CHINO, Calif. (KGTV) - ABC 10News spoke to a North County mother who says that she was assaulted by another patient after she was admitted to a Southern California psychiatric hospital while suffering from severe postpartum depression.
She told ABC 10News that the bigger issue has to do with psychiatric facilities that are not segregated by gender.
The hospital has written to ABC 10News in part that it denies the allegations and it stands behind the treatment that its staff provides. It also extends its sympathy for the patient's situation.
San Diego attorney Jessica Pride is representing the woman. ABC 10News has been asked to not show her face since she says that she was the victim of sexual assault. In ABC 10News’ taped on-camera interview, she is shown in silhouette. She is going by the name "Emma" while sharing her story.
“She was medicated. She was hallucinating. She was suffering from severe postpartum depression,” Pride told ABC 10News.
Emma stated, "I said 'no.' I told the guy, 'no.'”
Emma was visiting family in San Bernardino County when she said that she experienced a single psychotic breakdown and was taken by ambulance to Canyon Ridge Hospital in Chino where she was placed on a mandatory mental health hold.
The hospital’s website shows it's a "157-bed acute, locked psychiatric facility."
“Emma's condition was so severe that she actually needed to stay at Canyon Ridge for about 10 days,” said Pride. Emma is now suing the hospital and parent company, Universal Health Services of Delaware, in part, for negligence and violation of the Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act of California.
Pride said that because Emma would undress in front of other patients and enter their rooms, she was deemed a "sexual risk alert" patient.
“That means that every moment of every day, they should have known where Emma was,” added Pride.
“I was supposed to be watched 24-7 and they lost track of me,” she told ABC 10News.
Pride’s firm provided ABC 10News with a copy of what the firm stated is the hospital's procedures for a patient who's placed on sexual risk alert. Part of the document reveals that "a patient will remain in common areas while awake" and there must be "staff awareness of patient location at all times." The document also reads in part that "nursing staff should be aware of room placement and try to keep patients with sexual risk separated as much as possible.”
According to the suit, while Emma was in a state of psychosis, she wandered into a male patient's room where she said that she was assaulted. Pride's law firm said that it happened twice and that his room was on the same floor as hers.
“She didn't fully comprehend what was happening to her but she did have the where with all at one point to say 'no,'” said Pride.
"We were in the shower, and they didn't check there,” said Emma.
Pride added, “The man who did this to her does recall her saying ‘no’ but he was also sick.”
Pride said that Emma told her husband who then called the police, but Emma was too medicated to file a report. Pride said that she filed one four days after she was released.
The Chino Police Department denied ABC 10News access to that report, citing investigatory privilege. Pride’s firm provided a redacted copy of the report, where the officer took down what Emma could remember, adding in part, "During these sexual acts, she did not find it pleasurable and felt disgusted after the fact."
The case was referred to the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office where a spokesperson confirmed that prosecutors didn't pursue the case because of a "lack of sufficient evidence."
Emma is seeking financial damages in her lawsuit. Pride said that aside from the suit, she's also requested that the hospital make changes to policy.
“It was Canyon Ridge's job to watch them,” stated Pride.
Emma added, “I felt like I wasn't protected.”
Pride explained, “They never should have been allowed to be in the same room together, alone, let alone to have sex.”
Court filings from the hospital show in part that the "defendant denies generally each and every allegation."
The hospital denied an interview request but the firm representing it sent the following statement:
“Our highest priority at Canyon Ridge Hospital is the health and safety of our patients. Due to patient privacy laws and the pending legal action, we cannot provide specific comments on the care and treatment provided. However, when the evidence is presented in this matter, it will demonstrate the events stated within Plaintiff’s Complaint are not an accurate reflection of the facts and that Canyon Ridge Hospital provided appropriate care and treatment. We stand behind the treatment provided by our caring staff and extend our sympathy for the patient’s situation.”
Pride questioned, “We don't even have co-ed jails so why do we have co-ed psychiatric facilities, especially with patients who are vulnerable and medicated?”
The California Department of Public Health confirmed in part to ABC 10News that there are no specific gender segregation laws.
“I think the most important thing to stress is how vulnerable this population is and that they might be being discredited,” said Camille Cooper with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, known as RAINN.
“You need to separate by gender,” she stated, and added, “It's not going to solve [the issue of] physicians or other healthcare workers committing sexual assault, but it would mitigate the issue of patient on patient [assault].”
The hospital's attorneys would not comment on gender segregation at its facility.
“I think that psychiatric facilities in California as well as across the country need to be segregated,” said Pride.
Pride told ABC 10News that her client now suffers from anxiety and depression related to what happened at the hospital.