Playtime Is Over

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

"Show us what your dad does with that winkie," Dicke says.

Dallas is getting more and more anxious. Off-camera, he can be heard dragging the dildo across the window blinds. Then he runs back into view and jumps on the couch between his mom and therapist. Dicke's voice sounds angry and impatient now. "What's Daddy do with that winkie?"

The boy spits in Dicke's face. In a raised, demanding voice, Dicke says, "Show me now. Where did he touch you?"

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.

Dallas stands up and turns his back to Dicke. He holds the large dildo against his butt. Then he runs around the room before climbing onto the love seat. Dallas is out of the camera's view when Dicke picks up the dildo and holds it out in the direction of the little boy. "He did what with it?" Dicke asks him. "He put it there?"

Over and over again, Karen and Dicke ask him what his daddy did to him. And once again, the little boy holds the large dildo against his butt. Then he hurls it across the room.

"Is this Dallas's winkie?" Dicke asks, holding the small dildo.

Dallas picks up the large one. "This is my winkie."

He runs off camera again and does something that disturbs his mother. "That's sick," she says, starting to cry. Dallas goes up to her and she holds him, wiping back her tears.

The session ends.

Karen says she first realized something had happened to her son more than two years ago. She claims that when she bathed Dallas, he would say things like, "Daddy hurt my butt," "He touched the inside of my butt" and "He touches my pee-pee." This usually happened right after visits with his father, from whom Karen was separated.

But when Karen tried to press further, Dallas would clam up. "I confronted the perpetrator about it, and he said, 'Maybe I wiped him too hard [after he went to the bathroom],'" Karen says.

Karen and Dallas's father, Thomas, were married in 1995, but in the following years, Karen says Thomas became controlling and physically and verbally abusive (the names of both parents and their son have been changed for this story). The couple separated four years later and eventually agreed to divorce. According to Karen, there was never a custody battle over Dallas, just an informal arrangement in which Thomas saw Dallas every other weekend.

In addition to her concerns about Dallas's disturbing comments, Karen was worried about his behavior. He was out of control at home and a terror in daycare. At wit's end, she decided to take him to a therapist. But the one she found through her insurance company only spent two fifteen-minute sessions with Dallas before diagnosing him with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and referring him to a psychiatrist who could prescribe Ritalin. The medication only made Dallas more frantic, though, so Karen took him off it after three days.

Dallas didn't mention sexual abuse to either of those therapists, but one morning at home, Karen says, he described in detail an incident in which he said his father had molested him. Convinced that her son was, indeed, being abused, Karen called the therapist who had first seen Dallas in December 2000, and he, in turn, reported the allegations to the Adams County Department of Social Services (ACDSS).

Diana Mabin, the Adams County social worker assigned to the case, kept extensive notes, which were obtained by Westword along with other information about Dallas compiled by the county department. After a December 20, 2000, phone call with Thomas, she wrote that he "seemed very controlling."

During that conversation, in which Mabin informed him of the allegations, "he was very angry," she noted. "Said he thought his wife may have 'done something.' Said he called daycare to talk to them and was told his wife was non-responsive to their concerns about Dallas being aggressive and out of control. I informed him that he has been named as someone who may have committed child abuse or neglect. Thomas was very sarcastic and verbally hostile. Called his son a 'liar' and stated, 'I have a feeling Dallas may have said something.' Wanted to know 'who accused him' and said he should be able to confront his accuser."

Thomas even accused Karen of abusing their son and supplied the ACDSS with photos of the boy's bruises, for which Karen, to the department's apparent satisfaction, provided explanations.

Thomas's attorney, Ira Greschler, who commented on his client's behalf, wouldn't discuss Karen or Dallas except to say that "the allegations against him are completely untrue, and there is no credible evidence whatsoever."

But Karen insists she's telling the truth, although she understands why people might question her. "The majority of cases social services gets do involve false reporting," she says. "That's really unfortunate for those of us who have something real to report."

In an interview with social workers, however, Dallas "denied that anyone had touched his private parts or made him feel unsafe," according to ACDSS case notes. In a later interview, he "reported that his mom and dad touched his pee-wee to help him bathe, but made no outcry about touch that made him uncomfortable or hurt him." After questioning the boy a total of four times and getting nowhere, the department determined that the allegations were unfounded and, in January 2001, closed the case.

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