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July 11, 2007

Perverted Is As Perverted Does

Abuse of power takes many forms. So does perversion. When both involve a tacit abuse of trust, the results can reverberate widely.

A prominent Seattle psychologist, frequently used as an expert to evaluate child sex abuse cases, has been accused of installing a video camera in the bathroom at his office and secretly recording women using the facilities.

The 59-year-old man, a clinical affiliate professor at the University of Washington who also worked for a decade with the Seattle Archdiocese on abuse cases involving priests, was arrested July 3 for investigation of voyeurism and booked into the King County Jail. He was released two days later. No charges have been filed.

I can't think of a worse breach of trust in the professional realm than that of the therapist-client relationship. The entire relationship is based on the assumption of trust. And I wish I could say I'm surprised at this news but I'm not. Earlier this week I was talking with two other women at lunch about the losses of privacy we now have to suffer at the hands of government -- national, state and local. With more cities putting street cameras everywhere, with internet companies allowing -- even advocating -- for all kinds of personal, private information to be passed through the toobz (even when it could compromise the safety of domestic abuse and stalking victims) it's just becoming one long Orwellian f***ing nightmare. But then the conversation turned to the voyeurs and perverts all around us. Strange coincidence in light of today's news perhaps, but the fact is, it's not an uncommon topic of conversation among women.

Here's the really disgusting part of the story that will seem all too familiar:

Nationally recognized as an expert in pediatric psychology, the therapist has long been known to regulators at the health department for a series of eight complaints reaching back to the early 1990's.

Though none has resulted in any disciplinary action, three of the allegations were resolved through a 1995 court proceeding in Thurston County, which has been sealed.

Isn't that comforting? This is what abuse of power is really about. It's a complicitous relationship between the offender and the oversight authorities, where professional embarassment is actually deemed a worse insult than the one inflicted on the victims.

If I had a nickel for every creep in a position of power who has sexually harassed me I'd be a very wealthy woman indeed. My arranging teacher at a very famous music school on the east coast was one of the worst, but not the worst by a longshot. It's just that he had my academic future at his caprice. And just like the psychologist in the P.I. article, this particular creep was protected by those who were supposed to be protecting the vulnerable. In fact, complaints about him were so well known to the administrative faculty that the dean of women's studies held a special meeting about sexual harassment just so that all the women students (all 10% of us) knew to come to him immediately if the jackal in question tried it one more time. But, although the harasser was known to some of the older students, the dean warned them against mentioning his name in the meeting. Well, that's a policy made-to-order for the abuser. Later, as we walked out, I asked a fourth-year trumpet student "If this teacher has already been reported so many times, why are they giving him even one more chance? Why hasn't he been booted out of here already?" Her response was, "Considering this school's big name and all the money it generates, the wimps who run the place don't want the bad publicity, women be damned." 

That meeting and conversation took place before the teacher in question made me his next target, and believe me, he was so practiced at it that it was almost a month before I realized what was really happening. Because those in the know had been admonished against mentioning his name during the meeting, I had surmised they were talking about a different arranging teacher. In the end, I didn't report the harasser because I knew that, despite the lip service from the dean, nothing would happen to him. Not a damned thing. So instead, I threw it in Mr. Harasser's face that I was dating his favorite fourth-year male student, worked my butt off to write a perfect final arrangement that he couldn't not give me an A for, and left after that semester ended, for reasons having nothing to do with him. But I still had the A in my pocket, which was all I ever wanted. Nearly twenty years later, he's probably still looking for a date.

The creepy psychologist who was arrested wasn't named by the P.I. but he was named on the KOMO News website. Since I detest anything KOMO, I'm not linking to it. You can find it easily enough.

Posted by shoephone on July 11, 2007 at 11:59 PM in Washington Culture | Permalink

Comments

Don't get me started. This is a big problem with our relative prudishness as a society, relative to say, Europe. If young women and girls had the straight scoop at the very early age when the predation starts, it would be that much harder for the predators to operate. And those who facilitate the coverups for the institutions within which the predators operate need to be held accountable, too. I hope some of those enablers get their sorry asses sued.

Posted by: op99 | Jul 12, 2007 8:12:07 PM

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