February 7, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
(This continues my coverage of the case of Doe vs. Roe, begun in my previous two pieces.)
Given her single-minded hunt for evidence – any evidence – that Peter’s father was sexually assaulting him, given the fact that there was no such evidence and given the fact that every witness, from psychologists to physicians to child welfare caseworkers to the police to teachers to the guardian ad litem, agreed that there was no abuse, it’s no surprise that Peter’s mother, Jane Doe, would finally resort to hiring witnesses of her own who were more congenial to her view of things.
She hired Dr. Joyanna Silberg who in turn referred her to Dr. Eli Newberger and later to Dr. Phillip Kaplan. Silberg and Kaplan are psychologists who’ve worked together many times before on child abuse cases and have been sued many times for that work. Silberg is well-known for having her opinion evidence rejected by courts as lacking in factual support and intellectual rigor. Newberger is a pediatrician whose behavior in the case of Doe vs. Roe would be comic were it not such an utter abdication of every semblance of professional integrity. Worse, the opinions of all three of Doe’s experts would have, if they’d swayed the court’s understanding of the case, tended to prolong Ms. Doe’s sexual and emotional abuse of Peter.
It’s hard to adequately summarize the behavior of the three. First, their opinions disagreed with all the other witnesses, expert and lay alike, in the case. They agreed that Peter was being abused and it was his father who was doing it. None of them ever interviewed Mr. Roe, none of them interviewed Peter and none of them ever interviewed any of the other witnesses in the case. Newberger interviewed Ms. Doe in his home, in violation of a court order, for 60 – 90 minutes. All other information came from documents generated by other witnesses. Put simply, they drew conclusions based on information that was not remotely adequate.
For example, Silberg viewed records of a visit to the Yale Emergency room by Ms. Doe, Peter in tow, who was claiming the boy was suicidal. The physicians examined him, conducted psychological testing and concluded that there was no suicidal ideation and that, once again, Peter was in no danger from his father. Peter was extremely upset that he was again being subjected to this abuse by his mother. He was crying and asking for his father. The ER staff called Mr. Roe who came, comforted his son and took the little boy home.
All of that was fine with the doctors on the scene, but it was not fine with Joyanna Silberg. She wasn’t present, but months later she read the emergency room’s notes and concluded that, in some way, Mr. Roe, who hadn’t yet appeared there, was “cuing” Peter about what to say in his interview with the doctors.
For his part, Newberger looked at one photograph of Peter with scratches and a bruise on his face and concluded that (a) it showed evidence of abuse, (b) by his father and (c) that consisted of the boy’s having been dragged face-down across a carpeted floor.
Stated another way, Doe’s witnesses felt free to, in their professional capacities, make up anything they chose as long as it supported Doe’s theory of the case.
As to Newberger, it appears that he literally never gives testimony that questions the legal position of the person paying his fees. As Judge Munro put it,
Dr. Newberger has consulted on fifty occasions to matters where there are claims of sexual abuse since he retired from the clinic in 1999. Notably, every one of those fifty times he consulted, his conclusions always supported the position of the person who contracted to consult with him.
But of course it would be surprising for Doe or anyone else to produce an expert who disagreed with her. What would be the point? Far more destructive to her case and to Dr. Newberger’s professional standing were his dogged refusal to obtain any evidence that may have contradicted his conclusions, his absurd willingness to personally criticize other professionals in the case - professionals he’d never met or spoken with, and his attempts to do so far outside of his own expertise.
Therefore we have the spectacle of Dr. Newberger, a pediatrician, utterly untrained in psychology, criticizing most or all of the mental health professionals in the case. Again, he’d never spoken with them and he presented no scholarly evidence to back up his criticisms. Witness after witness concluded that Peter’s father was not an abuser, and, to Dr. Newberger, those conclusions could not stand. He therefore went to ludicrous lengths to draw his own conclusions despite there being little or no evidence to support them.
Dr. Newberger, similarly, felt no constraint in criticizing the quality of the work Dr. Robson and felt free to challenge that doctor's own mental status. He referred to the evaluator as “not firing on all cylinders.” When challenged about it, Dr. Newberger went on to say that “[he] was really concerned about the possible onset of some form of mature onset Alzheimer's or thought disorder ․ with [him].” This is the testimony of a pediatrician who never met the psychiatrist he is attacking and opining about. Dr. Newberger also rejected the evaluator as biased against finding sex abuse where allegations are made. He came to this conclusion based upon incomplete information regarding one case that he garnered from some websites in a ‘Google’ search of Dr. Robson.
