to his players after intense practices and workouts. These sessions consisted of sensual massages and inappropriately touching his male athletes’ private parts. Mainwaring also employed tactics of mental abuse, forcing his players to participate in mental training exercises that would induce erections. Coach Mainwaring was able to mask the abuse for decades, convincing his players and the general public that these tactics were essential for athletic success.
  • Jerry Sandusky and the Penn State Sexual Abuse Scandal
    • The Jerry Sandusky case is a timeless example of Trusted Advisor Abuse. “The Sandusky 8” describes the eight men who were molested by former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. The eight accusers have similar backgrounds: low socioeconomic status, absent fathers and grew up living in either foster care or public housing. Moreover, all of the boys met Sandusky through Second Mile, a charity founded by the football coach himself. Sandusky employed the charity as a means of luring underprivileged pre-teen boys and grooming them for sex. “Happy Valley”, a documentary that premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, further examines the crimes of Jerry Sandusky and the interplay between wealth, power and prestige in perpetuating the cycle of abuse.
  • USA Gymnastics Sexual Abuse Scandal: How did Larry Nassar Deceive So Many For So Long?
    • In the late 1980s, Larry Nassar began practicing osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT) on female gymnasts, learning how to move their joints and muscles in a manner that relieved pain. Nassar preferred to practice OMT in an environment such as USA Gymnastics, because it lacked hierarchical structures of supervision, such as medical records and health care assistants, thus enabling him to conceal his predatory nature.
    • After long, grueling hours of stretching, conditioning, dangerous stunts and demanding coaches, it’s no surprise that the young gymnasts ached for physical, mental and emotional relief. Nassar capitalized on the girls’ vulnerability by encouraging them to talk about their goals and aspirations while he administered “the treatment” to their bodies—pressing on their vulva area, massaging their buttocks and covertly penetrating their vaginal and anal regions using his fingers. Nassar succeeded in normalizing these actions by using the guise of medical treatment as a cover—a major red flag indicative of Trusted Advisor Abuse.
    • The aftermath: Larry Nassar was sentenced up to 175 years in prison for his crimes. Over 500 women and girls were abused over the course of his career and a total of 156 women testified during his court case. USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee continue to address the deep-rooted psychological and emotional trauma caused by Dr. Larry Nassar.
  • Panic Attack and Fractures: How Wesleyan University Failed to Protect Runners Like Me
    • 24 former members of the Wesleyan University women’s cross country team published testimonials regarding the physical and mental abuse they endured throughout their collegiate athletic careers. Their testimonials describe experiences of exercise-induced blackouts, panic attacks, foot fractures, disordered eating and much more. The primary aim in publicly sharing their stories is to change the toxic culture of college athletics, assign accountability to their perpetrators and provide safeguards for athletes who are being harassed and abused by their coaches.
  • Unprotected: Anna Strzempko is a survivor of sexual assault at the hands of her own USA Swim Coach.
    • Anna Strzempko recalls the moment in which she was first summoned into her swim coach’s office for a one-on-one meeting. Her coach expressed strong interest in her swimming abilities and potential to compete in the upcoming 2012 Olympic Trials. That meeting ended with Anna’s coach vaginally and anally raping her in the storage room adjoining his office. According to Strzempko, the sexual abuse continued for 3 years. Unfortunately, Anna Strzempko’s story is one of many that exemplify the lack of oversight and outright cover-ups that exist within USA swimming.

