A registered nurse at the Oregon State Hospital (OSH) sexually abused a mental patient for two years, according to a recently released state investigation report.
While employed at OSH, registered nurse Jennifer Barren appears to have engaged in a long-term romantic, and likely sexual, relationship with a patient, whose identity is not being released. Worse yet, the relationship was the focus of two separate internal investigations.
Barren was initially investigated “for having boundary issues” with the patient, the report notes. That investigation resulted in a warning letter, detailing OSH’s expectations. “There must be an immediate and permanent change in your behavior,” the letter declared.
If escalating “boundary issues” into a full-blown love affair counts as “an immediate and permanent (behavior) change,” Barren appears to have complied with the order as she and the patient met frequently in a linen room that did not have windows or cameras.
“A subsequent search of surveillance video revealed six separate events in which Barren and (the patient) entered the linen room together alone, and closed the door,” the report found. “And on every occasion (the patient) emerged from the room holding a bundle of towels at (the patient’s) waistline. In another incident, Barren’s tunic is seen pulled above her waistline.”
“That’s not true, and I really don’t want to talk about it,” Barren said soon after her August 2013 resignation. Barren also refused to speak with investigators, according to the report.
Barren continued her relationship with the patient after resigning, according to investigators. The patient’s cellphone records revealed that during a two week period in November 2013, Barren and the patient spoke on the phone 110 times, — an average of 7.8 times per day - for more than 113 hours - an average of no less than 5 hours per day - investigators found.
“Although there is no direct evidence of actual sexual contact between Barren and (the patient) there is significant evidence of an inappropriate relationship,” investigators concluded. “One that Barren was continuously warned about and previously disciplined for.”
Applicable Oregon administrative rules define “sexual abuse” as including the “failure to discourage sexual advances toward staff by individuals.” Applying that definition, investigators substantiated the sexual abuse complaint against Barren, “based on a preponderance of the evidence.”
Oregon State Police (OSP) also investigated the complaint but found no evidence that any sexual contact occurred, according to an OSP spokesman. As a result, no criminal charges were brought against Barren.
The Oregon State Board of Nursing reported that Barren remains licensed and undisciplined. A Board spokeswoman refused to comment on whether the Board had reviewed the investigative report or intends to bring disciplinary proceedings against Barren.
Source: The Oregonian
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