Essentially, all information that disputed the conclusion of abuse by Mr. Roe was either rejected or ignored by Newberger.
What was explained explicitly in the testimony by the evaluator (Dr. Robson) was that he was concerned that the plaintiff was constantly examining the child's anus, applying cream to the child's penis for many days for the balanitis condition rather than him applying it himself. At one point, the plaintiff also subjected the child to her examination of his anus; she estimated it was open 1 to 2 inches. [Dr. Newberger] also relied on this as proof of assault. He did not question the accuracy of the report even though no medical personnel observed this condition. He also never considered the effect of Peter's exposure to nudity and sex in the family bed, his late toilet training, this history of withholding of bowel movements, the psychological profile of Peter's underdeveloped emotional age state or any of the other considerable evidence of other explanations of his conduct. He also did not consider the effect for Ms. Doe of her childhood trauma notwithstanding prior providers of hers raising concerns regarding its effects on her present behaviors.
Newberger rejected the work and opinions of Dr. Collins, Peter’s therapist, and those of the guardian ad litem even though he’s a pediatrician, not a psychologist or lawyer, and therefore wholly unqualified to offer an opinion on psychology or law. According to him, the Yale Sex Abuse Clinic was also wrong in its conclusions because it conducted only one interview of the child instead of three. He believed everything Ms. Doe told him despite the fact that she had repeatedly lied to various witnesses and failed to report her history of childhood abuse to Newberger himself. That Ms. Doe went on to lie repeatedly under oath also appears to have not troubled Newberger or altered his opinions.
Not content with disagreeing with every expert in the case who’d actually had some contact (in some cases extensive) with Peter and his parents, Newberger went on to be demonstrably wrong.
As further evidence that Peter was struggling in the care of his father because of abuse, Dr. Newberger stated that Peter's report card at his Montessori school was proof. Peter had evaluations that showed him having a certain number with a plus [+] sign next to it. Dr. Newberger confidently and emphatically testified that based on his knowledge of the Montessori system, which he said was extensive, this meant that the behavior was proceeding downward rather than improving. Essentially, that plus was negative rather than positive and as compared to the previous marking period, he explained. The defendant conclusively proved that he was wrong and it meant the opposite. It appears that there is nothing that Dr. Newberger is unsure about, whether he is right or wrong, and he is always sure he is right.
Understandably, Judge Munro didn’t think much of what Dr. Newberger was saying.
None of Dr. Newberger's criticisms and ad hominem attacks of these professionals are relevant or probative: he is an expert in only pediatrics. His possessed certitude and lack of compunction about impugning every other professional in this case based upon slim or no evidence is illustrative of the uninhibited value he places on his own opinions, however ill-informed. This did impair the weight the court gives his testimony.
In short, Dr. Newberger’s performance alone illustrates just how desperate Doe and her lawyer were to deflect the clear direction in which her child custody litigation was heading. Drs. Silberg and Kaplan didn’t improve matters for her.
As I said in my last piece on this case, it is clear that Peter was being sexually abused by his mother. Remarkably, no one called it that. Every professional – of whatever discipline – came to understand who the parent was who could best care for Peter and in whose care he would and would not be safe. And many of them chronicled Doe’s repeated sexual contact with him, her never-ending visits with him for further invasive physical examinations, her relentless questioning of him about the single topic of sexual abuse about which Peter ultimately complained that he wished he knew the right answers to her questions so she’d stop. Eventually, Doe’s behavior shocked so many people that Mr. Roe was able to get sole custody of his son.
But what was there for all to see was that Doe’s behavior toward her son was plainly sexual abuse. It simply can’t be described any other way. That’s true despite the fact that she clearly never intended it to harm Peter. She was no pedophile who comprehends the nature of her actions. In her sick, twisted way, she meant well. But that in no way means that what she was doing was anything but what it was – sexual abuse of a child.
That, plus her dogged efforts to get him to see himself as a victim of abuse by his father seem to have seriously shaken the child’s mental stability, i.e. being unable to distinguish fact from fiction.
Mr. Lamontagne was also concerned that Ms. Doe was letting the child know her feelings and planted the thought to him that his father tricked his mind.
