By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
Dallas is sitting on the larger of two blue leather couches in Dr. John Dicke's office, quietly eating a chocolate chip cookie. The little boy seems content and comfortable here, but there is something unfamiliar in the room this week, and its presence intrigues him. "Why are we taking pictures?" he asks, looking directly into the video camera.
"Because you're such a handsome boy," answers the psychologist, who joins him and his mother on the couch.
Satisfied, Dallas gets up and runs out of view, leaving Dicke and his mom to chat. Karen talks about the progress Dallas has made since he started therapy and about how he's finally calming down and behaving like a normal five-year-old. It is February 27, 2001, the boy's eleventh session with Dicke. Karen tries to talk to the therapist about using anatomically correct dolls to help her son open up about whether he has been sexually abused. Dallas himself seems oblivious to the conversation as he runs around, laughing and playing with his toy laser gun. Distracted by the boy's hyper behavior, Dicke and Karen drop the topic and watch Dallas.
"So how come you didn't touch Dr. John's winkie today?" Dicke asks the boy.
Dallas ignores the question and asks his mom what day it is. The therapist asks the boy if the question embarrassed him and if he gets upset when they talk about "winkies." Dallas kicks the psychologist.
"You get mad, don't you? Is Dallas going to get scared when we start talking about winkies?" Dicke asks in the baby-talk voice adults use when addressing children.
"I bet you never touched my winkie," Dicke says, challenging him.
Dallas laughs and shoots him with his toy gun. "That's funny," he says.
Dicke presses on. "I bet you never touched your dad's winkie."
Dallas shoots the doctor again and runs around, in and out of view of the camera, laughing. Soon he's back and jumping on Dicke's lap. The therapist puts his arms around him and asks Dallas if the toy is his "winkie gun." Dallas points it at Dicke's lap and pretends to shoot. "Did you shoot me in the winkie?" Dicke asks playfully.
The boy resumes his laps around the room and then, from out of view, apparently points his gun toward the camera. "Are you going to shoot the camera with your winkie gun?" Dicke asks.
Dallas laughs. "It's not a winkie gun."
He jumps back onto Dicke's lap, then off again and starts screeching. Dicke picks him up and holds him in his lap. Dallas is wired and growing increasingly anxious. "Get off, Dr. John," he says. "Stupid fucking."
"Fucking," Dicke shouts back. "Stupid fucking."
Dallas hands Karen his gun and asks her to shoot Dicke. "I want to sit in my mom's fucking lap."
Karen, who so far has observed the session in silence, asks her son who taught him to say that.
"Fucking bitch," Dallas says.
The brown-haired, slightly overweight boy, who's dressed in jeans and a red shirt on this day, takes off his socks so that Dicke can tickle his feet. "Remember what we talked about last time?" Dicke asks him.
"I don't want to talk."
Dallas now starts screeching each time Dicke questions him.
"Remember what you told me last time? About winkies? And about how your dad used to touch your butt with his winkie?" Dicke asks.
Dallas, who's lying down with Dicke bent over him on the couch, starts spitting in the therapist's face. Unfazed, Dicke wipes the saliva off his cheeks and smears it all over the boy's face. "Remember what we talked about that happened on Christmas Day?"
Dallas answers with a high-pitched screech.
"Did you go in the room with Daddy when I was taking a shower?" Karen asks.
"What happened on Christmas?" Dicke demands.
As the questioning continues, Dallas gets more and more agitated, blowing air in Dicke's face and spitting. But Dicke doesn't give up; he tries to trick Dallas into opening up by accusing him of being too scared to talk about what happened, but the reverse psychology fails.
"I want my gun," Dallas whines before saying, "Ow, ow, ow."
"Did you get hurt when Mommy was in the shower?" Karen asks.
Dallas screeches, then laughs.
"You're scared today," Dicke tells him.
"Butthead," Dallas responds.
Dicke persists in his questioning, but Dallas keeps ignoring him, then blurts out, "Fucking bitch!"
"Your dad doesn't say that, does he?" Dicke asks.
"My butt's itchy," Dallas says.
The boy can't sit still, and his mom tries to hold him. "I want you to stop!" he screams. "I hate this!"
"When Mommy was in the shower, where were you?" Karen asks.
"We were in my room still," Dallas answers. Thinking they'd finally achieved a breakthrough, Karen seizes the opportunity and asks what happened in his bedroom, but the door closes as soon as it opened.
"I want my gun, I want my gun," Dallas cries.
"Let's pretend this is a winkie," Dicke says, referring to the toy gun. "Is this Dallas's winkie or Dad's winkie?"
