I’m sick and tired of hearing about people who refuse to do anything about these pervert child molesters, especially when they are professionals in a position to make a real difference. Some of them are ardent supporters of the molesters, and some of them are genuinely struggling with the notion that a person that they “know” could possibly be guilty of these crimes. There is an article in the New York Post that says that a study indicates that :
“Three-quarters of Americans have at some point in their lives thought they knew of a child being abused - but only 12 percent of them actually decided to report it to authorities” (1)It goes on to state that in New York City, only ten percent of the complaints investigated came from the general public, meaning that most of the 12% that ARE reported came from sources that are REQUIRED by law to report allegations of child abuse. It is frustrating to me that some of these mandatory reporters seem so jaded by the “good” that these alleged molesters have done that they question and even refute their own better judgment in order to temper their disbelief.
Rather than speak out against these alleged molesters, or simply remain silent, these professionals in the field use several techniques to try to convince us and themselves that there is nothing untoward going on with the professionals that they hold in such high esteem, even though they are accused of molestation. They deny, they hide behind moral righteousness, and in some cases, they actively support the alleged perpetrators with prejudice, while at the same time claiming that the victims have no right to make such prejudiced claims against these people. Oddly enough, In many cases, the very statements that they make in support of the accused seem to belie their real feelings.
They deny to themselves and others the possibility that the perpetrators have done any wrong. In discussing Dr. Mel Levine (accused of child molestation) Dr. Lawrence Diller, M.D.; Behavioral-Developmental Pediatrician says that he doesn’t
“… know what to make of the charges of such a respected individual. I tend not to believe any of it…”(3)and in discussion of the same Mel Levine, Dr. Mary Johnson; Pediatrician, says that she has
“…a hard time believing that Dr. Levine would be so stupid or brazen as to have done the things he is accused of. Given his reputation in the medical community, I simply cannot wrap my head around it.” (4)
These denials often become the source for the argument that even though they might have committed crimes, these perpetrators should be treated with kid gloves. I’ll go into this more in a bit.
To me one of the most maddening things about these professionals is that they try to hide the crimes of these alleged molesters under the blanket of moral superiority; invariably these professionals seem to think that “innocent until proven guilty” is somehow an inalienable right in this country, and that it applies across the board, in daily life as well as in the courts. Briefly: “Innocent until Proven Guilty” is not set in stone, it is NOT in the constitution of the United States, and it generally applies to CRIMINAL jury admonitions. Indeed, even an acquittal in a criminal trial does NOT equate to a declaration of innocence.
Update 10/13/2008: Dr. Johnson takes issue with my legal arguement here. Fine. Neither of us are constitutional lawyers. To clarify: my discussion here involves the real interactions between people, and not the criminal letter of the law. I think I was already clear about that below, but let's keep it on track.
“Innocent until proven guilty” should in no way be forced upon the thinking that we do in our daily lives when we make grown-up decisions about what kinds of people we should interact with. It REALLY IS OK for a parent to avoid people who “feel” suspicious or weird, or who have been accused of crimes. It’s important to understand that just because a professional in the field is implying that you’re somehow a bad person because you’re using common sense, doesn’t mean that you should follow their advice, in fact, in such a case, they are JUST PLAIN WRONG. Almost all of professionals who talk about Levine in their blogs mention this alleged “right”:
Dr. Diller says:
“In the public realm of child sexual abuse claims unfortunately, it's the one arena where you're "guilty, until proven innocent." (3)Liz Ditz says:
“I don't know the extent or the robustness of the evidence in the prosecution's complaint, or the extent or robustness of the evidence for acquittal. Therefore, I will assume his innocence. “(6)Karen Janowski, an Assistive & Educational Technology Consultant, says:
“In America, people are innocent about (sic) proven guilty.”(7)Finally, Dr. Johnson says:
“Until Dr. Levine is proven otherwise - in a court of law - where people like your friend can be properly vetted, he gets the benefit of the doubt. A life and career are at stake.(4)This is a good point Dr. Johnson! And so are the lives of the victims at stake, and it is fair game for parents and victims to warn others about these dangerous criminals, so that more lives are not destroyed, especially while the wheels of justice grind slowly behind the scenes. Granted: there are certainly cases when people are falsely accused, and for that we have civil courts; meanwhile, he does NOT get the benefit of the doubt, MANY lives are at stake.
Worse than the doubters and those hiding from the reality that their colleague may indeed be a molester, are those who actively SUPPORT these alleged perpetrators. Etta Bryant M.D. has been a vocal supporter of William H. Ayres M.D.:
“As a colleague for over 30 years, I know his superb clinical work with disturbed and troubled adolescents. He has been a relentless advocate for excellence in all psychiatric services for children and youth, nationwide. He holds himself to those highest standards.” (2)I don’t know what is more astounding, the support that Etta gives, or the support that the wives of these accused perverts give to their husbands, even after the details of their disgusting behaviors come forth, often from multiple multiples of victims. Dr. Colleen Halloran M.D.; pediatrician has publicly supported her husband Bernie Ward, convicted on charges related to the possession and distribution of child pornography. Solveig Ayres has apparently spoken out on blogs about the innocence of her husband William H. Ayres as well.