Massage Therapist, Yoga Instructor, Body Worker, Martial Arts, Alternative Treatments

  • ‘Shame and betrayal’: sexual abuse within the spiritual healing industry comes to light
    • Scandalous behavior that has dogged the Catholic church is becoming increasingly common in shamanic healing circles.
  • $4.9 Million Awarded to Women who Allege a Sedona Massage Therapist Sexually Assaulted Them
    • Aaron Frank Orrico was found guilty of sexual misconduct against several of his female clients. Allegations against the former massage therapist include inappropriate touching, sensual massages and fondling of the women’s breasts and genitals. In 2016, the board of massage therapy revoked Orrico’s license, stating that he failed to comply with the board’s standards and ethics which prohibit sexual activity of any kind with clients.
  • Martial Arts Teacher Sexually Abused Young Girls in Inwood Basement
    • Martial arts teacher Hector Bencosme faces charges for sexually abusing female students who were between the ages of 10 and 15 years old. Bencosome took advantage of his position as a martial arts instructor to molest young girls and take explicit photos of their bodies. The abuse was said to have taken place in the basement of an apartment building where Bencosme usually held his martial arts classes.
  • Sexual Assault Allegations Surrounding Yoga Gurus
    • Bikram Choudhury Accused of Sexual Assault and Rape
      • Bikram Choudhury faces several civil lawsuits involving women that he preyed on, raped and sexually assaulted. A common thread amongst the plaintiffs is their age and vulnerability at the time of the assault. Many of these women were in their young 20s, looking for a spiritual community and a yoga instructor that they could trust. The victims were initially deterred from speaking out about the abuse for fear of not being believed by the public. Furthermore, due to Bikram’s loyal fanbase and prominence in the yoga community, the women were fearful of being ostracized.
    • Hot Yoga Founder to Pay Millions After Losing Sexual Harassment Case
      • Bikram Choudhury has been ordered to pay $7.4 million dollars in punitive and compensatory damages to his former students and employees that he abused, harassed and sexually assaulted. After the jury ruled against Bikram, the guru refused to pay any of his victims and fled the country. He is currently hiding out in India. Several yoga instructors have since dropped ‘Bikram’ from their studio names due to the negative stigma and sexual assault allegations tied to Choudhury.
    • The Ripple Effect from Accusation Against Bikram Choudhury and John Friend
      • This article describes how sexual assault and allegations of rape at the hands of very famous yoga gurus has fractured the yoga community, caused feelings of guilt and betrayal and spurred questions surrounding the validity of yoga as a healing modality.
    • Yoga’s Culture of Sexual Abuse Can’t Be Ignored
      • Trusted Advisor Abuse and sexual misconduct in the yoga community has been a persistent issue. Yoga is a billion dollar industry that has been successful in concealing the sexual, emotional and spiritual abuse that takes place within their studio walls. The idea that sexual misconduct can take place within a community aimed at promoting spiritual healing is a hard pill for most of us to swallow. Moreover, the circumstances make it even more difficult for victims to come forward and report the abuse.

Police Officer/Law Enforcement

  • Ex-California Police Officer Charged with On-Duty Sexual Assault of Five Women
    • Noah Winchester, a former police officer, was charged with kidnapping, sexually assaulting and raping five women. Winchester’s approach involved violence, intimidation and coercion. He frequently threatened the victims with incarceration if they refused to participate in sexual acts with the officer. All five survivors lived in isolated areas and came from disadvantaged communities.
  • L.A. Cops Charged with Raping and Preying on Vulnerable Women
    • Veteran Los Angeles narcotics officers Luis Valenzuela and James C. Nichols were charged with raping four women. Valenzuela and Nichols utilized the women’s previous drug offenses as leverage and threatened incarceration unless the women conceded to vaginal and oral sex. These two cops undoubtedly violated the trust of the public by abusing their law enforcement duties and preying on “vulnerable, easily discreditable women.”
  • Infamous OKC Cop Rapes and Preys on Vulnerable African-American Women
    • Daniel Holtzclaw, former OKC officer, was sentenced to 263 years in prison for raping and preying on African-American women. Holtzclaw’s actions are alarming and disturbing. “It is the greatest abuse of police authority I have witnessed in my 37 years as a member of this agency,” OKC Police Chief Bill Citty wrote in Holtzclaw’s termination letter. It is important to recognize that Holtzclaw’s targeting of disadvantaged and vulnerable communities reflects a deep-rooted history of oppression and sexual violence towards Black women in America.