"Dad's," Dallas answers.
As Dicke presses further, Dallas spits and blows in his face again. "I want to go home. Fucking. Stop hurting me," he says, even though Dicke and Karen are just holding him gently now.
For the next several minutes, Dallas ignores the prodding. He screams, then laughs. He jumps on the couch and off again, alternating between running and sitting. Finally, he announces, "I'm taking my clothes off again."
Dicke and Karen don't seem surprised. Dallas runs behind the smaller couch, where he is out of view, then presumably peeks out at Dicke. "You don't have any pants on?" Dicke asks him. "Well, let's see you."
Dallas comes back into view with his jeans unbuttoned, then runs back to the privacy of his makeshift dressing room. While he's fumbling behind the couch, Karen and Dicke ask him who, in the past, asked him to take his pants off.
"Did you take them off?" his mom asks.
"No," Dallas says.
"Who did, then?" Dicke asks.
"My dad," Dallas says. When Dallas emerges, he's wearing only his underwear. The two adults keep asking him questions, to which he responds, "Can I take my underwear off?"
"Okay," Dicke says. "Take your underwear off."
Dallas leaves the camera's view again and returns naked. He turns around and shows Dicke his butt. Then he shows the camera his butt and jumps onto a leather ottoman. Facing the camera, he lifts his spread legs in the air, then bounces them up and down. He is wild with energy, jumping on his mom, pulling his butt cheeks apart in front of Dicke, clambering all over the furniture and scraping his fingernails across the ottoman. Dicke asks him why he keeps showing him his butt and to explain what happened to him, but Dallas pretends not to hear. One minute he jumps onto the couch where Dicke is sitting, crawls behind him and flings his arms around Dicke's neck, the next he kicks his therapist.
"What do you do with the winkie?" Dicke asks, referring to the toy gun.
"I want to choke that thing," Dallas answers. Then he runs around the room, rattles the video camera and grabs a mirror that's lying on a table and examines himself with it. Finally, he throws the mirror across the room, where it shatters.
Their time is up, but now Dallas doesn't want to leave.
Two sessions later, on March 8, 2001, Dicke has a surprise for his young patient. When the tape starts rolling for this session, Dallas's thirteenth, the psychologist's back is to the camera. In his hands, which are behind him, is a large dildo. "I bought winkies," Dicke tells the boy in a sing-song voice, revealing the adult-sized, flesh-colored latex dildo.
Dicke also gives Dallas a tiny one, complete with two small scrota. "This one's just like my dad's," Dallas says of the large dildo. "My dad's sticks out farther."
Dallas takes the large one and beats it against his mom, who's sitting on the big leather couch. Then he beats it against the furniture. Next he throws it on the floor and stomps on it. After hitting Dicke with it, he spins around, holding the dildo in his outstretched hand before dropping it. He kicks his therapist and then kicks and bangs into the furniture.
"Whose winkie is that?" his mom asks, pointing to the large dildo that Dallas dropped.
"My dad's," Dallas says, bending down to pick it up.
"It should have some hair," the little boy adds, pointing to the base. He tries to break the small dildo and runs around the room, laughing. He throws the large one up against the ceiling, still laughing. The next moment he's angry. He slams the big dildo against the couch.
"I slapped the heck out of it," Dallas says. "I smack the fuck out of it."
He hits it against his head.
"Now, if you took your pants off again..." Dicke says, his voice trailing off as he watches the agitated child run around the room.
"Let's go back to Christmas," Dicke tells him.
"No, no, no," Dallas protests.
Karen and Dicke look at a picture Dallas drew of himself and his dad during the previous session while Dallas plays with the dildos. "One...two...blast off!" Dallas says, pretending they're rockets. The boy's mother tries to get Dallas to tell her about the picture, but the little boy disappears behind the love seat. A rustling noise can be heard, and when Dallas comes back, he's naked and holding the large dildo over his own penis, pretending to urinate.
"If that was your daddy's winkie, what would he do with it?" Karen asks him. "Can you show us?"
Dallas ignores her, grabs some crayons off the couch and turns around for a second, his rear facing Dicke. "What are you showing us your butt for?" Dicke asks. "You like to show us your butt."
"I'm not," Dallas says. He goes behind the small couch and announces that he's going to "put his winkie on." When he returns, he's holding the small dildo over his penis. He jumps on the large couch, where his mom is sitting, and onto her lap. The next minute, he's running laps around the love seat.
"Are you scared to show us what Daddy does with his winkie?" Karen asks. Dallas doesn't like this question, so he kicks his mom and hisses at her.
"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?"
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. "Thisis 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.
