Mental Hospitals Struggle to Classify Sexualized Violence Complaints: Ministry of Health

Since 2017, the Ministry of Health has received 1,400 complaints of sexualized violence in public mental hospitals. These complaints include instances of sexual harassment, sexual assault, indecent assault, and rape, which have been perpetrated by both patients against other patients and staff against patients. However, the ministry struggles to provide precise numbers due to some complaints being linked to the symptoms of patients’ illnesses.

Young hospitalized individuals are identified as the most vulnerable group in these settings. Victims of sexualized violence who are left traumatized and experiencing nervous exhaustion are sometimes admitted to psychiatric wards. Rather than being protected in a safe environment, they are left exposed to further harm from other patients. The ministry declined to disclose information about the validation of complaints or any subsequent sanctions. However, they classify reported cases into categories like rape and “sex without mutual consent,” which essentially amounts to rape.

Organizations advocating for these victims have been pushing for the Ministry of Health to address these issues. They criticize their stance that the complaints are due to patients’ illnesses as invalid, especially considering incidents of pregnancies resulting from these situations. Efforts by various organizations aim to address the systemic issues and ensure the safety and well-being of individuals in psychiatric hospitals who are at risk of sexualized violence.

The Ministry of Health’s response to incidents involving criminal offenses suspected to be committed by staff involves referring cases to the police and prosecutor’s office. Dismissal or prosecution falls outside their authority. The ministry has yet to reveal how many cases were referred or dismissed over this period.

The problem is not only with individual cases but also with the culture within psychiatric hospitals that tolerates sexualized violence against vulnerable individuals. The ministry needs to take a proactive approach by implementing policies and procedures that protect all individuals from sexualized violence while ensuring that those responsible face consequences for their actions.

The issue is complex, requiring a multifaceted approach that involves addressing structural issues within psychiatric hospitals while providing support services for victims who have experienced trauma. It is crucial that we work together as a society to create a safe and supportive environment for all individuals seeking mental health care.

In conclusion, it is essential that we recognize the prevalence of sexualized violence in public mental hospitals and take action to prevent it from occurring in the first place. We need a coordinated effort from governments, healthcare providers, advocacy groups, and society as a whole

By Sophia Gonzalez

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