After I-Team Investigation, Lawmakers Pass Bill to Close Therapist Sex Abuse Loophole

Law would make reporting of statutory rape mandatory for therapists and mental health counselors

The New York State Legislature has passed a bill that would require state officials to notify law enforcement of certain sexual misconduct allegations against therapists and mental health counselors.

The new legislation comes in response to an I-Team investigation that found state regulators failed to tell police about a Long Island therapy patient who reported her counselor manipulated her into a series of sexual trysts.     

The bill, sponsored in the state Assembly by Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale), and in the Senate by Stephen Saland (R-Poughkeepsie), would require the state Office of Professional Discipline to forward sex complaints about therapists to police or a district attorney. 

"I want to make sure this rape never happens to anyone else without law enforcement being involved," Paulin said.

The state's criminal code says therapists, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists are guilty of statutory rape if they have sex with patients during the course of a treatment session.

State law already requires sexual allegations against psychiatrists be turned over to police.  

In May, Denise Weisbrod, of Suffolk County, told the I-Team she was the victim of statutory rape at the hands of her therapist, Scott Burzon, a state-licensed clinical social worker.  Although Weisbrod voluntarily participated in the sexual affair, patients are incapable of consenting to sex with their counselors under New York law.  Weisbrod said the sex occurred inside Burzon's office during therapy sessions.  

In March of 2012, Burzon committed suicide.  The I-Team reached out to his widow for comment, but received no response.

Weisbrod is now suing Burzon's estate.  After she reported the sexual relationship to the Office of Professional Discipline, Weisbrod said state regulators declined to forward the complaint to police or the Suffolk County district attorney.

"It just cried out for an immediate change," said Saland.

The Assembly bill passed Wednesday evening; the Senate bill passed Thursday afternoon.

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