But because of the boy's behavioral problems, Mabin -- who knew of Dicke from his work with another sexually abused child the department had seen -- suggested that Karen take her son to the Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Institute (CAAPI), which Dicke had co-founded the year before with Ralph Fisch, a psychologist and associate professor at the University of Denver's Graduate School of Professional Psychology.
A couple of weeks into his therapy, Dallas described an incident to Dicke that he hadn't told his mom about; this one allegedly took place on Christmas Day 1999. When his mom was in the shower, Dallas reportedly said, he and his dad, who was at Karen's Brighton home for the holiday, touched each other's "winkies." He also told them that his father had touched his butt with his penis. Dicke immediately notified Mabin of the allegations, and after consulting with Detective Mark Rule of the Brighton Police Department, Mabin asked Dicke to begin videotaping the sessions so that the police could gather evidence they might need to pursue a criminal case, and the investigation started anew.
According to her case notes, Mabin warned Dicke not to ask Dallas leading questions that might jeopardize that investigation.
However, after Dicke handed over the tapes of the next few sessions to caseworkers, the focus of the ACDSS and the police shifted away from whether Dallas had been abused in the past to whether Dicke's treatment constituted abuse itself. In fact, the social services workers and the Brighton police officer who watched the tapes were so uncomfortable with what they saw that they handed the tapes over to police in Denver, where Dicke's office is located.
No one, it turns out, had ever heard of a therapist using adult sex toys -- or "anatomically correct penises," as Dicke prefers to call them -- to treat child sex-abuse victims.
And that's no surprise, since Dicke -- who has now been barred from using what he believes is a groundbreaking new technique -- may have been the only therapist in the country to do so.
When the five-year-old Dallas first came to see Dicke in February 2001, he was like a "whirling dervish," recalls Dicke's wife, Cari Day, who runs CAAPI's business operations. He "raged" through the therapist's office, trying to knock pictures off the walls and shaking bookshelves.
"He was feral, primitive," Dicke adds, pointing around his office to indicate the path of the boy's destruction. "He wasn't very verbal. The abuse had occurred at a stage when he had no skills to conceptualize what happened to him."
The therapist didn't mind the havoc, though. He wanted the boy to get used to the office and feared that if he chastised him for his behavior, Dallas might never open up. In the meantime, Dicke and Karen, who was present during every session, talked about Dallas.
Thirty minutes into the session, Dallas crawled beneath Dicke's chair, reached up and touched the therapist's penis. "I said to him, 'What are you doing?' and he recoiled," Dicke remembers. "I'd never heard about that happening to any psychologist, so right away, I knew he'd been sexualized.
"So the mom and I go on talking, and he comes up to me and does it again, and I say, 'What are you doing?' and he recoils again. The third time he does it, he doesn't just touch me -- he tries to massage my penis," Dicke says. "I said, 'I wonder if that's what you and your dad do,' and he goes crazy. He's hysterical, and he runs around screaming. I'm thinking to myself, 'Here's a case where a kid has been horribly abused and the ball's been dropped.'"
Dicke is dumbfounded that the ACDSS failed to discover what he calls an obvious case of sex abuse, and he now believes the department decided to go after him instead to mask its own failure. "I got on the phone with Diana Mabin after the session and told her that it's my opinion that he's been sexually abused, and probably by the father, and I said I wasn't going to do a forensic evaluation -- that I was going to do therapy," he says. "All they could talk about was trying to get the dad. If they wanted to get a prosecution, fine, but I was going to treat the kid."
And so he did. Throughout the course of the therapy, which consisted of fourteen one-hour sessions two to three times a week until mid-March 2001, Dicke kept Mabin apprised of everything he did. Although Mabin has since left the department and couldn't be reached for comment, the notes she kept bear this out.
Over the next couple of sessions, Dallas was aggressive and upset, particularly, Dicke says, after visits with his dad. In mid-February, after Dicke reported the boy's allegation about the Christmas incident to Mabin -- and the social services department renewed its investigation -- the caseworker told Thomas not to have any further contact with his son, and he agreed, according to Mabin's notes.
But Dicke says the signs of past abuse increased with each session.
"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.
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."
Dicke's arguments didn't keep the ACDSS from handing the tapes over to Denver police, however, who turned them over to the Denver District Attorney's Office, which began looking into the possibility of prosecuting the therapist.
Things got worse for Dicke in April, when the ACDSS got a court order banning him from treating Dallas and Jeremy. Later that month, Dallas's father filed an inquiry with the State Board of Psychologist Examiners, which regulates licensed psychologists, claiming that under Dicke's supervision, his son was "stripped naked, tortured, restrained, verbally abused, sexually abused, brainwashed and horrified by a dildo."