California State Bar (Lawyers/Attorneys), Judicial Officer, Court Commissioner

  • Alameda County Court Traffic Commissioner Resigns after Mistreating Defendants
    • Longtime traffic commissioner Taylor Culver resigned from his position with the Alameda County Superior Court. Culver was charged with nine counts of misconduct including abusing his authority and making inappropriate racial and sexual comments towards female clerks. This is a case of Trusted Advisor Abuse because of Culver’s mistreatment and harassment of defendants. Reports claim that the former traffic commissioner was extremely combative towards defendants, frequently threatened jail time and denied individuals the option of doing community service.
  • Billings Attorney Suspended Indefinitely by Montana Supreme Court
    • Brian Kohn has been suspended indefinitely by the Montana Supreme court after a third complaint was filed. Kohn was an extremely incompetent attorney, abandoning one client amid a divorce case and failing to notify another client about his suspensions for actions. Lastly, the attorney repeatedly failed to return unearned fees to several of his clients. Previous complaints against the attorney include the following: 1) Kohn false swearing on multiple occasions and 2) failing to return unearned fees to clients.
  • Dahlia Lithwick’s Testimony on Sexual Harassment in the Judiciary
    • We invite you to read Dahlia Lithwick’s testimony which highlights the harassment, emotional abuse, bullying, misogyny and power differentials that is ever-present in judge-clerk relationships.
  • Defense Attorney Faces One Year Probation for Gagging Episode
    • Criminal defense lawyer Elizabeth Ramsey was placed on a one-year probation as punishment for professional misconduct. Ramsey was caught laughing and making gagging gestures during a serious murder trial. According to the American Bar Association, a lawyer’s conduct should always demonstrate respect for the legal system, for those who serve it and for individuals involved in the case.
  • The Client-Lawyer Relationship
    • Learn more about how to protect yourself from Trusted Advisor Abuse at the hands of a lawyer. The American Bar Association breaks down the rules of professional conduct, issues pertaining to confidentiality, the client-lawyer relationship and the scope of a lawyer’s duties in defending their client.

