Police have arrested a man accused of indecently assaulting women during their physiotherapy appointments. Initially, arrested on 4 July after one woman complained to police, Youngjin Jung subsequently faced three additional charges.
So far, five women have come forward and reported that they too had been indecently assaulted by the 34-year-old accused.
The man appeared in Woy Woy Courthouse on Tuesday, 17 June for the second time this year. In total, he has been charged with eight counts of act of indecency. He was granted bail but is due back in court in August.
If convicted, he could be facing jail time.
In the meantime he was granted bail, but on the conditions that he may not give any more massage or physiotherapy services, or contact any former clients.
Relationships between health practitioners and their clients are characterised by the duty of care that the health practitioners owe to their clients.
There is also a degree of inequality in such a relationship as the doctor has superior medical knowledge and the patient is often sick or suffering, putting the health practitioner in a position of power within the relationship.
In the case of sexual assault by a health practitioner on clients, there is often no force used. It is not as though the women were grabbed off the street and assaulted.
In the case of Jung, his lawyer even states that some clients returned for further appointments. No allegations of force were made, either.
So when a practitioner exploits that position for their own gain, society should be able to expect the law to come down very heavily on them.
There are currently laws relating to this as well as a code of conduct from within the industry itself.
NSW legislation, which has counterparts in other states, a health practitioner covers a broad range of professions including nurses, doctors, dentists, optometrists, pharmacists and physiotherapists.
There are currently four grounds of complaint against a registered health practitioner:
- The practitioner has been guilty of a criminal offence or been made the subject of a finding for one;
- The practitioner has been guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct;
- The practitioner has an impairment; or
- The practitioner is not a suitable person to hold registration for their profession
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency is the body that regulates over half a million health professionals across Australia.
The Physiotherapy Board of Australia’s Code of Conduct states that practitioners must maintain professional boundaries with their patients.
This include a ban on using the position to establish or pursue sexual, exploitative or otherwise inappropriate relationship with either a patient or someone close to them such as their spouse, parent, child, carer or guardian.
The code goes even further, recognising that even sexual relationships with people who used to be patients but are no longer can often be inappropriate.
Whether or not it will actually be inappropriate depends on each case and the extent of the professional relationship as well as the vulnerability of the previous patient.
Police expressed concern about letting the man out on conditional bail, as they do not know who other potential victims would be, while Jung does.
After the original charge, Jung was let out on bail that actually allowed him to keep on practicing, but privately. Incredible as it sounds, he subsequently was allowed to offer massages to women in their private home and did so on at least one occasion.
However after further offences came to light, his bail conditions were tightened.
But the sexual assault charges heard in Woy Woy courthouse are just one example of alleged abuse by people in positions of power.
Nor is it limited to health practitioners. Sexual abuse by people in positions of trust such as religious leaders, teachers or lawyers is extremely dangerous because of the power balance that often exists in such relationships.
Society has long since recognised that such people hold particular positions of power or influence within the community owe a duty of care to the other person or people over whom they have this power or influence.
It is truly sad when unscrupulous health practitioners or others who occupy positions of power exploit their professional position for personal gain.
However, it is equally sad when complainants falsely claim that they have been abused by those in positions of power. Such false claims can lead to professionals losing their reputations and their positions, even if they are later found to be innocent. There is a strong argument that people who make false complaints should be prosecuted in every instance, in order to deter others from doing so.
If you are the victim of a false claim, you should contact a criminal defence lawyer who may be able to prevent police from charging you in the first place, or get the case dropped at an early stage so as to minimise the damage caused.