'I felt more broken than when I got there,' the patient said in the lawsuit
A residential drug treatment center in Forest Knolls, CA has recently been sued by one of its former patients after she claimed she was sexually harassed and abused by one of its therapists.
Last March, Serenity Knolls treated Victoria Vazquez in her struggle with addiction to heroin and amphetamines. Vazques alleges that James Carter, a registered alcohol and drug technician in the center, repeatedly made inappropriate comments and unwanted physical contact.
In a report published by The Mercury News, Vazquez said that she “was at a crisis point” and “wanted to change it desperately,” so she went to Serenity Knolls “with high expectations.” Her lawsuit said that a few days after arriving at the center, Carter started expressing inappropriate comments, “including telling her she was beautiful and that all the men would make passes at her.”
The lawsuit also alleges that he “repeatedly touched her intimately while whispering into her ear,” and on several occasions, he allegedly told her “he wanted to have sexual intercourse with her and repeatedly asked if she was interested.”
Vazquez further recalled an incident where he allegedly told her that another resident had filed a prior sexual harassment complaint against him, but he successfully avoided a request from his supervisors to sign a document that acknowledged his inappropriate behavior.
When Vazquez decided to leave the program, she informed a female counselor at the center that her reason was Carter’s behavior. She also made it clear to her that “she feared retaliation from [him] and didn’t want the complaint traced back to her.” She said she left the program in “a state of distress.”
“I felt I couldn’t trust the staff there,” Vazquez told The Mercury News. “I felt more broken than when I got there.” Vazquez was reportedly “too afraid to sleep at her own home,” so she slept at her friend’s places. “Most disturbingly, she relapsed, fearing there was no safe place for her to quit her drug dependency,” her lawsuit stated.
Aside from the sexual harassment allegations, Vazquez argues that the center failed to give her “ordinary and reasonable care,” failed to “accurately assess” her and “dispensed inappropriate medications to Vazquez.”
In the same report, the center’s chief executive Catherine McQuilkin refused to discuss the lawsuit as “California healthcare and privacy laws do not allow [it].”
“What we can say is that Serenity Knolls takes all allegations involving patient safety very seriously. Once apprised, we take immediate and appropriate actions to ensure the situation is addressed completely and our patient population is safe. The security and well-being of our patients and staff are paramount to us,” McQuilkin said in the report.
The lawsuit was filed before the Marin County Superior Court on February 8, and a case management conference is scheduled in June.