Need for expansion of forensic psychiatrists' role in sexual harassment cases.

S. Feldman-Schorrig,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law 23(4): 513-22, 1995.
Apparently intimidated by the current climate of political correctness, forensic psychiatrists in sexual harassment cases often limit themselves to a determination of damages. Yet they are in a unique position to help in the resolution of more complex issues: they need not merely accept plaintiffs' allegations at face value, as treating psychiatrists generally do, but can assess credibility and identify psychodynamics that could be crucial in the clarification of legal questions such as "welcomeness." This article discusses the significance of pertinent data, such as a history of childhood sexual abuse, but emphasizes that such information does not necessarily invalidate the plaintiffs allegations. It also reviews the obstacles that can stand in the way of a complete psychiatric examination and thereby limit the forensic psychiatrist's ability to help the courts. Increased involvement by forensic psychiatrists could contribute to a more impartial evaluation of sexual harassment cases and help establish the distinction between valid claims and frivolous ones.