These supporters, perhaps in the process of trying to mitigate some of the feelings of betrayal, seem to assume that the “contributions” that they have made somehow delete any bad that they may have done. They say things like:
“I don't know what to make of the charges of such a respected individual.” (3)And:
“I find it impossible to overlook his valuable contributions and often bring him up in professional conversations, albeit with reservations, considering the accusations against him. “ (7)In a glaring example of allowing a “good behavior” credit, a commenter on Dr. Diller’s blog (3) who purports to be a medical professional says:
“I hope to God we haven't got another shadow personality in the case of Dr. Levine- he did enough good- in my mind- to deserve a considered- aggressive and fair review.”Each and every one of these professionals are so emotionally tied-up in using the "great ideas" and "research" that these accused professionals have provided that they feel that they have to balance good vs. evil, so that they can feel OK about their own work. If the "good" that was produced by these people does NOT outweigh the evil that they've done, then they have to feel guilty about using the spoiled fruit of the “research” that the accused have provided. They refuse to accept that the "good" that they see was most likely been done to cultivate more victims, and to make it easier for them to explain away their actions if and when they were caught molesting. “People” like Mel Levine and William Ayres, who are accused of molesting should not get a bye simply because in addition to the colossal damage to many they have potentially done, they also did some things that may be of benefit to shrinks, and pediatricians in their "treatment" methodologies.
When these professionals become desperate to divert attention from the fact that their heroes may be bad people, they begin blaming: they blame society, they blame the press, and perhaps worst of all, these professionals often submit the victims and their families to further degradation by placing the blame squarely on them.
Rather than blame her husband Bernie Ward, convicted of trading in child pornography (including graphic photos of adults having sex with infants, he also had lengthy online chat discussions with a "professional mistress" detailing -- in what turned out (allegedly) to just be Bernie's fantasy -- molesting his own children and their friends.) Dr. Halloran (again: Bernie's pediatrician wife and mother of the children he had fantasies about molesting) blamed: not Bernie, but society, for the troubles their family is having:
"The justice department sure hasn't got any of the real terrorists out there, they got us into a war that was based on a lie, they can't control the economy, they can't control gas prices, but oh boy, they got that really dangerous criminal Bernie Ward off the street and have destroyed his family. I thank you all very much." (5)Etta Bryant blames the press for the troubles her friend William H. Ayres is having:
“I AM APPALLED at the harsh and damaging tone of your front-page article (Wednesday, April 26) regarding one of this county's most prominent physicians and citizens, Dr. William Ayres.” (2)And worst of all: Blame the victims! Apparently Dr. Johnson thinks that the victims got themselves molested so that later in life they could SUE, SUE, SUE!
“I deeply regret that a more balanced account of this tragic story was not presented in your article.” (2)
“[…] in the 1980's, Pediatricians were not quite so aware of "scum-sucking pieces of excrement" who might sue them 20 years later.” (4)
“Forgive me if I do question twenty-year old memories of children now grown who may see an ea$y target - and may be motivated by $omething other than "justice." (4)When the heat got turned up on Dr. Johnson’s blog, and people started to call out the flaws in her thinking, she locked the thread. Yet another personal aside to Dr. Johnson: NO amount of money is going to make this shit any easier to deal with; and we know this because there are plenty of people who REALLY did go through this stuff, and sued and won settlements, and are still miserable.
UPDATE 10/13/2008: In comments to this posting, Dr. Johnson has stated that she was referring to lawyers, not victims, when she used the phrase "scum-sucking pieces of excrement." She does, indeed refer to a victim's lawyer in this way a paragraph or so before the section that I am quoting. In the paragraph that I am quoting, it reads to me very much like she is referring to Levine's patients, but I'm willing to extend the benefit of the doubt, and accept that she was talking about a victim's lawyer here. This does not however change my position or arguement, as Dr. Johnson herself argues that the proper place for this is in the courts: why then, when a victim gets legal help, should they be verbally abused by a third party, albeit second-hand through the vehicle of their legal representation?
UPDATE 03/08/2011: I'm rescinding my already tenuous "benefit of the doubt" extension. Dr. Johnson is continuously berating victims for pursuing the only legal recourse left to them due to statute of limitations laws on criminal charges. She is clearly bereft of any compassion for victims of this kind of crime, and has no understanding of the psychology involved.
Dr. Diller apparently thinks that the victims and their families are too stupid to tell the difference between a hernia examination and masturbation (which is one of the things that both of the doctors that he refers to are accused of doing):
“So I don't get this private physical examination routine but I still know how troubled children and families can misinterpret even the most benign actions (remember McMaster! (sic)).” (3)It seems that in our little cache of blogging professional educators, pediatricians, and head shrinkers, we never once seem to stop and think that maybe these alleged perpetrators are profiling victims, finding those people who will be least likely to report, or be believed if they do report: They pick kids who are troublemakers, because they won’t be believed, and kids who are continuously bullied, because they know that the victims CAN be bullied, and that their parents are ineffective in dealing with it. And then our little group of intelligent professionals seem to think that after the victims became adults, and worked through enough of their feelings of guilt at having not done something to stop these molesters from molesting countless other kids, to actually report, even though it’s way too late, that THEY are the problem, not the molesters. The molester is assumed to be simply the victim of false memories and litigious charlatans. I have bad news: the memories were not repressed, they were simply not acted upon due to years of pent up guilt from not having done something sooner.