That was followed in early May by an inquiry to the board filed by the ACDSS. (After the board receives an inquiry into a psychologist, it either dismisses it or investigates, at which point the inquiry becomes known as a grievance.) Department supervisor Knight refers all questions to department director Donald Cassata, who explains that confidentiality laws prohibit him from discussing the case. "If we see any kind of abuse, we are mandated to report it," is all he will say, "and it was our perception that there was some alleged abuse during the therapeutic process."
But it's clear from the department's inquiry that the ACDSS found Dicke's therapy to be both unorthodox and disturbing; in its letter to the examiners' board, the department accused Dicke of leading and badgering Dallas, of encouraging him to undress and, in the last taped session, of holding the dildo to the boy's mouth while Dallas sucked on it. The two inquiries triggered an investigation into Dicke's therapy that lasted eight months.
John Dicke was raised in Ohio by a German family that believed kids should be seen and not heard. "I wasn't allowed to be outspoken as a child," explains Dicke, who is 54.
Whatever restraint he had to show as a kid he's more than made up for as an adult.
Dicke earned an undergraduate degree in pre-legal studies from the University of Michigan, where he also took numerous psychology courses, then went to Ohio State University to study law. Juvenile law was a growing field in the early 1970s, and Dicke did a lot of clinical work in that area during school. After he graduated, he became a public defender in Dayton, Ohio, where he worked on numerous juvenile cases.
In 1976, he and his first wife came to Colorado on vacation. During a day trip to Boulder, Dicke picked up a copy of the Boulder Daily Camera and noticed an ad seeking house parents to run a group home for kids. Dicke and his wife, a nutritionist, applied on a whim. They were immediately offered the job, and the Dickes ran the Pleasant Street House for the next year.
During that time, they were foster parents to a total of 51 children who passed through the home, many of whom, according to Dicke, had attachment disorders. After his wife became pregnant, however, the couple decided to stop operating the home. "One of the kids had put lighter fluid in the chicken. It just wasn't a good place for a pregnant woman," he explains. "I didn't understand why these kids were the way they were -- I mean, I was a lawyer. You'd get close to these kids, and then they'd do something to destroy the relationship, but now I know that that's because a relationship is the scariest thing in the world to someone with attachment disorder."
Dicke noticed another problem as well. "Social services provided no real treatment for these kids. They claimed we were it," he says, explaining that running the home was "a real eye-opener. I got my first hints that most people in these places were untrained and unqualified to treat children."
After he passed the Colorado bar exam and left the Pleasant Street House, which later shut down, Dicke got a job with the American Civil Liberties Union in Denver, where he was counsel for the ACLU's ten regional mountain states. His job consisted mostly of appellate work on juvenile cases, and Dicke longed to be back in a courtroom, so he left to take a position as a deputy state public defender. He was assigned, at his own request, to the juvenile division, where he worked in Judge Orrelle Weeks's court. A couple of years later, he left that job to work as a public defender in Arapahoe County before switching to private practice.
He started taking on more juvenile cases and went on to become one of the state's first guardians ad litem, individuals who represent children in dependency-and-neglect cases. "I read a lot of psychological reports, and I got really interested in the psychology -- more so than the case law," he says. "I also started getting depressed. I felt like I was in the wrong place. I felt empty and lonely, and I needed more stimulation in my career."
So he decided to make a change, and in 1989, at the age of 41, he entered the Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver. It was there that he met his mentor, associate professor Ralph Fisch, who gained infamy in the 1980s for his diagnosis of Ross Carlson, the Douglas County teenager who shot and killed his parents. While prosecutors described Carlson as a cold-blooded murderer, Fisch argued that the young man couldn't be held responsible for his actions because he suffered from multiple personality disorder, a little-understood affliction back then. "He's a genius in psychology," Dicke says. "I knew right away I wanted to glom onto him."
Dicke took all of Fisch's courses, and Fisch supervised all of Dicke's clinical work. After graduation, Fisch asked Dicke to open an office with him and later asked if he'd like to open a treatment center for children and teens. Mentor and protegé joined forces, and the Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Institute was born. Day, to whom Dicke has been married for more than a year, became director of the institute. (She has a bachelor's degree in psychology from Metropolitan State University.)
"Ralph was given $1 million by a private citizen, and we were promised another $1 million, but that hasn't come through," Dicke says. "We've raised other money, and we've been operating for two years now. We decided we'd take the hardest kids, the ones no one else would treat. We also take people who can't pay and give them the same treatment as anyone else." (Dicke says he has never received payment for his treatment of Dallas.)
