New York Daily News
A psychologist who was supposed to treat abused Air Force service members is charged with sexually assaulting them, leaving patients "even more traumatized," prosecutors said.
Dr. Heath Sommer, who was arrested earlier this month, mistreated patients at Travis Air Force Base in California from 2010 to 2016, prosecutors said in a complaint filed Monday.
The 41-year-old doctor used "exposure therapy" on service members who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder over sexual assaults during their deployment overseas, prosecutors said.
The approach is often used to coax PTSD patients to face things that remind them of the traumatic experience, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
But Solano County prosecutors said he misused the treatment to exploit abused veterans.
"As their therapist, the defendant was in a position of power," read the complaint, a copy of which was obtained by NBC affiliate KNTV.
"While some victims were strong enough to stand up to the defendant and refuse his advances, others weren't," the complaint continued. "Those victims, especially the victims of sexual assault, are now even more traumatized due to the defendant's actions."
Sommer pleaded not guilty nearly two weeks ago to rape, sexual battery and oral copulation charges, according to local reports.
It wasn't immediately known if Sommer had an attorney, and he's remanded at Stanton Correctional Facility since his May 3 arrest on $750,000 bail.
Spokeswoman Traci Keller said in a statement to local media that Sommer was previously a contractor at the David Grant Medical Center within the base, but no longer worked there.
"The United States Air Force and Travis Air Force Base have zero tolerance for sexual assault," she said.
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