It looks a little different than when it was filed, but Maryland House Bill 60, otherwise known as the criminal portion of Lynette’s Law, has passed out of the House Judiciary Committee and is on its way to the State Senate. This is a big step for the grassroots effort that began with a single person as the Bill will go the the House for Second Reading.
Lynette’s Law is the proposed legislation that would thwart therapy sex abuse in the state of Maryland, an exploitation and manipulation of therapy clients that is already illegal in 23 states and classified as statutory rape in some. While HB60 criminalizes therapist abuse, the second piece of the legislation, House Bill 56, would require background checks of all mental health professionals, but this seemingly obvious piece of legislation is still mired in the Health and Government Operations Committee.
The glaring difference between the HB60 bill that was heard on February 12 and what has been passed is the length of time after therapy has ended that a therapist may begin a relationship with a client. The original bill proposed a two year separation between therapy and the start of a relationship, but this has been reduced by the committee to six months. This is not only upsetting to advocates of Lynette’s Law who believe therapists should never have relationships with former clients given the length of many therapist abuse cases, but it also flies in the face of the American Psychological Association’s Code of Conduct which states in Standard 10.08:
“(a) Psychologists do not engage in sexual intimacies with former clients/patients for at least two years after cessation or termination of therapy.
(b) Psychologists do not engage in sexual intimacies with former clients/patients even after a two-year interval except in the most unusual circumstances. Psychologists who engage in such activity after the two years following cessation or termination of therapy and of having no sexual contact with the former client/patient bear the burden of demonstrating that there has been no exploitation, in light of all relevant factors, including (1) the amount of time that has passed since therapy terminated; (2) the nature, duration, and intensity of the therapy; (3) the circumstances of termination; (4) the client’s/patient’s personal history; (5) the client’s/patient’s current mental status; (6) the likelihood of adverse impact on the client/patient; and (7) any statements or actions made by the therapist during the course of therapy suggesting or inviting the possibility of a posttermination sexual or romantic relationship with the client/patient.”
Overall, it’s still a victory for Lynette’s Law for Maryland, the organization founded by Heather Lynette Sinclair who provided emotionally charged testimony before the House Judiciary Committtee and has shared her story through a very moving and heart-breaking video that was aired during the hearing. It’s possible with continued support the Senate could change the six month stipulation back to something more appropriate and let Lynette’s Law fully stand for what it’s designed to be: a protective shield for victims of therapist abuse.