Playtime Is Over

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

Early one morning in the summer of 2000, Jean's then-husband woke up and said he was going to make breakfast. Jean couldn't sleep, so she got up shortly after him and decided to watch a movie; she heard noises coming from her son's bedroom and went to investigate. There she discovered Jeremy's stepfather; he explained that he was comforting Jeremy, who had had a nightmare. But for some reason, Jean says now, the scenario didn't sit right with her, so she asked Jeremy about it again later. That's when she says he told her that he'd been sexually abused.

Jean, who'd been married to the man for five years, was shocked. She called a friend who also happens to be an attorney; that friend advised her to call the police, and she did. She also asked her friend to draw up divorce papers. Jeremy's stepfather was later arrested; a trial is scheduled for April.

But Jean also knew she needed to get help for her son. Her attorney friend knew Dicke's wife, Day, and she recommended CAAPI. Jean and Jeremy had their initial session with Dicke at the end of 2000; at first Jeremy wouldn't talk about what had happened to him, and when he did talk, he spoke in a baby's voice. Several sessions in, after Dicke had already begun using the dildos with Dallas, he introduced them to Jeremy (he purchased a new set for Jeremy and other kids because Dallas had damaged the original pair). Jean says she was initially reluctant about using the dildos but that once they seemed to help her son, she changed her mind.

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.

"What Jeremy did was grab the little one, and he said, 'Look at the little man.' Then he picked up the bigger one and said, 'Look at the rocket.' He threw the little one in the air and hit it with the bigger one, like a baseball," she recalls. "We asked him if it looked like any other thing he'd seen before, and then he explained exactly what happened. It was like a magical wand. The words just spilled out of his mouth; he quit talking like a baby and spoke clearly.

"I was really pleased. Jeremy would still be seeing Dr. Dicke if social services hadn't stopped us from seeing him. I want to go back to Dr. Dicke really badly," Jean says, adding that her son, now ten, began regressing after the Dicke sessions stopped. She says Jeremy has asked Dicke to attend the upcoming trial against his stepfather and that Dicke has agreed. He won't be there to testify, but rather for moral support.

Another mother, "Jessica," credits Dicke with helping her two daughters. "I went from having a fourteen-year-old daughter who was completely psychotic to a girl who is on the honor roll," she says of "Alex," her older child. "Now she's modeling and trying out for cheerleading practice."

Both of her daughters had been sexually abused by their biological father at an early age, Jessica claims, and she blames the abuse for their erratic behavior. Alex, in particular, was self-destructive, and Jessica tried desperately to get help for her, but none of the many therapists they saw could get through to the girl. Jessica was eventually referred to Dicke, and when he said he wanted to try using the large dildo with Alex and her younger sister, "Ellen," Jessica was shocked. "We're pretty strong Christians," she explains. "But nothing else had worked, so we said okay."

After about eleven weeks of using the dildo in therapy, Jessica says, her daughter showed drastic improvement; being able to hold on to -- and gain control over -- the symbol of her abuse helped her deal with what had happened. "I'm sorry, but this man turned her life around."

A fourth mom has similar praise for Dicke. "Kathy" took in her six-year-old developmentally disabled foster daughter more than two years ago. "Brandi" would mutilate herself and go into rages for hours at a time, attacking Kathy, her husband and their other children. "We called everyone we knew in the mental-health system and got recommendations for ten to twenty therapists," Kathy recalls. "When they found out about her needs, their practices were suddenly full. Some therapists didn't even return our calls." But Dicke called her back right away. "He was honest with us. He said he didn't know how much could be done but that he'd be willing to try."

As with all of Dicke's patients, Kathy was present for each session. At first she didn't know that Brandi had been sexually abused. In fact, it wasn't until several months into her therapy with Dicke that Brandi started to talk about it. "She has developmental verbal dyspraxia, which means she has difficulty communicating," Kathy says. "She started acting out in sessions with Barbie dolls and baby dolls."

One day Dicke had the dildos sitting on his desk when Brandi came in. Although Kathy was surprised, she says she didn't mind after she witnessed their effect on her foster daughter. Brandi walked right over to them and put the large one in her mouth, Kathy recalls. "She was incredibly comfortable with the dildo. It did not traumatize her. She knew exactly what it was for and what to do with it. We asked her where she'd seen one of those before, and she said the name of the perpetrator and that what she was doing [with the dildo] made him feel good."

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