He and Fisch use a variety of controversial treatment methods, including Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), hypnosis and holding therapy. They don't believe in medicating kids unless it's absolutely necessary, nor do they believe in limiting their clients' sessions.
Dicke considers his work with kids to be a success, but he's also had to fight some battles. He says he's had a total of ten inquiries filed against him with the State Board of Psychologist Examiners in twelve years, including the two concerning the dildos; of the remaining eight, seven have been dismissed, and one is pending.
Amos Martinez, program administrator for the State Board of Psychologist Examiners, wouldn't confirm the number of inquiries that Dicke says have been filed against him or any of the details about the filings because such matters only become public if the board takes disciplinary action. But Martinez says it's not uncommon for psychologists to have twelve to fifteen inquiries filed against them each year.
The inquiries haven't meant that Dicke has shied away from controversial cases, though. In fact, he's combined his legal background with his psychology degree by acting as an expert witness in numerous murder cases, including that of New York serial killer Joel Rifkin, whom Dicke determined to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after having been abandoned by his biological mother as a child, and Vietnamese refugee and Denver resident Vu Phan, who in 1994 stabbed his wife to death in the presence of their three children.
Because of his work on such high-profile cases and his unpopular opinions on certain issues -- he wrote an editorial in the Rocky Mountain News defending Connell Watkins and Julie Ponder, the Evergreen therapists who were convicted of reckless child abuse resulting in death following the rebirthing therapy of ten-year-old Candace Newmaker -- Dicke is well known in psychology circles, but not necessarily well liked. While some psychologists say he's highly regarded, many others characterize him as a loose cannon.
Dicke fancies himself a "maverick" and sees his use of dildos in therapy as cutting-edge. "I think it's groundbreaking and revolutionary in many ways," he says.
Kids who are abused before they can talk often don't have the verbal skills to communicate what happened, he explains, so allowing them to hold on to a concrete symbol of their abuse unlocks something in them. Holding the dildo usually provokes an angry response during therapy, but that anger is important for kids to express, he argues, because until children are able to unleash their emotions, they can't talk about and cope with what happened to them.
"Therapy that results in healing the patient can't possibly be below the standard of care, even though it's different or hasn't been tried before. That's how it becomes the standard of care," Dicke says, adding that experimental therapies like his are especially important "at a time when treatment for post-traumatic disorders usually consists of drugs, which aren't really doing anything to heal the patient."
He believes dildos should also be used with adults who have been sexually abused. "I think it has tremendous value. Had I not seen the results myself, I probably wouldn't believe it, just like no one else out there wants to believe it. If people would just open their eyes to it, it could be as effective as EMDR and hypnosis."
Dicke claims that the Adams County Department of Social Services edited the videotaped sessions before forwarding them to the Denver police so that the most salacious parts would appear first. "So you can imagine how shocking it must have looked," he says. "They said I was getting my rocks off. But the mom was there the entire time. Plus, I was taping it for social services! It's so absurd as to be ridiculously shocking."
He believes the outrage has more to do with adult hangups over sex than any potential harm to children. He also thinks dildos are more effective than anatomically correct dolls, which debuted about twenty years ago amid similar controversy. "They aren't the right size. They're like Cabbage Patch dolls with parts," he says. "They don't allow the child to hold on to the penis and beat it and get control over it."
Dicke has the backing of Henry Coppolillo, a well-respected psychiatrist who directed the child-psychiatry division at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center for eleven years before going into private practice and eventually retiring. Coppolillo, with whom Dicke worked on cases as a lawyer and who later supervised Dicke while he was studying to become a psychologist, watched the taped therapy sessions and found "nothing inappropriate.
"This child had been subjected to an extreme form of abuse, and what he brought into therapy was a primitiveness, both in action and in language," says Coppolillo, who wrote a letter to the psychologist examiners' board in support of Dicke. "Dr. Dicke had to use the same kind of language and methods of communication to get through to the child. I've used anatomically correct dolls and dollhouses in which kids have acted out sexual intercourse, and I haven't said, 'Shame on you.' Children have also used primitive and foul language, and I haven't corrected them. The aim is not to correct and inhibit children, but to see what's making them so anxious. If you take this out of the context of the therapy, it's clear that people would be shocked."
Ralph Fisch also wrote a letter to the board supporting Dicke's therapy. But he and Coppolillo appear to be in the minority.
The therapists who reviewed the case at the request of the psychologist examiners' board chose to keep their opinions to themselves for now, since the matter has not yet been resolved.
