FORT LAUDERDALE – A woman claims her counselor at the Henderson Mental Health Center forced her to have sex with him, or he would make sure she lost custody of her child, according to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday.
The woman, identified only as Jane Doe, is suing the Broward-based center for at least $5 million in Broward Circuit Court.
According to the lawsuit, the woman, who has been diagnosed with mental health problems, lost custody of her son in 2008. The boy, whose age was not stated, was placed in a foster home.
The following year, officials with the Florida Department of Children & Families allowed the boy to live with his mother after she agreed to seek family therapy at Henderson Mental Health Center in Tamarac.
The counselor assigned to the case visited the mother in November 2010 and sexually assaulted her, according to the suit.
“She was terrified that if she reported anything, [the counselor] would retaliate and cause her to lose her child,” said Jeffrey Hermand, one of the woman’s lawyers. “She felt completely helpless.”
The assaults continued during other home visits, the lawsuit said.
At one point, the woman asked for a new therapist, but the center did not respond, Herman said.
Steven Ronik, Henderson’s chief executive officer, said in an e-mailed statement that the center has not received a copy of the lawsuit, but the matter is under investigation.
“If any part of these allegations were true, the actions would be that of a rogue employee,” he wrote. “Anyone familiar with our history, reputation and organizational culture knows our priorities and how we’d never, ever tolerate something as inappropriate as the allegations suggest.”
The counselor no longer works at the center, Herman said.
He has not been criminally charged with sexual assault, Herman said. The Broward State Attorney’s Office said apparently there is no ongoing investigation involving anyone with the counselor’s name, which the Sun Sentinel is not publishing.
In February, the woman confided to a close friend that she had been sexually attacked, the lawsuit said, and the friend complained to Henderson officials.
Sam Rogatinsky, another attorney representing the woman, said he believes the same counselor may have assaulted others. The counselor bragged about having sex with more than one patient, according to the lawsuit.
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