When Nick Mosher, now 28, first moved to Portland in 2016, he was searching for a new primary care physician. Having received health care from PeaceHealth medical group for most of his life, he opted to visit the nearest PeaceHealth location, across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Wash.
Now, in a lawsuit filed Oct. 14 in a Clark County, Wash., court, Mosher says a physician's assistant 20 years Mosher's senior named Matthew Williams sexually abused him on four separate occasions in 2016 and 2017.
Mosher's attorneys say Williams is still employed at PeaceHealth in Vancouver. A PeaceHealth spokeswoman declined to confirm whether or not Williams is still employed. A spokesman for PeaceHealth says Williams couldn't be reached for comment.
"Our entire health care community is devoted to delivering healing care every day, and the care and safety of our patients is our top priority," PeaceHealth spokeswoman Debra Carnes said in a statement to WW. "We take the allegations made by Nicholas Mosher very seriously, and upon notification of this complaint in April 2019, the claim was immediately investigated. Due to patient privacy laws and the pending litigation, PeaceHealth cannot comment further at this time."
Mosher's first appointment at the Vancouver PeaceHealth was in August 2016, according to the complaint. Williams, who was 47 years old at the time, allegedly recommended that Mosher return for another visit so that Williams could prescribe him a medication, which he began taking in September 2016. The prescription required Mosher to come in for repeated medical appointments.
"Mr. Williams worked to establish a rapport and to gain the trust and confidence of Nick [Mosher] in their initial follow-up appointments," the lawsuit says. "Mr. Williams learned Nick was a 24-year-old gay man, who had struggled as young man with coming to terms with his sexuality and resulting relationships, and that Nick was vulnerable, trusting, and looking for mental health treatment."
At an appointment, the lawsuit says, Williams insisted that he needed to conduct a physical examination of Mosher. He allegedly asked Mosher to pull his pants down (no one else was present in the room). Williams then allegedly touched Mosher's genitals and stared at Mosher, who "looked away, feeling shame, embarrassment and confusion."
Once Mosher pulled his pants up, the lawsuit says, Williams told him that, in order to receive refills of his medication, Mosher would need to return for more medical appointments.
"As is common when perpetrators are in positions of authority and control over younger, vulnerable, medically inexperienced and trusting victims, Nick [Mosher] second-guessed what happened to him, and Nick blamed himself," the complaint says.
The abuse occurred during three additional medical appointments until the end of 2017, the lawsuit says. Williams allegedly insisted the appointments were necessary to fill Mosher's medication, and acted as though the alleged misconduct was part of a required medical exam. At one point, the lawsuit says, Williams took a photo of Mosher's genitals for the purpose of "medical records."
Over a year later, after confiding in family and friends about the alleged abuse, Mosher reported allegations of misconduct to PeaceHealth in April 2019. The lawsuit says that 16 days later, PeaceHealth disputed the abuse alleged in the report.
Mosher's attorney, Bonnie Richardson, says the investigation conducted was not substantial, and that PeaceHealth never asked to speak with Mosher or his attorneys about the allegations until learning the lawsuit would be filed, over a year after the initial report was made. It is unclear what PeaceHealth discovered during its investigation, because the organization declined to share its findings.
Mosher tells WW that the feeling that his concerns were ignored for so long is "what's really affecting me to this day."
"It's making me understand that I'm not the only person that this could have possibly happened to," Mosher told WW. "I want to make sure that people understand that they have the power within themselves to speak out and ask for help. I confided in someone close to me and it helped me go down this road. Just to be able to make it stop."
The lawsuit accuses Williams and PeaceHealth of sexual assault, medical negligence, patient abandonment, breach of fiduciary responsibility, negligence, discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation and breach of contract. Mosher is seeking compensatory damages for emotional pain, grief, humiliation, and mental anguish in an amount to be determined at trial.
Mosher's attorneys say the allegations were sent to the police and forwarded to the Clark County District Attorney's Office, which hasn't yet made a decision on whether to press charges against Williams.
In the meantime, Mosher's attorneys say, PeaceHealth has not reassigned Mosher a new health care provider, and Williams' photo still displays "prominently" on Mosher's online medical records charts.
"The justice that needs to take place is that PeaceHealth needs to be held accountable," says Mosher, who now lives in Troutdale. "The main result that I want to see from this is, if this has happened to anybody else, that they understand that they're not alone and they can each out to their family members, or anybody, so they don't have to go through what I'm going through and blame yourself."