What is sexual abuse?
In the Ontario healthcare context, sexual abuse is defined in legislation as:
- sexual intercourse or other forms of physical sexual relations between the Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH) and the client;
- touching, of a sexual nature, of the client by the RDH; or
- behaviour or remarks of a sexual nature by the RDH towards the client.
Sexual nature does not include touching, behaviour, or remarks of a clinical nature appropriate to the services being provided.
CDHO has a policy of zero tolerance for sexual abuse of clients.
What constitutes a boundary violation?
Something like sexual misconduct or a romantic relationship between a RDH and a client seem like obvious boundary crossings. But numerous other actions may cross the ethical line. For example, if your RDH shares secrets with you, tries to involve you in a business deal, or asks to see you outside the clinic setting, roles can become blurred. When that happens, the RDH is stepping out of their professional role, and isn’t acting in your best interests.
Sometimes, clients themselves cross the line, by treating the RDH more like a friend, for example, or by trying to instigate an intimate relationship. It’s the responsibility of the RDH to keep the boundaries in place. The person who’s in a position of authority and who has professional obligations, is always the one who has to maintain ethics and clarify the roles and goals in the relationship.
What should you do if you feel uncomfortable or feel that a boundary has been crossed during your dental hygiene visit?
If you ever feel uneasy or uncomfortable about what happened at your dental hygiene visit, or believe that your care is being compromised as a result, raise these concerns with your Registered Dental Hygienist, their employer, or the College.
If you think that you have been sexually abused by a Registered Dental Hygienist, please contact CDHO at email@example.com or 416-961-6234 or 1-800-268-2346.
CDHO recognizes the seriousness and extent of injury that sexual abuse causes. We provide funding for therapy and counselling for clients who have been sexually abused by Registered Dental Hygienists.
We are also committed to preventing sexual abuse in the first place. We provide Registered Dental Hygienists with resources to help them treat their clients responsibly, consistent with the RHPA, and reflecting the profession’s commitment to respecting the personal dignity of every individual entrusted to their care.