A sexual abuse victim who entered into a relationship with her counsellor has been denied ACC cover because she was deemed fit to make appropriate sexual decisions.© 2013 Fairfax NZ News
The 37-year-old Wellington woman was refused cover for mental injury in 2010 after the corporation ruled that while the relationship had exacerbated her symptoms, it did not meet the criteria for a sexual-abuse event. A person is eligible for ACC cover for a mental injury when caused by an act performed by another person that amounts to an offence under the Crimes Act. The woman has a horrific history of sexual abuse and already has ACC cover for three separate claims relating to events when she was a child and during a later relationship.
After seeking assistance from a counsellor in 2005 for mental trauma relating to those events, a relationship developed during the sessions that led to the couple having sex. This continued for a year, with the male counsellor continuing to provide professional services while maintaining a sexual relationship. When the relationship ended, the distraught woman complained to the Health and Disability Commissioner and it is understood the counsellor is no longer practising.
After assessing the woman in 2010, a psychiatrist found the sexual relationship had contributed to her emotional distress and trauma.
"I am clear in my mind that she was inherently at risk and vulnerable to be psychologically traumatised and affected by a sexual relationship with a therapist."
However, the psychiatrist decided that the woman was able to function reasonably normally and her "capacity to understand the nature of sexual conduct" had not been impaired.
The woman appealed against the ACC decision, but in his decision Judge Martin Beattie disagreed and dismissed the case. There was no evidence the woman was a person of "significant impairment" at the time of the sexual relationship, meaning she had the ability to consent or refuse, he said.
Speaking to The Dominion Post, the woman - who cannot be named - said she was unhappy with the decision and would take her case to the Court of Appeal. She believed she had been suffering from erotic transference related to her previous abuse, a condition where emotions are shifted on to therapists.
"I wasn't coming on to my counsellor, I said I think I have transference, I'm not attracted to you, but he decided it was a come-on."
Police had told her there was not enough evidence to prosecute the man, but it had affected her more than the previous abuse.
"I would rate this as the worst experience, which doesn't make sense but it's called statutory rape in other countries."