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Woman Says Counselors Sent Her a Rapist

FORT LAUDERDALE (CN) - A Florida woman claims a mental health center assigned her a therapist who forced her to have sex with him for months and threatened to have her son taken away if she reported him. And she says she is not the man's only victim.

Jane Doe sued Henderson Mental Health Center in Broward County Court. She says Henderson knew or should have known that its counselor Mervin Span "was a sexual opportunist," and that "Span had been fired from at least one other mental health facility, and he had a criminal history related to drugs."

Span, however, is not named as a defendant.

Doe says she was diagnosed with mental health problems and lost custody of her son in 2008. A year later, she regained parental rights on the condition that she join a counseling program. Child Protective Services referred her to Henderson Mental Health Center, which assigned Span to provide weekly in-home therapy sessions to her and her son.

She says Span's sexual assaults began on his first unaccompanied visit to her house, when he touched her inappropriately, "kissing her neck and patting her buttocks."

When Span failed to show up for a therapy session in December 2010, Doe says, she e-mailed Span's supervisor, asking for another therapist.

"The following day, Span came to Jane Doe's house unannounced," the complaint states. "He yelled at her angrily, referring to her email to his supervisor. He then grabbed her by her thighs and positioned himself between her legs, rubbing his genitals on her. Span threatened her, asserting that he was 'in control' of her case and that he could make sure her child was taken away from her if she caused any more trouble for him. He demanded that Jane Doe cook him breakfast and proceeded to nap on her couch for several hours. When he awoke, Span ordered Jane Doe to call his supervisor and inform her that she wanted to continue treatment with Span. As she spoke to the supervisor, Span restrained her by the arm.

"The following week, Span walked into the family home on New Year's Eve, unannounced. He sexually assaulted Jane Doe at that time, which included, among other things, performing oral sex on her against her will. Span then demanded that she go to her bedroom with him, where he raped her repeatedly, without a condom."

Span also forced her to have sex with him in his home, Doe says.

She says she "was terrified that if she reported what Span had done, he would retaliate and she would lose her child."

Doe says she asked for a new therapist repeatedly, but Henderson ignored her requests.

She says Span continued to threaten, harass and sexually assault her until she told a friend what was happening, in February of this year. The friend reported Span to Henderson, after which "Span continued to threaten and harass Jane Doe relentlessly over the next few days," Doe says. "As a result of the abuse and intimidation, Jane Doe in fear, depression and despair, tried to take her own life."

She adds that "Span engaged in sexual misconduct with female clients in a similar manner before, during and after his sexual abuse and exploitation of Jane Doe. At one point, Span told Jane Doe that he was having sex with another woman who had six kids."

Doe says Henderson "should have known that Span was unfit, dangerous, and a threat to the health, safety and welfare of the vulnerable individuals entrusted to him," and "failed to respond to repeated pleas and attempts by Jane Doe to have Span reassigned away from her and her son in the period November 2010 - February 2011."

She seeks damages for negligence. She is represented by Jeffrey Herman with Herman, Mermelstein & Horowitz, of Miami.

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