While many people decide to become psychologists to help people, some inevitably enter the field specifically to target and exploit vulnerable people seeking help with their issues. Sadly, one such individual was able to rise in the ranks to become a psychologist at the Travis Air Force Base. The psychologist was responsible for treating patients with PTSD, but now he is being accused of multiple counts of felony sexual assault and battery by the patients he was supposed to help.
Dr. Heath Sommer received his clinical psychologist license in 2009. According to court documents, he began allegedly abusing his patients as early as 2010. Several of his patients were seeking treatment after being assaulted during deployment. Under the guise of ‘exposure therapy’, Dr. Sommer subjected several patients to sexual battery, oral copulation and rape. Exposure therapy is an accepted treatment technique endorsed by the American Psychological Association that helps individuals confront their fears. It does involve exposing the patient to the object or situation fueling their anxiety, but this type of therapy is not intended for victims of sexual assault. One victim alleges that the doctor told her if she didn’t participate in sex with him that she would likely commit suicide within the year. Prosecutors have deemed the doctor’s actions a “calculated abuse of power.”
Dr. Sommer has been arrested and charged with multiple crimes including rape, sexual battery and oral copulation. It is unclear how many victims suffered at the hands of Sommer, but those who have come forward say they were further traumatized by the doctor’s actions. He is being held at the Stanton Correctional Facility on a $750,000 bail. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.