Combining rules and dialogue: exploring stakeholder perspectives on preventing sexual boundary violations in mental health and disability care organizations

Charlotte Kröger*, Eva van Baarle, Guy Widdershoven, Roland Bal, Jan Willem Weenink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
37 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background: Sexual boundary violations (SBV) in healthcare are harmful and exploitative sexual transgressions in the professional–client relationship. Persons with mental health issues or intellectual disabilities, especially those living in residential settings, are especially vulnerable to SBV because they often receive long-term intimate care. Promoting good sexual health and preventing SBV in these care contexts is a moral and practical challenge for healthcare organizations. Methods: We carried out a qualitative interview study with 16 Dutch policy advisors, regulators, healthcare professionals and other relevant experts to explore their perspectives on preventing SBV in mental health and disability care organizations. We used inductive thematic analysis to interpret our data. Results: We found three main themes on how healthcare organizations can prevent SBV in mental health and disability care: (1) setting rules and regulations, (2) engaging in dialogue about sexuality, and (3) addressing systemic and organizational dimensions. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that preventing SBV in mental health and disability care organizations necessitates setting suitable rules and regulations and facilitating dialogue about positive aspects of sexuality and intimacy, as well as about boundaries, and inappropriate behaviors or feelings. Combining both further requires organizational policies and practices that promote transparency and reflection, and focus on creating a safe environment. Our findings will help prevent SBV and promote sexual health in mental health and disability care organizations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number49
JournalBMC Medical Ethics
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by ZonMw, Project No. 516004618.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

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