Playtime Is Over

The state has barred a child psychologist from using adult sex toys in therapy sessions.

"A number of my therapist friends are saying that this is a backlash to the Evergreen thing," Kathy says of the efforts to prosecute Dicke. "Candace's mom defended her therapists, because at first it helped her daughter. Are we just the desperate parents who support John because he fixed Brandi? We've really struggled with that."

Kathy is also troubled by the ramifications Dicke's case could have on the field of child psychology. "Who is going to work with our kids if therapists are being monitored so closely and if they fear their licenses will be revoked?" she asks. "We need valid research on what works for kids -- that's the answer."

John Dicke believes he's found a way to help children who have been victims of sexual abuse.
John Johnston
John Dicke believes he's found a way to help children who have been victims of sexual abuse.
Karen believes Dr. Dicke's therapy was helping her son, Dallas.
John Johnston
Karen believes Dr. Dicke's therapy was helping her son, Dallas.

Psychological evaluations and social services documents in Dallas's case paint a picture of a very troubled boy. He had been kicked out of three daycare centers or preschool programs because of his behavior, and Karen finally had to quit her job in order to look after him.

In December 2000, caseworker Mabin called the head of the daycare center he was attending at the time to ask if employees had noticed any signs of sexual abuse; the director said that they had not, but she did say that Dallas "seems to be a 'very disturbed, very violent' little boy," according to case notes. "She reported that they had several incidents in which Dallas was aggressive with other children, and two incidents where he was very violent. They reportedly had several complaints from other parents and were at risk of losing business from the families."

The daycare director's observations were shared by a teacher at a church where Dallas had attended preschool when he was four years old, before he had ever been to see Dicke. She told Tiffany Weissmann Wind, a child psychologist to whom the ACDSS had referred Dallas for a psychological evaluation, that Dallas was disruptive.

"He was aggressive towards other children and would kick, hit and bite others," Wind noted in her report. "She remembers his going up to a sleeping child and punching him full force in the stomach. He would smile when he got into trouble and seemed to delight in bad behavior. He would throw himself against the wall, causing bruises, or pick at his skin until he bled, and then blame the teacher for the injury. He also had his hands on his bottom often. He drew anatomically correct pictures of males. He showed almost no ability for sustained attention and was notably hyperactive. He was expelled from their program because of his violence and his attempts to get staff into trouble."

During the May 2001 evaluation, Wind gave Dallas behavioral and cognitive tests and attempted to interview the five-year-old, but he was defiant and aggressive. "He spoke in baby talk and was often impossible to understand. He would then become frustrated when the evaluator could not understand what he said," wrote Wind, who declined to comment to Westword about Dallas. "He had poor physical boundaries and often set up situations in which he was physically pushing against the evaluator."

As part of the evaluation, Karen filled out what's called the Child Sexual Behavior Inventory, a questionnaire that's meant to "differentiate behaviors typically seen in children his age from those most commonly seen in children with a history of sexual abuse." His score was off the charts.

"This severe level of sexualized behaviors is not typical of a child his age," Wind wrote. "Given that the sexualized behaviors and his verbal disclosures to his mother of sexual abuse predated therapy, they could not have been a result of the therapy. It seems quite likely that this child has been sexually molested. This molestation appears to have begun years ago. Dallas has responded as if he were exposed to severe levels of sexual trauma. Given his symptoms, it is likely that the abuse included oral, genital and anal contact. At this point, it seems likely that he was sexually abused by someone, but the details are not known.... He would not discuss these allegations during this evaluation."

Although it is obvious that Dallas is disturbed, what's unclear is who or what is to blame. At the request of the ACDSS, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital examined Dallas on March 1, 2001, and found that although he was "somewhat hesitant to have his anal area examined," he was otherwise "a normal five-and-half-year-old boy.

"He has normal tone to the anus. There are no tags, lesions or fissures present," the doctor wrote. "He has a normal physical exam which does not rule out or confirm the possibility of sexual abuse."

As if the question of what happened to Dallas wasn't already hard enough to answer, the boy named another possible perpetrator just before -- and then during -- his last therapy session with Dicke on March 13, 2001.

That session begins with Dallas sitting next to his mom on the big blue leather couch. He's calmly flipping through a magazine, and Karen seems happy. She smiles as she recounts how Dallas's behavior has improved and how he's singing more. "His intellectual side is waking up a lot more," she tells the therapist.

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