Woman Claims Mental Health Counselor Forced Her to Have Sex or Lose Custody of Her Son

A Broward County woman is suing Henderson Mental Health Center, claiming her counselor forced her to have sex with him or else she would lose custody of her son.

According to the lawsuit, a judge initially allowed the woman to keep her son as long as she entered the mental health program. But instead of counseling the woman, Henderson employee Mervin Span allegedly "demanded sexual favors from Jane Doe No. 1 and threatened to remove her son from her home if she refused."

When contacted, a Henderson representative said he had no knowledge of the lawsuit.

According to Doe's lawyer, Miami-based attorney Jeffrey Herman, the abuse began the first time Span made a solo visit to the woman's house.

"From the beginning, this guy was exercising authority over her," Herman says. "The first day in her house to provide these services, he touched her inappropriately. When she tried to get another therapist from Henderson, they denied her request. The next morning, he was at her house, telling her: 'I'm in control. It's either my way or you're going to lose your son.' That's when the really serious stuff began."

According to the lawsuit, Span demanded that the woman cook him breakfast and then took a nap on her couch. When he awoke, he told her to call his supervisor and say she wanted to continue treatment with Span.

A week later, on New Year's Eve, Span allegedly showed up unannounced at Doe's house. According to the lawsuit, Span performed oral sex on Doe against her will and then raped her repeatedly without a condom.

The abuse continued until February, when Doe finally told a friend about Span. Shortly after telling her friend, Doe tried to kill herself, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also alleges Span had been fired from at least one other mental health facility, has "a history related to drugs," and might have abused other women under his supervision.

The suit blames Henderson for the abuse because it had "actual or constructive notice that Span was a sexual opportunist [and] knew or should have known that he posed a risk to females."

The complaint seeks damages in excess of $5 million and is being filed today in Broward County court.

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.