One of those is Bruce Perry, a nationally known expert on child trauma who was chief of psychiatry for the Texas Children's Hospital at the Baylor College of Medicine before leaving to take a position with the Alberta Mental Health Board in Canada. "I would think that common sense should rule the day when trying to understand the sensibility or not of that kind of therapeutic approach," is all he will say.
But several local psychologists say that using dildos to treat kids is outrageous. Many of them asked not to be quoted because they felt uncomfortable commenting without having seen the tapes or interviewing the child.
"I was pretty appalled," says Gail Ryan, longtime program director at the Kempe Children's Center, one of the nation's premier treatment centers for abused kids. "I can't say it's something I've ever heard of. I have a hard time imagining what the theory would be, much less doing it. Kids use behavior and play to act out what they've learned or been exposed to. They generally find ways to express what they're ready to express, and when they resist talking about things that adults think are important for them to talk about, I think that should be respected.
"I just don't understand the whole thing," she continues. "It's beyond my comprehension."
Susan Van Scoyk, a child psychiatrist in private practice, has never heard of a therapist using dildos, either, and she doesn't recommend it. "In therapy, the golden rule is that you learn from the patient and introduce as few things as possible," she says. "It sounds pretty wild to introduce a dildo. People even think anatomically correct dolls are too suggestive, and they've fallen out of favor. Depending on the child and his verbal abilities, it can be impossible to determine what happened and what didn't, and so therapists get pushed into trying things that are unproductive at best or harmful at worst."
Van Scoyk says that the mother's presence in the sessions only complicates matters. "She could influence what the child says. Kids are smart and can pick up on whether Mom doesn't like Dad. The kid will be looking out of the corner of his eye to make sure that what he's saying is okay, because if he's already lost contact with his father, he may not want to lose her, too," she says. And even if there is no doubt that a child has been sexually abused, Van Scoyk says, using dildos in therapy is still problematic. "If he was, in fact, abused, then to be in a room with another male who has replicas of penises could be really scary. I would be concerned that it would be re-traumatizing. There are other symbolic ways to deal with a child's anger around these things than to have a replica that is so concrete."
Martinez, of the State Board of Psychologist Examiners, was more blunt. "In my personal opinion, I believe the therapy I witnessed on the tapes was tantamount to child abuse."
A police detective in Grand Junction for five years before taking a job with the Denver District Attorney's Office, Martinez also has a doctorate in psychology. He's been the head of the psychologist examiners' board since 1990.
"As a police officer, I investigated hundreds of child-abuse cases," he says, "and what I witnessed on those tapes was a re-traumatization of a child."
The use of dildos "is unheard of in therapy," he adds. "I did a literature review, and it isn't in any journals."
Other mothers whose children received dildo therapy argue that the treatment is cutting-edge. "Jean," the other Adams County mother whose little boy Dicke had been treating, believes the method got through to her son. "Jeremy" was eight years old when she first took him to see the therapist. "John Dicke was a godsend," says Jean, who has written a letter saying as much to the board of examiners.
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.
"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."
Because Brandi has vision and dexterity problems, drawing pictures wasn't an option. And although she'd used dolls to act out sexual scenarios, Kathy says they didn't connect for her. For the next three or four months, Brandi continued to talk about the sex abuse, sometimes using the dildo. She later moved on to other issues, such as her fear of being abandoned. "She hasn't attacked anyone in over a year, and the ragings and mutilations have gone down."
But Brandi won't be able to see Dicke anymore.
The Denver DA's office this past summer decided not to prosecute Dicke. "We didn't believe we could prove beyond a reasonable doubt the elements required by law under statute," says DA spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough. But the psychologist examiners' board decided to take action.
In December, eight months after receiving the inquiries from Dallas's father and from the ACDSS, the seven-member board came up with a stipulation banning Dicke from using any kind of sex toys in therapy. The order also prevented him from allowing clients to undress; using touch therapy or physical restraints; making suggestions or asking leading questions; and permitting any parent who has made allegations against another person from attending therapy sessions.
The board also accused Dicke of inserting the dildo into Dallas's anus and, in a different session, of restraining the little boy and holding the dildo to his face while he sucked on it.
Dicke denies the charges, as does Karen. "I would have killed Dr. Dicke if he'd tried anything like that," she says. "At one point, Dallas started sucking on the dildo, and Dr. Dicke reached over to grab it out of his mouth so he wouldn't choke on it. As for the other accusation, I have no idea where they got that from. I would not have allowed that."
But Martinez says that when he watched the tapes, "I saw what appeared to be him doing that."
