Assistant Minority Leader Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) and Rep. Erica Crawley (D-Columbus) introduced legislation designed to protect victims of sexual violence in Ohio in a joint press conference with state Sens. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) and Stephanie Kunze (R-Columbus) this afternoon at the Ohio Statehouse. The proposed legislation recognizes that health care professionals who use their status of trust and power to violate people under their care and supervision must have enhanced consequences.
“One of our pillars of justice is the simple concept that the punishment should fit the crime,” said Assistant Minority Leader Boggs. “In this situation, the law did not take into account the special relationship chiropractors have with their patients, and the duty that such healthcare professionals have to act in the best interest of their patients—especially when working with children.”
This proposal comes in the wake of the sentencing of a Columbus chiropractor after 43 of his patients aged 14 to 74 came forward with allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct against him. He pled “no contest” to 66 counts of sexual imposition and was sentenced to just 180 days in prison to be served over 60 consecutive weekends. The proposed legislation would allow prosecutors to have charged him with gross sexual imposition, which is a more serious criminal offense that would have allowed a judge to sentence him to more time.
“With this legislation, we can let the former patients of Dr. Smith and others know that we work for them,” said Rep. Crawley.“When our laws fail to keep individuals who we hold in positions of trust accountable for the wrong they have done, it is incumbent upon us as lawmakers to address the deficiency and to do so expeditiously. That is the Ohio Promise.”
Legislators met with Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein and victims throughout the drafting process in order to present a comprehensive proposal ensuring that perpetrators of sexual assault are given proper sentencing—especially under circumstances where trusted healthcare professionals are the perpetrators of sexual assault, and where the victims are under the age of 18. Sens. Craig and Kunze will be introducing companion legislation in the Senate chamber.
The bill expands Ohio’s definition of healthcare professional to include: dentists and dental hygienists, registered nurses or licensed practical nurses, optometrists, physician’s assistants, physicians, psychologists, chiropractors, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, athletic trainers, and social workers.
“Trust is a vital part of the healthcare provider-patient relationship, and when a healthcare professional violates our trust, patients need a clear and fair path to justice,” said Sen. Craig. “Most healthcare providers nurture this trust to enable their patients to heal and grow, however, there are professionals with mal intentions who misuse their training and exploit their patients. This legislation will punish those professionals who target patients at their most vulnerable state.”
The legislation will now be assigned to committees in the Ohio House and Senate, where it will receive further consideration.