Many would say the relationship one has with a physician is built on trust. When that trust is broken by sexual misconduct, picking up the pieces is no easy task.
Deborah Twomey knows this ordeal all too well. During her long career as a detective with the Prince William County Police Department, the veteran law enforcement officer saw her share of violent crimes, but it never truly hit home until she became a victim herself.
"You don't know until it happens to you how you're going to react," said Twomey.
During a routine doctor's visit in 2010, Twomey's physician crossed the line and sexually assaulted her in an examination room. He had assaulted other women before, but it was the first such experience for Twomey.
"We're all still victimized," she said, "whether it was once or whether it was several times."
The physician ultimately faced multiple misdemeanor assault charges and court proceedings stretched on for more than a year. The final sentence frustrated Twomey.
"He got a 12-month suspended sentence and walked out of the court room," she said.
That's when Twomey decided to do something. She called up an old friend from her days with the police department: a former law enforcement officer turned state senator, Bryce Reeves.
"I was hurt to know that this happened," Reeves said, "especially to a friend."
Reeves said Twomey's story hit home, and inspired him to act.
"It could be my wife, it could be my daughter, so I'm pretty passionate about it," he said.
Reeves crafted Senate Bill 898, which has now become known as the "Twomey Bill." It revokes a doctor's medical license for five years after being sanctioned for unwanted sexual conduct with a patient. The current law only stipulates a three-year suspension, and puts the burden on the Board of Medicine to prove why a physician should not regain his or her license. This bill would place that burden on the physician in question.
The "Twomey Bill" saw overwhelming support from lawmakers. It also received backing from the Medical Society of Virginia, a professional physicians' organization.
"Sen. Reeves had reached out to us early on and brought this issue forward," Medical Society of Virginia Counsel Scott Johnson said. "The Medical Society thought it was a piece of legislation that was good for our patients."
Johnson says it will also help deter would-be assailants from going too far with their patients.
"If somebody knows they crossed the line, they're going to have to sit out for five years," Johnson said, "that's going to weigh on their mind and hopefully deter inappropriate activity."
As of this week, the bill passed both the House of Delegates and Senate unanimously. It is now on its way to the governor's desk for final approval. Debra Twomey says getting the bill passed with the support of Virginia's leaders is helping her find closure.
"I just hope that this bill will show other doctors that, 'hey, we're not going to sit back and let you continue to do this,'" said Twomey.
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Ed joined the NBC29 news team in May, 2011. A Charlotte, NC, native, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in journalism and political science.Full Story
Ed joined the NBC29 news team in May, 2011. A Charlotte, NC, native, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in journalism and political science. Email/Follow on Twitter/ Full Story