Trigger warning: rape, sexual assault.
On May 16th, Dr. Heath Sommer of Travis Air Force Base’s David Grant Medical Center was ordered to stand trial on felony sexual assault charges after several Military Sexual Trauma ("MST") patients reported that he raped them during therapy sessions. Sommer is currently in jail. His bail is $750,000.
Sommer Was Hired in 2014 and Suspended Two Years Later
When Sommer was hired in 2014, he was assigned to work with veterans with MST or PTSD. Over the next two years, he saw over 100 patients. Then, horrendous allegations of sexual assault began rolling in, resulting in Sommer’s suspension on July 12, 2016.
Prosecutors allege that Sommer was engaging in supposed “exposure therapy,” in which he asked women to have sex with him as a means of redefining their traumatic experiences.
As reported by KCRA, one former client said “Sommer told her if she didn't participate, she would likely commit suicide within the year.”
According to Stars and Stripes, the prosecution asserts that Sommer moved therapy sessions to his home and told one client “he wanted to treat her by having her re-experience every facet of her sexual assault and then asked her to have sex with him so she could have a ‘positive and loving’ experience.”
Another former client said that, during a therapy session, Sommer, “exposed himself and had her give him oral sex in his office,” and, during another, he groped her.
Sommer Pled “Not Guilty”
Sommer pled not guilty and, according to Stars and Stripes, Sommer's attorney asserted the “sex was consensual” and “the actions were part of [Sommer's] therapy work.”
VA Must Prioritize the Needs of MST Survivors
The news of Sommer's charges is particularly nauseating in the current climate, in which MST is rampant and survivors desperately need a place to heal. The VA must increase its efforts to prevent MST and provide competent care for MST survivors.
Resources for MST Survivors
If you are an MST survivor, please consider the following resources:
For more information about intensive treatment programs for MST survivors, follow this link.
For more information about men affected by MST, follow this link.
If you are uncertain about whether you are experiencing MST, follow this link to learn about the physical and non-physical acts which can lead to MST.
For disability benefits: If you have a disability, such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, or chronic pain, which you believe is secondary to MST, you are likely eligible for disability benefits. We encourage you to apply right away. While the VA may initially deny your claim or assign you an unacceptable rating decision, that decision is not necessarily final, and we at the Law Offices of Attorney Sean Kendall are here to help you assess the possibility of an appeal. Once you receive your initial decision from the VA, send us a note or give us a call at (877) 629-1712.