Before this turns into a complete indictment against all of the professionals quoted here, I think it’s important for me say that I think that for the most part, these people are simply doing as they state: They’re struggling with the fact that their mentors may not be as shiny as they thought. Dr. Diller, in the midst of saying that he doesn’t believe the charges against Levine, begins to express some doubt in his own conviction:
“I don’t know what to make of the charges of such a respected individual. I tend not to believe any of it but I am bothered by the one report (if confirmed) that he did physical examinations of prepubescent children without the presence of a parent or another professional.” (3)Dr. Diller then spends nearly the whole paragraph (the longest paragraph in his posting - check the link to read it yourself) giving a narrative about the trouble he went to to verify that Levine’s "examinations" were probably suspect.
Dr. Johnson, despite her vitriol against many anonymous posters speaking out against Levine on her blog, concedes the following, in a seeming about face:
“There was one more observation I wanted to make. The initial story talked about Dr. Levine's clean public file at the Medical Board. But (playing devil's advocate) a clean public file doesn't mean a whole lot. Complaints can be made and dismissed without the Board taking public action.”(4)So what IS going on here? Why do I only see postings that are supportive or at least apologist about these child molesters? Why are pediatricians and shrinks balking in the face of what should be common sense in these cases? The answers I can come up with seem to range from “unacceptable” to “dangerous.” At least three of the people quoted here seem to have confirmed credentials as professionals in these fields. They are therefore “mandatory reporters” and must report child abuse when it is either suspected or directly reported to them. The fact that they are bold enough to express doubt in a public forum would seem to indicate to me that they are not likely to report problems as required in all cases, and especially in the cases in which someone “respected” is involved. I can’t imagine what fascination it is that caused these people to post in public to begin with. There are only a few conclusions that a reasonable person can draw, and none of them are particularly flattering: These professionals are so jaded by their heroes that they actually think that being a “pillar of community” is a viable defense against molestation, or they have been using these same practices (but not molesting) as espoused by their heroes, and they now feel so guilty about having been duped by a molester, that they feel the need to defend them so that THEY don’t look like a criminal. The last possible reason I can think of is that they too are molesters, and they are covering for a fellow molester. To be clear, I don’t THINK that that’s the case with these bloggers. But their clear lack of compassion convinces me that if I hear of ANY children that I know of going to ANY of these professionals, I’m going to be vocal about the risks involved.
In any case, it’s very distressful to me to keep seeing everyone turn away from the victims, and especially distressful to see that mandatory reporters are so easily biased. I truly hope that these folks are able to do the right thing in their jobs, and that if they receive molestation reports about a respected colleague, that they are able to see past their bias and do what they need to do to help the victims.
Where are all of the professionals making postings AGAINST this kind of behavior? Is there so much stigma associated with speaking against abuse within the profession that you’re just keeping your mouth shut, or is it more professional to not say anything, and the people who ARE speaking out in support of these perverts are just clueless?
The most troubling thing of all is that AFTER the victim’s complaint finally gets through all of this professional bias, the crimes still have to get reported to county social agencies, where there is apparently another similar bias at work… See the depressing list in the post below this one for the nauseating detail...
Everyone seems to hope that the problem will just go away without their direct involvement.
To parents: Know your pediatricians / (and God forbid... Shrinks) well, research them and quiz them! If they appear to waver on this issue, avoid them like the plague. You need someone who will back you, and help you be strong, not ridicule you and/or abuse your child – it IS OK to be discriminating.
To medical professionals and social agencies: Stop ignoring the problem and whitewashing it. YOU of all people know that anyone can be guilty of these types of crimes: temper your bias with reason.
(1) (New York Post) Kid-Abuse Poll Shock
(2) (Oakland Tribune) Letter: “In defense of Dr. Ayres” Etta Bryant, M.D.
(3) (BLOG:Psychology Today Blogs) Lawrence Diller, M.D., Behavioral-Developmental Pediatrics ;
(4) (BLOG: Dr J’s HouseCalls) Dr. Mary Johnson, Pediatrician
(5) (ABC Channel 7 News) “Ward sentenced to 7 years for child porn”
(6) (BLOG: I speak of Dreams) “Mel Levine Accused of Sexual Abuse” Liz Ditz
(7) (BLOG: EdTech Solutions: Teaching Every Student) Karen Janowski (Assistive & Educational Technology Consultant)
TAGS: Dr. William Hamilton Ayres Solveig Ayres Solveig Troxel pedophile child molester arrested charges president American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry AACAP San Mateo County Children and Families First Commission child psychiatrist psychologist Judge Marta Diaz Peninsula Psychiatric Associates Ronnie Sue Leith Etta Bryant Piero Cerruti Howard Hoffman Joanna Perry Jeffrey Weiner Hugh Ridlehuber Mike Callagy Melissa McKowan Rick Decker