One of our sources for this blog is in the thick of the Harvard/Cambridge psychiatrists' circuit. Recently this source gave us some very interesting - and potentially damaging information - given to them by a psychiatrist about Ayres' activities at Judge Baker Children's Center in the 1960's.
So, as we already just happened to be up in the Boston area this week, we decided to head up to Judge Baker and check out the place in person.
Just to give you a bit of background on the place, here is a description of Judge Baker Children's Center from its website:
Founded in 1917, Judge Baker Children's Center is a Harvard Medical School affiliate dedicated to improving the lives of children whose mental health problems threaten to limit their potential. Integrating education, service, research, and training, the Center is the oldest child mental health organization in New England and a national leader in the field of children's mental health.
Today, Judge Baker's Chief Operating Officer, Stephen Schaffer, took time out of his very, very busy schedule to meet with us. We thought he might be defensive but Schaffer turned out to be a lovely man who clearly cares deeply about the welfare of all children. We sat outside on a bench by a bronzed statue of a barefoot adolescent boy, lying on a bench and reading a book.
The first thing that surprised us was that Schaffer was not really aware of the Dr. Ayres case at all. For some reason, we had thought that someone there had been kept apprised about the case in California, but Schaffer knew nothing about the case and asked us to fill him in.
As we described the case and the arrest and the trial and the sheer number of Ayres' victims, Schaffer became very distressed. In short, he was horrified to hear about Ayres. He said that he was aware of other cases where child psychiatrists and psychologists had molested children, but he said it was upsetting for him to hear that an alum of Judge Baker had been arrested for child molestation.
For the past four decades Ayres has been telling everyone in San Mateo -- from his partners to San Mateo Police officers to the folks at Children's Services and who knows who else - that he had been trained at Judge Baker to give regular physicals to children during the therapeutic process.. The San Mateo County Times in a June 19, 2009 article "Books Depicting Nude Young Boys Suppressed in Ayres Trial" also mentions that Ayres told his colleagues "medical exams" in therapy were part of his training:
The defense has argued that Ayres performed physical examinations on some of his patients as part of his "therapeutic model." He is the former president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
He told colleagues that he performed medical examinations because it was the way he had been trained. He had done his residency in the early 1960s at the Judge Baker Center in Boston, one of the country's premier centers for the study of child psychology.
We asked Schaffer whether whether any child psychiatrists who had gone through training at Judge Baker at any time had been trained to give complete physical exams, including the genitals - as a regular and frequent part of therapy, as Ayres claims.
"No!" said Schaffer. "The idea that our psychiatrists were trained to give physical exams like that in therapy is just preposterous. It's absurd. It's horrifying. I've been in the field for a long time and I have never heard of child psychiatrists being trained to do this. We've trained close to 1000 psychiatrists and we have never taught this. I just can't imagine it."
We asked Schaffer how he felt about Ayres' "justification" of his touching boys in therapy by putting it all on Judge Baker.
"It's upsetting for us as an institution that Ayres would say this and also upsetting that he got away with it for so long," he said. "If it was reported at Judge Baker that our psychiatrists ever put a hand on a child, that psychiatrist would be put on leave and he would be reported to the police. "
We asked about Ayres' job history when he was at Judge Baker. Schaffer said that all of the documents pertaining to Ayres were in storage, but that if the authorities in San Mateo subpoenaed them, they would be glad to provide those documents. It seems to us that those documents could be very handy for the next trial, as would testimony from the Judge Baker people. Schaffer suggested that perhaps the prosecution might want to call on some East Coast psychiatrists for the next trial.
Schaffer also cleared up something that has been nagging at us from the first trial - and that is both Ayres' testimony and Weinberg's assertion that Ayres "worked at Harvard."
"Judge Baker is not owned by Harvard. It's not working at Harvard," Schaffer told us." We are affiliated with Harvard but we have a different board of directors."
In all, we were sorry to be the ones to break the news to Schaffer about Ayres. but still we were very heartened by our discussion. Schaffer said that he plans to meet with Judge Baker President Dr. John Weisz to discuss how Judge Baker should proceed with the Ayres issue. One option, we said, might be to issue a statement disavowing Ayres' statement about his being trained to give physicals at their esteemed institution and Schaffer said he would discuss this with Weisz.
On behalf of all of the victims and their families, we would like to thank Judge Baker Chief Operating Officer Stephen Schaeffer for meeting with us today and on such short notice. We would also like to thank him for his concern and compassion for the victims of Ayres. He's on our side, and that is very good news.