Playtime Is Over

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

"About seven sessions in, I was on the couch talking to the mom, and Dallas goes behind the other couch and comes out totally naked. The mom gets upset, and Dallas gets embarrassed, and I say, 'Let's see where this goes,'" Dicke explains. "Then he did the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. I said, 'What happens when you're naked?' He got down on his hands and knees, put his butt in the air, spread the cheeks and put his hand up his butt."

In that same session, Dallas urinated on Dicke's love seat, tried to urinate in one of the therapist's plants and then tried to defecate in the office. Dallas continued to undress in subsequent sessions, and according to Dicke, "It became clear that he needed to have his clothes off to go into the sex acts. It became a ritual."

During the first taped session on February 27, Karen raised the topic of anatomically correct dolls. She says the Adams County Department of Social Services was pushing for her and Dicke to use the dolls in the hopes that they would enable Dallas to demonstrate exactly what had happened to him -- and to get the evidence needed for a conviction. Once controversial, many county social services departments now use the dolls to help kids who've been sexually abused demonstrate what took place; however, some psychologists and attorneys believe the dolls can be used to lead children into saying or acting out things that may not have actually happened.

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.

Dicke explained that he didn't have such a doll and that it could take a while to order one, so Karen came up with the idea of using dildos, and Dicke agreed. "I'm thinking, well, why not, because the anatomically correct dolls have penises -- they're just smaller," he says. "So I went over to Fascinations [an adult store in Glendale, not far from Dicke's office] and got two dildos -- a tiny little one to represent his, and a seven-and-a-half-inch one to represent the dad's."

At around this time, Mabin started expressing concern to both Karen and Dicke about the therapy. In her March 6 case-note entry, she wrote, "I asked Karen to explain behavior changes she sees in Dallas, as she reports therapy with Dr. Dicke is helping. She said he's calmer, more focused, allows himself to be held and listens better. I let Karen know that we are concerned about Dr. Dicke's methods -- that the therapy sounds very intense, that I worry about hearing that Dallas is constantly raging, that he took his clothes off, etc.

"I told her we do not do treatment two to three times a week and don't agree with really pushing kids to talk. She said she feels it really helps," Mabin continued. "I told her I just wanted her to know that we would not do treatment this way, but it is her choice."

Two days later, Dicke left Mabin a phone message informing her that he had all the evidence the department would need for a conviction and that he had just introduced dildos into the boy's therapy. Later that day, Mabin called him back and left a message "expressing concern that using a dildo to get an outcry is leading." She also reiterated her concern about the dildo in a phone call to Karen that same day, according to her March 8 entry.

On March 13, the ACDSS picked up the tapes, and a couple of days later, Mabin, Detective Rule, and Mabin's supervisor, Laurie Knight, watched the videos. According to social services documents, they determined that the leading and forceful questions Dicke and Karen had asked the boy would have made it impossible to prosecute the father, and they decided to ask Denver police whether Dicke's conduct could be criminally prosecuted.

Immediately thereafter, Mabin called Karen and another Adams County mother whose child was seeing Dicke and told them to discontinue the sessions. In addition, Mabin informed Karen that the department would file a dependency-and-neglect petition against her. (Karen explains that the ACDSS had to do that in order to legally prevent her from seeing Dicke again.)

But when Karen heard that, she appeared to back down in her support of Dicke, according to case file documents. She "had expressed to me that she had been 'unsure' about whether there was 'too much talk about sex' and whether this was good for Dallas," Mabin wrote.

Karen explains now that she was terrified of losing her son. "They told me that if I took my son to see Dicke again, they'd remove him from me," she says. "Anytime a little kid is telling you horrific things, you're going to double question everything, but I trusted in the professionals. When I saw such drastic improvement in my son, all of my fears [about the therapy] subsided."

When Dicke learned that Karen was prohibited from seeing him again, he was furious. In a phone message he left with Mabin later that day, which the caseworker transcribed, he explained that he'd just gotten off the phone with Karen and the mother of "Jeremy," the other Adams County child he was treating (he had begun using dildos in the treatment of that boy after he felt it was working well for Dallas). "Both of them are absolutely appalled by what's happening, because this is the first time they've ever seen the chance to get their children better, and their children are getting better, and you and the department are thwarting that effort," Dicke told her. He went on to remind Mabin that she had been aware of his therapeutic methods all along. "You knew all those things, and now you're appalled by it? All I am is the messenger here, allowing this kid here to show how he's been raped repeatedly.... Your whole department needs some education on trauma and what it's really about, because frankly, when you were treating these kids, these kids were getting nowhere, Diana, and you need to own that, and you need to own your own problems with your own sexual issues around this."

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