A mother claims a Fort Lauderdale mental health center counselor forced her to have sex with him by threatening to take her son away from her.
A lawsuit filed Wednesday claims Mervin Span, a counselor at Henderson Mental Health Center, engaged the unidentified woman "in unwanted sexual relations on multiple occasions" under the threat that he would have the young boy taken away from her.
The woman had received case management and counseling services from Henderson following a court proceeding involving custody of her son.
Span was the counselor assigned to the woman's family, according to the lawsuit filed by attorney Jeffrey Herman.
Officials at Henderson Mental Health Clinic did not specifically respond to the allegations, but did release a statement Wednesday.
"Henderson Mental Health Center has an incredibly committed professional staff who helps thousands of families each year. If any part of these allegations were true, the actions would be that of a rogue employee," CFO Dr. Steven Ronik wrote. "Anyone familiar with our history, reputation and organizational culture knows our priorities and how we’d never, ever tolerate something as inappropriate as the allegations suggest. At the present time we have not received any lawsuit.
"With that said, we take these allegations extremely seriously and will thoroughly investigate the matter."
Herman claims the abuse began this past November, when Span sexually assaulted the woman on his first solo visit to her house. He allegedly kissed her neck and patted her buttocks, but the woman was terrified that if she reported it Span would retaliate and she'd lose her child.
During a December visit to her house, Span allegedly rubbed his genitals on hers, then demanded she cook him breakfast and proceeded to nap on her couch for several hours.
On New Year's Eve, it's alleged Span walked into the woman's home unannounced, performed oral sex on her against her will and then raped her repeatedly without a condom.
The lawsuit also claims Span demanded in January that the woman come to his home for sex, and that she did so twice under the fear of losing her child.
Herman claims the woman made several attempts to have a new counselor assigned to the case. In February, the woman told a friend about the alleged abuse and the friend reported Span to Henderson.
Herman said his client had become so depressed she tried to commit suicide.
The lawsuit says Henderson "knew or should have known that Span was a sexual opportunist." The woman is seeking damages in excess of $5 million.