Faith and Religion

  • ‘In the name of God’
    • For decades, Catholic priests, brothers and sisters raped or molested Native American children who were taken from their homes ty the U.S. government and forced to live at remote boarding schools, a Washing Post investigation found.
  • ‘Where Did Justine Go?’ One Woman Disappears Into Devotion
    • Justine Payton was drawn to a Hare Krishna ashram for its yoga, meditation and vegan meals. But over time, her experience at the hands of a Philadephia ashram leader soured into something she would later describe as emotionally and spiritually abusive.
  • Scandals, compensation programs lead Catholic clergy sex abuse complaints to quadruple in 2019
    • The number of allegations of Catholic clergy sex abuse of minors more than quadrupled in 2019 compared to the average in the previous five years, U.S. church officials have reported. Analysis shows that only 2% of these cases are from very recent years, which church officials claim shows that their reforms are working and the jump in reporting of older claims reflects confidence complaints will be taken seriously.
  • Catholic priest sexual abuse survivor suing Oakland Diocese and East Bay churches
    • The Oakland Diocese and two East Bay churches are being sued for negligence by a sexual abuse survivor who was abused from ages 14–15 by the Reverend David Mendoza-Vela who worked at both churches. The victim was abused in his home and at the church. The abuser is currently serving time.
  • 20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist Sexual Abuse Spreads as Leaders Resist Reforms
    • The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News took it upon themselves to create a registry of sex offenders from the Southern Baptist Convention. The registry encompasses about 220 church leaders including pastors, ministers, deacons, Sunday School teachers and church program volunteers. The SBC, which does not condone homosexuality or female leadership within the church, has largely ignored the sexual abuse allegations and has done very little to support abuse survivors within their community.
  • Clergy Abuse Reparations Are Closure For Some Victims, Resurface Trauma for Others
    • After years of investigations, there are more than 1,000 sexual abuse allegations against 300+ priests in Pennsylvania’s Catholic Church. The U.S. Department of Justice acted swiftly by interrogating the leaders of Pennsylvania’s eight Catholic dioceses, demanding new laws of protection and making sure that victims received compensation for the years of abuse they endured. As more and more victims came forward, the Church was obligated to take accountability for its actions. For some victims, the payments have provided a sense of closure and relief. However, others continue to “struggle with the idea of the Catholic Church putting a price on their trauma“.
  • Pope Francis for the First Time Acknowledges Sexual Abuse of Nuns by Priests
    • For the first time in papal history, the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has vowed to do more to protect nuns from being victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests and bishops. Francis admitted that this issue was a cultural problem and that he would no longer condone the sexual slavery of nuns or children within the Catholic Church.
  • Report Details Sexual Abuse By More Than 300 Priests in Pennsylvania’s Catholic Church
    • A Pennsylvania grand jury has estimated that the real number of child victims in the Pennsylvania Catholic Church is actually in the thousands. Due to the statute of limitations, more than three quarters of the sexual abuse cases are too old to be prosecuted. Since the first report of clergy sexual abuse in 1947, the grand jury has estimated that thousands of little boys and girls have been molested and raped by their priests. At a news conference announcing the grand jury report’s release, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called it the “largest, most comprehensive report into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church ever produced in the United States“.
  • Shambhala, the Boulder-Born Buddhist Organization, Suppressed Allegations of Abuse
    • Through interviews of dozens of former and current members, it was revealed that the Buddhist Shambhala community was guilty of suppressing decades of sexual abuse allegations ranging from clerical abuse to child molestation. The religious group was notorious for its “loose” attitude surrounding sex. It was quite common to see middle-aged staffers approach underaged girls for sex. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the leader of the Shambhala community has since stepped down from his duties after finding himself wrapped up in the sexual misconduct allegations. Rinpoche’s collaborators are also under fire as they failed to respond to sexual assault reports within their community and frequently overlooked inappropriate relations between older men and underaged girls.
  • The Ultra-Orthodox Community’s Sex Abuse Crisis Has Finally Reached a Tipping Point
    • In the wake of the MeToo Movement, an anonymous blog about sexual abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community is finally catching the public’s attention. The blogger, later revealed to be Yerachmiel Lopin, got in contact with a total of 100 survivors of sexual abuse by Orthodox Jewish leaders. Lopin states in his blog that the victims are afraid to come forward and report the abuse for fear of retaliation, losing their jobs, being ostracized, having their children expelled from schools and being shunned by their neighbors and relatives. In recent years, we are seeing some prosecutions and convictions within the Jewish community, but most cases unfortunately end in intimidation and ostracization.


