How can parents start a conversation about sexual misconduct by doctors?

How can parents start a conversation about sexual misconduct by doctors?
Janice Kispert, CEO of Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County, discussed what any potential victims of sexual misconduct by a medical professional should do in light of a doctor who practiced in Westminster having his medical license revoked. (BSMG file photo)

After learning that an allergy doctor who practiced in Westminster lost his license because of alleged sexual misconduct toward teen patients, Janice Kispert, CEO of Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County (RCIS), said such cases should encourage parents to talk with their children.

Surender K. Vaswani, an allergist who worked in Westminster and Columbia, had his license revoked after an investigation by the Maryland Board of Physicians found he had displayed immoral and unprofessional conduct and sexual misconduct against three teenage patients. The doctor denied wrongdoing throughout the investigation and has appealed the case to the Circuit Court for Howard County, court records show.


In cases of abuse, “by giving publicity and creating awareness..., hopefully other victims would come forward,” Kispert said.

For parents and guardians who want to start a conversation with their teenager in such cases, she suggested that a quiet time, possibly one-on-one may be a good environment to ask if there was any point they felt uncomfortable during medical treatment.

“Try not to accuse or do all of the talking,” Kispert advised. She encouraged parents to listen and offer help.

Even if a potential victim does not want to talk during this initial conversation, it may be the spark to talk at a later date, or to speak with another trusted person.

“It’s not unusual for a victim not to disclose right away or at all,” she said.

RCIS offers a 24-hour confidential hotline that serves victims of sexual assault aged 12 and older, as well as their caregivers. The hotline can be a resource for those who may not yet feel comfortable telling their caregivers about a past assault. RCIS also offers services for a person to break the news of an assault to parents in a group setting with counselors.

“Parents can go into crisis as they hear what happened to their son or daughter,” Kispert said. RCIS extends services to those close to victims because they may experience significant guilt or anger as well.

For victims of sexual misconduct by doctors, it is not uncommon for them to become distrustful of medical professionals, she said.

“Their trust was violated. … They need help with that because that can be long-lasting. That can be lifelong," Kispert said, “especially if folks keep pushing the feelings back.”

Similar to what the organization tells students during school presentations, instinct can be valuable when recognizing misconduct during a medical exam, she said.

“If your gut feeling tells you something isn’t right, then you should probably listen to your gut,” Kispert said.

RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, includes advice on its website about what is normal and not normal during a medical examination.

Warning signs can include a doctor refusing to answer questions about what they are doing during an examination, touching private areas without gloves, refusing to have another party in the examination room and insisting that a patient undress areas of the body that are not part of the examination. The organization provides more information about recognizing medical sexual abuse on the website

If a patient believes that they have experienced sexual abuse by a medical professional, RAINN recommends that they call 911 to report to local law enforcement, contact the medical facility where the abuse took place, and/or report the abuse to the state medical licensing board. A complaint can be filed with the Maryland Board of Physicians at


The RCIS 24-hour hotline for those affected by sexual assault can be reached at 410-857-7322. RCIS also takes walk-ins at their office, 224 N. Center Street, #102, Westminster from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays.