REPORT ON BILLS FAVORABLY REPORTED BY COMMITTEE
TITLE OF BILL:
AN ACT CONCERNING SEXUAL ASSAULT BY HYPNOTISTS.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Speaker James A. Amann, 118th District
REASONS FOR BILL:
Speaker Amann had, in his hometown, a hypnotist sexually assault seven patients after having placed them under hypnosis.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Speaker James Amann, 118th District testified that this issue is one of his highest priorities this year. He stated that by the nature of their authority, hypnotists should be banned (as are other mental health professionals) from having sexual relations of any kind with their patients. In classifying a hypnotist as a type of psychotherapist, consent argued by the hypnotherapist in sexual abuse cases would no longer be a defense.
As of now, Connecticut has virtually no law regarding hypnotists. There are no licensing or registration requirements of hypnotists. There are no continuing education or minimum training requirements, no background checks of hypnotherapists, and no code of ethics or accountability requirements for hypnotists. Hypnotists can basically consider themselves certified after completing a course over one weekend. This bill is an effort to protect and provide legal recourse for future victims of this unscrupulous crime, and to ask that Connecticut Statutes include the term “hypnotist” in its language for Sexual Assault 2nd Degree.
A companion measure will be raised in the General Law Committee. It will call for hypnotists to register with the State's Department of Consumer Protection.
Kevin Lawlor, Assistant State Attorney, Division of Criminal Justice - The defendant in Speaker Amann's district was a “certified” hypnotherapist and went by the title of “Doctor”. He treated people for significant psychological disorders and for significant mental traumas such as previous sexual assault. This hypnotherapist took advantage of his position of authority over these and other vulnerable women who would not make a complaint, and sexually assaulted them over the course of several years of treatment. The prosecution was made tenuous under the current law because a hypnotherapist is not explicitly included in the list of treatment providers who are precluded from having consensual sexual relations with their patients under Section 53a-71, the statute which defines Sexual Assault in the Second Degree.
The prosecution proceeded under an alternative theory that the defendant provided psychotherapy as defined in Section 53a-71(6). Luckily for them the Judge agreed that this defendant's particular methods of practice with these women constituted psychotherapy. This bill would relieve prosecutors and judges from making the interpretation on a case-by-case basis that the treatment provided by the hypnotherapist constituted psychotherapy for the purposes of Sexual Assault in the Second Degree.
Senator Stillman, 20th District testified that she lends her support for this bill.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Peg Pisano, Sexual Assault Counselor, Milford Rape Crisis Center has been working for over three years with three brave women who disclosed that their “Doctor of Clinical Hypnotherapy” had been hypnotizing them and engaging them in sexual relations on his office couch both during and after “therapy” sessions. After a police investigation, it was found that some of these activities were even taped surreptitiously. Following public disclosure and arrest, many more victims of this “Doctor” came forward.
A hypnotherapist may have access to your most private and disturbing fears and memories, and currently is not held accountable to anyone. With this power should come the responsibility to help, not to harm.
Nancy Kushins, Executive Director, Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, Inc. - Hypnotists who violate the trust relationship with their patients by manipulating and sexually assaulting their patients must be held accountable by law. The criminal penalties listed in this bill are appropriate.
Anonymous victim of hypnotherapist Michael Johnstone requested legal and educational requirements necessary for people to become certified in practicing hypnosis, to ensure they are properly trained, capable and possess integrity. Would the committee please consider:
2) Laws including hypnosis wording to protect victims
3) A governing body to oversee its use; and for help or protection in cases of abuse
4) Some basic related educational requirements or training for practitioners, and for hypnosis instructors.
This person notes that there are established organizations and instructors who teach and certify hypnosis, whose input may be valuable in setting up the licensing process, determining educational requirements, implementing any new training procedures, etc.
Anonymous victim of abuse by a hypnotherapist - She was sexually, mentally and emotionally assaulted by her hypnotherapist. She believes adding “hypnotist” to the list of other mental health providers already listed in CGS 53a–65(a) would make them legally accountable for their actions. She stated that other Connecticut citizens are still in danger of being victimized.
Pamela, a victim - Requested the addition of the word or person, “hypnotist”, to the Sexual Assault II law. The therapist she went to presented himself to her as a doctor and a psychotherapist. He videotaped her in compromising situations without her knowledge or consent and exploited her in many other ways as well. Although most people would not believe it to be true, hypnosis is actually a very powerful and real tool, and people who hypnotize others have the power to make them do things that they normally would not want to do.
There is currently no such thing as a license for hypnotherapists. Hypnotherapists can only be certified. Schools can be licensed, but the people in these schools can only be certified. A person can simply hang up a shingle and claim him or herself to be a hypnotherapist.
Cynthia Lawless, Connecticut State Chapter of the National Guild of Hypnotists - Supports the bill, but requested the addition of “or who performs hypnotism for any other purposes.”
Catherine Gambardilla, National Guild of Hypnotists - The Guild stands behind this bill, and wants these criminals prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Since hypnosis was brought into Connecticut in 1840, no one has ever done any sexual misconduct with hypnosis. Such a clean record would not be found with physicians, doctors, psychotherapists, psychiatrists, or anyone else. This is the first time the Guild has heard something like this, and they are just as appalled by this incident as the general public. There are a lot of misconceptions about hypnosis, what it can and can't do, and this incident unfortunately makes everything worse because it only fuels the public's fear.
She, herself, is a certified hypnotherapist, but not licensed. She said that the National Guild of Hypnotists requires that to be a certified hypnotherapist, a person must study for 100 hours, practice on family and friends, and be consistently continuing his or her education throughout the time as a hypnotist. Fifteen hours continuing education a year is required. Many hypnotherapists are also licensed in other professions. There are doctors, psychiatrists and nurses, for example, who are hypnotists.
John W. Olsen, President, CT AFL-CIO (represents hypnotists who are organized by OPEIU Local 104). He stated that they are interested in this legislation and have suggested that the following language be added to Sec. 53a-71 of the Connecticut General Statutes:
“or (11) the actor is a person who has engaged in the practice of hypnotism, hypnotherapy or self-hypnotism instruction and such other person is a recipient of hypnotism, hypnotherapy or self-hypnotism instruction from the actor and (A) a client of the actor and the sexual intercourse occurs during a hypnotic session, (B) a client or former client of the actor and such client or former client is emotionally dependent upon the actor by virtue of trust developed through the hypnotic relationship, or (C) a client or former client of the actor and the actor accomplishes the sexual intercourse by means of false representation that the sexual intercourse is for a bona fide hypnotic or therapeutic purpose.”
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Jeanne E. Clark