And in February, the Colorado Department of Human Services sent a letter to every county human services and social services department in the state, informing them that Dicke had been disciplined by the board of psychologist examiners; attached to the letter was the board's stipulation. The social services department in the county where Brandi lives decided to prohibit her from seeing Dicke again.
Although Dicke disputes parts of the stipulation, he says he had no choice but to sign it; if he hadn't, he wouldn't have been able to continue practicing. But because he's contesting the board's decision, he will get a hearing before an administrative-law judge, where he'll argue the merits of the therapy in hopes that the judge will allow him to use the dildos again. That hearing has not been scheduled yet.
"I'm very distressed, because I have become the focus, not the child," Dicke says. "I'm not the real issue here. These so-called mental-health experts have lost sight of the real issue, which is the damage that's been done to these kids.
"I feel betrayed by a field that really doesn't want to look at the reality of what's happening and that doesn't want to look at itself and its own trauma and fright around sexual issues," he continues. "I feel betrayed by a board that was not interested enough in the truth to talk to me about the course of treatment, to talk to the mom, who was present for every session, or to any of my experts who reviewed the tapes."
Even though Martinez disagrees with Dicke's use of dildos, he admits that the method could one day, in fact, be determined to be cutting-edge, and he says that's why the board didn't immediately suspend Dicke's license. "There are some treatment methods that, without people like John Dicke experimenting, would never have been done. Some, like EMDR, were considered far out twenty years ago but are mainstream today. Maybe this is one of those.
"The hearing will come down to a war of the experts," he continues, and the outcome "will be depend on whose argument is more persuasive."
In some ways, Kathy -- who, like Jean, has written the board a letter of support for Dicke -- doesn't understand what all the fuss is about, but in other ways, she does. "I don't see the difference between a penis on a piece of paper, a penis on a doll, and a dildo," she says. "I don't think it should be used with every child all of the time, but for children who can't tell you any other way, it's an opening that helps them move forward." And she suspects that the response to Dicke's therapy is a result of fear on the part of social workers and law-enforcement officials that Colorado could be thrust into the spotlight once again for being home to more quack therapies like the rebirthing technique that killed Candace Newmaker.
The little girl died in April 2000 after being smothered beneath a sheet and some pillows that two Evergreen therapists were using to represent the womb from which she was supposed to emerge; her adoptive mother, Jeanne Newmaker, thought the girl was suffering from attachment disorder, which prevented the two of them from bonding. If she was "reborn" to her adoptive mother, the theory went, Candace might finally be able to attach. The girl's death resulted in "Candace's Law," which banned most forms of rebirthing therapy in Colorado.
"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."
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.
Dicke, who seems pleased to hear of the boy's progress, turns to Dallas and asks if he remembers their last session together, five days before.
"Did you bring the winkies?" Dallas asks.
"What did you think of winkies for?" Dicke asks him.
"Because I like winkies," Dallas says. He walks over to Dicke's desk and gets the dildos out of the drawer. He tells Dicke that the large one smells.
"Like what?" Dicke asks.
"My dad's," Dallas says.
Dallas disappears behind the love seat, and Karen and the therapist ask him what he's doing. He comes out laughing, with his pants unzipped.
"If you're going to take your pants off, go ahead," Dicke says. So Dallas takes off everything but his underwear.
"Why do you take your clothes off all the time?" Dicke asks him.
"Because I like it," he says.
"Why do you always show me your butt?" Dicke says. "You just love to come here and take your clothes off."
Dallas walks backwards in Dicke's direction.
"You're showing me your butt again," Dicke says.
"No, I'm not," Dallas says. "I'm walking backwards."
A door in another office slams and Dallas mistakes the sound for that of Dicke's door opening. He runs and hides behind the ottoman. "Are you scared to get caught with your clothes off?" Dicke asks.
Dallas doesn't answer, but later retreats behind the love seat.
"What are you doing now?" Dicke asks. "I bet you're not naked."
Dallas reappears completely undressed and finds some of Dicke's business cards lying on a table. He hands them to his mom and Dicke. "Here's some Christmas cards for you," he says.
"Well, let's talk about Christmas," Dicke says.
Dallas, who is sitting on his mom's lap, gets off and rolls onto the ottoman. "That hurts my butt," he says, even though no one is touching him.
"Is that why you're giving us Christmas cards? Because you want to talk about Christmas?" Karen asks him.
"No," Dallas says.
"Are you sure?" she asks.
"I'm not sure," he answers.
"Have you ever had a winkie in your mouth before?" Dicke asks him.
"Yes," Dallas says.
"Was it this big?" Dicke asks, referring to the small dildo.
"It was this big," Dallas says, holding the big one.
