A veteran who alleges she was sexually assaulted by a North County VA doctor has created a worldwide network of women who will go to doctors appointments with veterans and provide safety and support.
United States Navy veteran Paula Kemp says she is one of five sex assault victims of Dr. Edgar Manzanera, a doctor contracted to evaluate patients for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Manzanera was arraigned in June on sex assault charges relating to five female patients, at least four of whom are veterans, between the ages of 24 and 54.
The alleged incidents happened in 2015 and 2016, and at least one allegedly occurred at the QTC Medical Group in Oceanside.
Manzanera faces five felony counts of sexual penetration. He's also due in Vista Superior Court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing for civil suits brought against him by his alleged victims, including Kemp.
Kemp said she was raped in the Middle East in 2005 while serving her country, and later sexually assaulted my Manzanera in 2015. She said the alleged assault became the catalyst for her to start Veteran Sisters, a non-profit that not only connects vets with their services, but has created a network of veterans to become buffers during doctor visits.
“We are a resource center, but we’re better than that," she said. "We’re kind of like their service dog. We go with them and give them companionship, protection."
Though Suzanne Baeza isn't one of Manzanera's accusers, she says she’s one of five women, according to Homeless Female Veterans, who are victims of Military Sexual Trauma (MST).
It’s just one reason why the U.S. Marine Corps veteran recently teamed up with Veteran Sisters.
“They’re going with me next time. Someone is. Just to feel you have that support and if you do break down, you have someone you can talk to afterward," Baeza said.
According to a criminal complaint filed in June, Manzanera was alone with one alleged victim when he asked her to strip to her underwear and put on a loose-fitting gown. The accuser's attorney said "there was no medical reason" for her to disrobe given the evaluation she was getting.
The claim also notes the doctor told her to hold her gown higher until it was over her head and "maliciously and offensively" touched her, leaving "scratches and bruises" on her body.
"This doctor violated the trust that these women who have ties to the military had in him," Deputy District Attorney Claudia Plascenia said. "They went to QTC to receive medical treatment and what happened to them was unacceptable. They were sexually abused by this individual who held himself out to be a physician and abused that trust."
QTC Medical Group's parent company, Leidos, denies they allowed patient mistreatment to continue once they were aware of the allegations.
In a written statement to NBC 7, Leidos wrote: "Allegations of this kind are an affront to all that we stand for as a company. Individuals referred to us for assessments are served with the utmost care. While we can’t comment in detail on the matter due to ongoing investigations, we can share that when questionable conduct by this subcontracted provider was brought to our attention nearly two years ago, we immediately terminated the relationship with the provider and fully cooperated with authorities."
The Medical Board of California has suspended Manzanera's medical license during criminal court proceedings.
Because the charges relate to veteran patients, they’re also being investigated by the VA's Office of Inspector General and the Medical Board of California.
If convicted on all counts Manzanera could spend 14 years in prison.