Regulation Matters 2018 - Issue 1

The RHPA, Zero-Tolerance and #metoo

The recent #metoo movement has received significant media and social media attention. Chances are, if you’ve read a newspaper or visited the Internet recently, you’ve heard of it. Last year, our member workshops focused on the topic of professional boundaries and included discussion about preventing and reporting sexual abuse of clients. They also reflected on the dangers of the “slippery slope”, where seemingly innocent behaviour can lead to significantly harmful impact.

In reflecting on the #metoo discourse, it occurred to me that the zero-tolerance approach to sexual abuse of clients promoted by the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHPA), is reflective of the #metoo movement, although it pre-dates the movement by decades.

What are the messages of #metoo? That sexual abuse and harassment are very prevalent; perhaps more prevalent than many were willing to admit. Victims of sexual abuse, and the perpetrators of abuse, come from all walks of life, including professional life. Abuse is always about power and is never the fault of the victim. Abuse can have long-term, devastating impacts on survivors. The zero-tolerance approach to sexual abuse in the RHPA recognizes these impacts.

A crucial aspect of the legislation is the importance it places on reporting of sexual abuse. Every regulated health professional has a positive responsibility to report suspected sexual abuse of clients by another regulated health professional. Failure to meet this obligation is a provincial offence. Why? Because we know that making a complaint about sexual abuse can be very hard for victims. The RHPA has therefore placed this important role onto members: the first step to preventing abuse is to shine a light on it.

For more information on an RD’s obligation for mandatory reporting of sexual abuse, click here.