  • Arts School Settles Sexual Abuse Lawsuit for $12.5 Million
    • Dozens of alumni of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts had sued in 2021, accusing faculty members of widespread misconduct.
  • Choate Investigation Turns Up New Instances of Student Sexual Abuse
    • The prestigious Choate Rosemary Hall boarding school has discovered new instances of sexual misconduct. The allegations surround former faculty member Carl Johnson, now 78, who supposedly invited female students to his dorm to watch movies and initiate sexual contact. A second faculty member, the now deceased Robert Ingle, is also under fire. According to several former male students, Ingle conducted “measles inspections” on their genital areas, looking for physical signs of the disease.
  • Dartmouth Settles Lawsuit Over Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against Former Students
    • Dartmouth College has agreed to pay $14 million in compensatory damages to the students who were harassed and assaulted by psychology professors William Kelley, Paul Whalen and Todd Heatherton. The women leading this lawsuit (Annemarie Brown, Andrea Courtney, Marissa Evans, Sasha Brietzke, Vassiki Chauhan and Kristina Rapuano) claim that all three men are guilty of sexting, groping, raping, attempting to seduce the women at their dinner parties and punishing those who rebuffed their advances. Dartmouth College has utterly failed to protect their students by mishandling the sexual assault reports and ignoring years of criminal behavior by tenured faculty.
  • Ruling Affirming the Rights of Students Accused of Sexual Misconduct Roils California Colleges
    • Recent changes to Title IX will strengthen the rights of accused persons in sexual misconduct cases on college campuses. The highly controversial addendum allows for implicated students to cross-examine their accusers during a hearing. The Title IX board’s attempt to create a “fair and compassionate hearing model” is problematic because it will only deter sexual assault victims from coming forward. Furthermore, allowing perpetrators to intimidate and interrogate their victims does not promote trauma healing, but rather it perpetuates the cycle of sexual violence.
  • Students Victimized by Child Molestor Ronald David Guinto Settle with School for $10.9M
    • Fifteen boys were molested at the Making Waves Academy, a public charter school for underserved and disadvantaged groups. The child predator Ronald David Guinto is facing a 931-year sentence for his crimes. The victims, aged 11–12, will receive a combined $10.9 million in compensatory damages. The school leaders at Making Waves Academy failed to protect these young boys from Guinto’s predatory behavior.
  • UC Santa Cruz Settles Rape Case for $1.15 Million Attorneys Say
    • A student who was allegedly raped by her UC Santa Cruz professor has received a $1.15 million settlement. As a faculty member and Trusted Advisor, Professor Gopal Balakrishnan clearly violated the university’s policies on sexual violence and sexual harassment. According to several claims made by UC Santa Cruz faculty and students, Professor Balakrishnan had a long history of being a sexual predator and harassing his students.

Financial Advisors

  • Celebrity Financial Advisor Arrested for Swindling $30 Million from Clients
    • Kenneth Ira Starr is a former accountant and financial advisor to the rich and famous. Starr was convicted of running a $30 million Ponzi scheme using the money of numerous celebrities including Uma Thurman and Neil Simon. Starr was allegedly laundering money, channeling his clients’ money into high-risk investments, outright stealing some of his clients’ assets and spending thousands of dollars pampering his fourth wife Diane.
  • Guest Speaker Arrested During a Financial Planning Seminar on Elder Abuse Charges
    • Jose Carbajal was accused of taking more than $300,000 from elderly clients. The investigation began after an elderly victim reported that she had received a steep tax bill from the IRS for a money transfer she had not authorized. The investigation revealed other alleged victims. Carbajal was arrested at a financial planning seminar during one of his presentations.
  • Hunting the Con Queen of Hollywood: Who’s the “Crazy Evil Genius” Behind a Global Racket?
    • Victims of an elaborate scam were led to believe that they were cutting professional deals and contracts with powerful female entertainment executives such as Gigi Pritzer, Sherry Lansing, Stacey Snider, and Amy Pascal. The identity of the woman impersonating these executive producers remains a mystery. All that is known about this individual is that she is intelligent, well-versed in a variety of accents and very skilled at psychological manipulation. The scheme begins and ends with the mysterious con artist convincing her victims to travel abroad on the promise of work and cinematic fame.

