Friday, August 7, 2009

It Was Seven Years Ago Today...

This just in from Victoria Balfour:

August 7, 2009.

I am writing this from the New York Academy of Medicine Library in New York City, With its wood -panelled walls, chandeliers, Flemish wall hangings, and high arched windows overlooking Central Park, this library looks as if it might have once belonged to one of those 19th century magnates like Andrew Carnegie.

Most people who've been following the case of Dr. William Ayres don't know this, but this hushed and genteel Manhattan -library, thousands of miles from San Mateo, is the birthplace of the current criminal investigation into Dr. William Ayres.

Exactly seven years ago to the day, on August 7, 2002, I had visited this library with the goal of helping out a friend of mine named Steve A. Prior to that visit, all that spring and summer of that year I had been listening to Steve talk about a child psychiatrist named William Ayres who, he sad, had molested him during therapy in the 1970s. It had gotten to the point where I could no longer stand the look of pain in Steve's face when he mentioned Ayres, and so I had volunteered to help find out what had become of his former child psychiatrist.

I had come to the New York Academy of Medicine Library pretty much as a last resort. Visits to two other branches of the New York City Public Library had been unsuccessful - partly because Steve had misspelled Ayres' name as "Ayers" but mostly because I was scared out of my mind to actually find Ayres. I knew that if I were to discover that Ayres was still alive that some sort of futher action would be required. And I just wasn't sure I was up to the responsibility of taking action or getting involved any further. I am sure that it was this fear that was causing me to do a half -baked job of looking for Ayres up to that point.

It had been a reference librarian at the Main Library on 42nd Street who had suggested that I might have better luck finding Ayres at the New York Academy of Medicine Library. I remember really, really not wanting to make the trip. It was a beautiful cloudless day with no humidity, in the 80s, (much like the weather here today).and what I really wanted to do was bag my mission to hunt for Dr Ayres -- for good -- and go for a swim. I still don't know how I forced myself to get on that Madison Avenue bus for the three mile trip up to the library but I do know I berated myself all the way up with thougts like:"What am I doing this for ? Nobody cares about this. This whole mission is dumb."

Seven years ago, when I first walked through the doors of the medical library, I thought I might discover that Ayres was either:

a) dead

b) his license had been suspended

c) he'd retired and moved out of San Mateo

I was in no way prepared for what I did find.

Imagine my shock when I discovered in an ABMS Directory of Board Certified Medical Specialists that Ayres was still practicing at the same address in San Mateo where my friend Steve had seen him as a child. Imagine my horror when the librarian found a speech Ayres had given as President of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Imagine how speechless Steve A was when I told him later that day about what I had found.

Seven years later,I am sitting in the American Academy of Medicine Library with the same ABMS Directory in front of me, open at the page where I first found Ayres' name, and thinking about how far this case has come. I think about the subsequent call I made to the San Mateo Police Department on August 8, 2002 to report the molestation. I think about a telephone call I received five weeks later from a detective in the San Mateo Police Department who told me they had files on two other victims of Ayres who had come forward in the past. I think about the relief on Steve A's face when he finally learned that he was not Ayres' only victim. I think about all of the victims who have come forward in the years since - 42 at last count and I think about the others who still have not. And I think about how everything would have been different had I chosen to go for a swim that day instead of making the trip to this library.


  1. Right On........

    Michael G. Stogner

  2. It took a lot of determination and bravery to "go the extra mile" for your friend, Steve A. I know there will always be controversy over this case, but in my eyes, you are a hero--or is it heroine ? Thank you, Victoria Balfour

  3. The real controversy is that many doctors had a strong hunch as to what Ayres was up to, and yet failed to report him. The San Mateo Citizens Review Panel has a list of a number of doctors who knew what was going on and turned a blind eye.

  4. Victoria Balfour we all know you were the glue to this case.

    Dedication for seven years.

    I hope that the historic value of this case will catch the attention of every physician!

    NOW is the time to break your vow of silence! If you are a mandated reporter the patients of America need you!

    From a historic library Victoria Balfour uncovered a 40 year history of child sexual abuse.

    I hope physicians will make the next 40 years a better place for children by living up to their reporting duties.

    Enough of this cover for thy colleague!

  5. Carved into the lintels over a window on the building of the New York Academy of Medicine building is this Latin inscription:

    Sanare aligquando saepe juvare semper consolarare.

    Translation: To cure sometimes, to help often, to comfort always.

    Would that Ayres had respected his Hippocratic oath and attempted to help the boys who were sent to him. Instead, many of his victims are damaged beyond repair.
    Because of his abuse, some have committed suicide. Some have become "cutters." Many have drug and alcohol problems.

    I had d hope that Ayres would have the decency to go back and look at that paper he worked on with the AACAP committee called " Practice Parameters for Children Who Have Been Sexually Abused and refresh himself about the impact of sexual abuse on children.

    Well, correct that. He has always known the damage he has inflicted on these boys, but he has never cared. Just as he has never cared about the damage he has done to his own family by his behavior.

  6. Victoria, it is a fine thing that you took the time to listen to your friend and believe him, and then to help him and others.

    I hope that this website and this case will do a lot to educate people about the insidious way that abusers are able to continue. It seems the way with many people who commit crimes. For instance, drug dealers often make so much money that they become upstanding members of the community. And in the case here, it seems that Dr. Ayres was untouchable because his credentials just kept growing.

    I can only compare the way that people in San Mateo turned and looked the other way to what happened in World War II when the entire German people was in denial over what the Nazis had done. And in the medical professions, there is also the issue of mandatory reporting by peers.

    I do not know if there is an investigative agency, but hopefully the issues which have been brought out here will help create a better system.

  7. Although this trial ended with no decision, truth was heard. And truth never goes forth without some good effect, sometimes where we don't even see.

    Bravo, Victoria, for not giving up in 2003 or in the years since.

  8. Anonymous, August 7 at 10:54 pm.

    It appears that doctors who covered for a child molesting psychiatrist is not a problem that is exclusive to San Mateo.

    According to a May 15, 1985 article in the Washington Post about a Harvard trained child psychiatrist who was busted for molesting young boys in therapy,14 psychiatrists in sworn depositions said that they were told or were said by others to have bren told of improper dealings by Presnell with boys over the years.

    Daniel Burnstein, the lawyer of one of the victims of Dr. Presnell,told the Washington Post
    " I found psychiatrists who knew about Presnel... going back 30 years. And they didn't give a toot until the patients spoke up."

    With some of his young adolescent victims, Presnell began to introduce alcohol and marijuana into the therap sessions and dispense liberal prescriptions of valium. On at least two occasions, purportedly as a way to help one victim deal with his feelings towards his father, Dr. Presnell persuaded the victim to engage in sexual acts with him.

  9. PS. The full name of the child psychiatrist who had his license revoked for molesting boys in the previous post is Dr. Walter Presnell.

  10. Several child psychiatrists remember that Ayres used to smoke marijuana in the 1970s.

    We also know that he used to give one of his victims codeine whenever he asked for it.

    Did Ayres ever furnish alcohol and marijuana and freely dispense codeine and valium to his victims?

    Did he ever hang out after hours with some of his juvenile patients - like the ones he told a reporter from the San Jose Mercury News in 2006 that he was fascinated by because of their dangerous behavior?

    Just askin...