Sexual abuse and the abuse of hypnosis in the therapeutic relationship

Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 1990 Oct;38(4):283-97. doi: 10.1080/00207149008414528.


In The Netherlands, individuals charged with rape may be prosecuted only in instances in which the suspect could have known that the victim was unconscious or in a state of powerlessness. Hypnosis might be looked upon as a method by which an unscrupulous person could sustain such a state of powerlessness in a victim. As an expert witness, the present author participated in a court case against a lay hypnotist who was accused of abusing 9 women. The methods and strategy used by the lay hypnotist are presented as well as are the diverse reactions of the women involved in the case. Feelings of nonvolition appear to have been a relevant factor in the coercion, especially in women who demonstrated hypnotic phenomena such as arm levitation, catalepsy, etc. The basis for sexual coercion was established only after the interpersonal relationship had been redefined as a therapeutic relationship. Introduction within the pseudotherapeutic relationship of a sexual rationale for the presented complaints helped to provide a framework for actual sexual acts to occur. With certain individual patients, the introduction of hypnosis enhanced the subjective experience of nonvolition and with it the vulnerability for abuse. It may be hypothesized that patients with a tendency for external attribution and high hypnotizability are specifically at risk for this kind of abuse when hypnosis is used in the context of a therapeutic relationship.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Expert Testimony / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Hypnosis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Psychotherapy*
  • Rape / legislation & jurisprudence*