With Dallas on her lap, Karen explains that Dallas recently told her that a male friend of hers had asked him to lick ice cream off his penis and that she's not sure if it really happened or if Dallas dreamt it.
"Not a friend of yours. It's Robbie's," Dallas interrupts, referring to the friend's son (whose name has been changed). "It was real."
When Dicke asks him what happened, Dallas spits at him and shrieks. He throws the dildo up against the ceiling, and Dicke catches it. "Whose winkie was the big winkie in your mouth?" he asks.
Dallas tries to pry the dildo out of Dicke's hand, and they get into a tug-of-war with it. Karen holds her son and asks him herself, but gets no response.
"Whose winkie was in your mouth?" Dicke repeats.
"It was Robbie's," Dallas says.
Dicke puts the dildos away and tells the boy, "Time to put your clothes on. It's time to go."
"No," Dallas pleads.
"You don't remember," Dicke says, trying to cajole Dallas into elaborating. It works.
"Yes I do," Dallas says. "I do remember."
"You don't want to go? You're having fun?" Dicke asks.
"I am having fun," Dallas answers.
To Karen, Dicke says, "He said very clearly that he had a big winkie in his mouth, but I don't think he remembers."
"Yes I do, yes I do," Dallas says.
He runs around the room, playing, then jumps on the couch. Dicke grabs him and tells him that they need to straighten out what happened with Robbie.
"Where's the big winkie?" Dallas asks, looking around. "Let me find it, let me find it."
Dicke holds the large one out to Dallas, and the little boy says, "Let me bite on it, let me bite on it."
Dallas puts his mouth over the dildo while Dicke holds it. Dallas bites on it, then lets go.
"Whose winkie is it?" Karen asks.
"Who's Robbie?" Dicke asks.
"He's my buddy," Dallas says.
Dallas throws the dildo, and Dicke retrieves it. The boy screeches and tries to break free from his mother, who is now holding him. He bites her arm, and she and Dicke ask him if what he's telling them really happened.
"Whose winkie is it?" Dicke asks.
"Put it back in my mouth," Dallas says.
Dicke does. The little boy sucks on the dildo and then Dicke lets go of it. Dallas continues licking it like a lollipop before throwing it across the room. Dicke picks it up and hands it back to Dallas, but the boy cries out and spits. Dicke puts the dildos back in his desk and says, "We don't know whose winkie was in your mouth."
"I don't want to go," Dallas says. "I want to get the winkies."
So he does. He comes back with the big one in his mouth, saying it's Robbie's.
"You sure know how to suck on that winkie," Dicke tells him.
Dallas starts chewing on it. "Don't bite it off," Dicke warns him, as he tries to take it out of the boy's mouth. "It won't be here next time if you bite it off."
The boy moves his head from side to side with the dildo in his mouth, then bobs his head up and down. He says it happened in Robbie's room, then bites off a piece and shows Dicke and his mom. He tells them that Robbie put "cake stuff" on his penis. Dicke tells him that they need to know the truth.
"Whose winkie is this?" Dicke says, holding the big one. Dallas grabs it from him and puts it in his mouth. Dicke takes it out of his mouth and reminds him again that it won't be there next time if he destroys it.
But there would be no next time. Although Dallas is now seeing another therapist, it took three months for the ACDSS to make the new arrangements, Karen says, and during that time, Dallas regressed.
"When he didn't have therapy, he had nightmares and aggression and behavior problems. It wasn't until September or October that I saw significant progress," she says, explaining that he is now receiving traditional play therapy that has helped stem his behavioral problems but hasn't touched on the alleged sexual abuse.
Karen's divorce was just finalized a few weeks ago, and the court granted Thomas weekly visits with his son under the condition that they be supervised by a caseworker and held in a social services building.
Greschler, Thomas's attorney, says the Adams County Department of Social Services will officially close its case on Dallas, Karen and his client in April. Thomas has never been charged with abusing Dallas.
The ACDSS investigated the allegation about Robbie but closed that case because its caseworkers couldn't substantiate it. "I don't see how that could have happened," Karen says of her son's claim. "One morning he said that boy 'did something to his pee-pee,' but when I asked when it happened, he said it was a dream."
Dicke's case, however, is far from over. Not only is he awaiting a hearing before an administrative-law judge, but he recently found out that Dallas's father is planning to sue him for professional negligence, outrageous conduct and possibly assault. Dicke himself plans to sue the ACDSS for defamation.
And Dallas is waiting for his life to return to normal -- if it ever was normal in the first place. It may be that no one will ever know what really happened to him. Maybe not even Dallas himself.