Gurus, group leaders

  • Cults Are Terrifying. But They’re Even Worse for Women
    • In a cult, a woman’s reproductive choices are often regulated by the leaders in order to demonstrate their power and control over cult members. Under the iron grip of authoritarian leaders, it is typically the women who face several obstacles regarding their sexual lives, motherhood and ability to procreate.
    • Former women cult members of the Newman Tendency, Children of God, Church of Scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) reported that leaders had full control over their reproductive rights. Cult leaders would ban methods of birth control and decide which women could give birth (and when they could give birth). Reports also detailed arranged marriages between teen girls and older men, children being separated from their mothers shortly after birth and women being forced into getting an abortion so that the pregnancy would not interfere with their cult duties.
  • James Franco Accused in Lawsuit of Sexually Exploiting Women
    • James Franco and his acting school Studio 4 are being called into question after several female students came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct. The lawsuit alleges that Franco and his collaborators abused their power as teachers by engaging in inappropriate and coercive sexual behaviors. Five women claim that they were forced to sign away their rights to any recordings made during Franco’s master classes. Furthermore, the less experienced actors were routinely pressured into simulating sex acts that went beyond the industry standards. Franco and his team of legal representatives continue to deny all sexual misconduct allegations.
  • R. Kelly: Was He Really Leading a Cult?
    • R. Kelly has been accused of running a mini-cult that preys on vulnerable fans—particularly young women of color. A Lifetime documentary series titled Surviving R. Kelly explores the cult-like nature of the R&B singer’s predatory behaviors. Many of the victims’ stories begin at an R. Kelly concert, where they were singled out of the crowd, pulled backstage with their parents and given promises of music industry stardom. Even the parents believed that Kelly was being extremely generous by offering to mentor their teenage daughters.
    • Over time, R. Kelly slowly started grooming the women and separating them from their friends and families. In order to keep them isolated from their previous relationships, Kelly moved the victims into one of his Atlanta and Chicago properties. R. Kelly utilized coercion and mind control tactics by creating trauma bonds with each of the woman in his harem. “He controlled my thoughts, he punished me if I disobeyed him and he forced me to keep tabs on the other women in the house,” stated one of the women who was held hostage by R. Kelly.
    • Like most cult victims, these women did not choose to be a part of this coercive situation. Rather they were brainwashed, stripped of their sense of self and forced into the victim role.
  • The Most Disturbing Details from the NXIVM Sex-Cult Case
    • NXIVM, an organization that promised personal success and self-improvement has collapsed in recent years. In 2018, the organization’s founder Keith Raniere along with his co-conspirators were arrested and charged with sex trafficking. Overwhelming evidence has shown that the self-help guru groomed women to be sex slaves. The victims were branded with Raniere’s initials and forced into master-slave relationships with higher-ups in the organization. Raniere and his co-conspirators utilized their position of power to victimize and control women. Furthermore, they preyed on the vulnerabilities of young, aspiring women who were trying to better their lives by joining the self-help organization.
Reasons to consider a complaint

Reasons to consider a complaint

Reasons to consider a complaint

Generally, the best way to protect yourself is to notify others: reach out to a family member, friend, co-worker, or other trusted individual.  Making a professional abuse complaint through a formal process is a way to notify even more people, especially those who have the authority to make changes.  Also, for some people there is no one but the complaint process; it’s their only form of protection.

It is important to speak out when a situation has become too close or twisted for the patent (client, student, or similar) to be able to effectively address on his or her own.

Report a trusted advisor or helping professional for any of the following:

  • Sexual contact with a patient
  • Violating the patient’s confidentiality
  • Providing services for which the individual has not been trained or licensed
  • Drug abuse
  • Fraud or other crimes
  • False advertising
  • Paying or accepting payment for patient referral
  • Unprofessional, unethical, or negligent acts
  • Focusing therapy on the licensee’s/registrant’s own problems, rather than the patient’s
  • Serving in multiple roles, i.e., having social relationships with patients, lending them money, employing them, etc.

Adapted from California Board of Psychology What Types of Complaints Does the Board Handle? and the Medical Board of California Complaint Information

Know your options

There are several options for a person who has experienced abuse by a trusted advisor. Knowing one’s entire list of choices will ultimately enable victims of abuse to take the most appropriate action route.

  • Learn about your rights.
  • Visit or call your local county law library. (In California see https://www.mylawlibrary.org)
  • Make a written log of all the incidents with date, time, any witnesses and locations.
  • Write the ex-advisor stating specific complaints.
  • Call the ex-advisor to discuss the complaints.
  • Notify the employer, agency director, or church hierarchy.
  • Request a mediation session with a qualified mediator.
  • Arrange for private compensation for damages.
  • Report to county patient advocacy office or state authorities.
  • File a licensure complaint.
  • File a complaint with the ethics committee of a professional association.
  • File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
  • File a civil suit for damages.
  • File a criminal complaint to law enforcement.
  • Seek out advocacy groups or peers who have suffered similarly.
  • Seek compensation from the state victims’ fund: California Victim Compensation Fund.
  • Do nothing at all.