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Professional abuse is "a pattern of conduct in which a person abuses, violates, or takes advantage of a victim within the context of the abuser's profession." This typically involves a violation of the relevant professional organization's code of ethics. Organizational ethics or standards of behavior require the maintenance of professional boundaries and the treatment of people with respect and dignity.
Professional abuse can involve workplace bullying or sexual harassment, or taking advantage of clients' or patients' trust, exploiting their vulnerability, not acting in their best interests, and failing to keep professional boundaries.
Forms of abuse
Professionals can abuse in three ways:
- nonfeasance - ignore and take no indicated action - neglect.
- misfeasance - take inappropriate action or give intentionally incorrect advice.
- malfeasance - hostile, aggressive action taken to injure the client's interests.
There are several strategies available to organizations seeking to address professional abuse. A study, for instance, revealed that this problem often arises when there is an extreme power imbalance between the professional and the victim. A framework based on different grades of client empowerment and ways of strengthening it can help solve the problem. Those who have been subjected to professional abuse could also pursue any of the following courses of actions: lodging a complaint; reporting abuse to the police; and, taking legal action. There are also organizations that can help those who are victimized learn more about their rights and the options available to them.
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