Dr. Smith concluded about Peter as follows:
While Peter has superior ability to reason based on information he has already learned, he has significant difficulty using his own judgment and processing information. He is very anxious. His 2011–2012 teacher confirmed this. She also confirmed that he had significant difficulty with adaptability and his social skills were not optimal. He has a poor sense of self-worth. He demonstrates extremely poor reality testing…
Peter perseverates (repeats words or phrases again and again) particularly when he is anxious. He often feels distress as well as anxiety because he perceives his social difficulties.
In the interview process with Dr. Smith, Peter displayed his anxiety and perseverating behaviors particularly when he talked about his mother.
Peter has things get stuck in his head and it upsets him. This will often happen with songs or when talking about something. He wants to stop it but cannot. The evaluator found this and his other behavior as indicative of a disorder she recommended a full neurological and psychiatric work-up to determine his full diagnosis and if psychotropic drugs are needed. His behavior is not a disquieting reaction to sexual abuse as the mother would believe; rather it is a symptom of conditions described in the doctor's report that need not be reiterated here…
Peter's memories have become confused, likely as a result of speaking with his father and his mother repeatedly about these issues…
Dr. Smith indicated that because Peter is a vulnerable child with very limited internal controls and poor reality testing. He will resort to primitive thinking and behavior when he is anxious. He has the emotional maturity of an individual whose emotional age is about three years younger and acts on that. When he is stressed by his environment he acts out these more primitive behaviors.
Peter’s sexual abuse by his mother had dangerous consequences for him.
In response to all of Peter’s obvious anxiety, loss of control, sexual acting out, failure to mature emotionally and difficulty with perceiving and responding to reality, Ms. Doe interfered with his therapy with Dr. Collins and refused to tell her own therapist pertinent information like her own sexual abuse as a child. She was so convinced that Mr. Roe was abusing Peter that she ignored and/or actively edited out all information to the contrary. In the process, she abused Peter herself both emotionally and sexually, and managed to overlook the fact that she was doing it.
So did her expert witnesses and so did Al Jazeera reporter Tim Stelloh. A significant percentage of people involved in child custody issues, including writers and commentators, dogmatically oppose fathers having custody or even much contact with their children post-divorce. Fathers who were perfectly fit during marriage are, according to these people, magically transformed by the alchemy of divorce into dark and threatening figures, ever ready to strike a woman and sexually abuse a child. It would seem that, once the adversary process begins, there’s never a shortage of people willing to pretend that Mom is an angel and Dad a devil, regardless of the facts and common sense.
In so doing, those anti-father forces can do considerable harm as they tried to do in Peter’s case. Fortunately, there they weren’t successful. The facts were too clear, the mother so obviously wrong and the various professionals too scrupulous for the “dad abuse” card to trump all others. But it was not for lack of trying. Ms. Doe, Ada Shaw, Silberg, Newberger and Kaplan all did their best to damage a little boy’s already-fragile psyche. If they’d had their way, Peter would be with his mother till yet, daily stripped and examined by her or yet another doctor, questioned about things he doesn’t understand, behaving in ways that cause him anxiety so great that his ability to grasp reality becomes tenuous.
Let’s be clear; in their dogmatic opposition to custody by a fit father, these people courted the continued abuse of a child.
The same must be said of Tim Stelloh. Absurdly bad as his Al Jazeera article was, its intent was far more pernicious. By pretending that parental alienation is a plot by abusive fathers to get custody of children from “protective” mothers, Stelloh sought to harm not only fathers, but children and mothers as well. Even though it wasn’t an issue in Doe vs. Roe, parental alienation is in many cases and fathers are just as likely to commit it as mothers. By attempting to cast doubt on the very concept of parental alienation in child custody cases, Stelloh struck a blow (however weak and quixotic) at the ability of mothers to wrest custody from alienating fathers.
That’s not where Stelloh was aiming, but it’s the target he hit.
It’s far past time for gross dishonesty like Stelloh’s piece to make way for the realities of parental alienation. Fortunately, the science on parental alienation continues to increase in volume, sophistication and persuasiveness. Our knowledge of it is not going away and courts will not ignore it. Stelloh and his fellow travelers are on the wrong side of history. This is a battle they’re losing and soon will have forever lost. For them, it’s time to move on to new methods of trying to keep children from healthy relationships with their fathers.
Speaking of which, at the time of Judge Munro’s memorandum, Peter’s teachers and therapists were seeing considerable improvement in his behavior. It seems being with his father and away from his mother’s fraught concerns has proven salutary for the lad.
Does Ms. Doe at last comprehend what a destructive force she was in his life? Does Tim Stelloh?
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#Sexualabuse, #childabuse, #JoyannaSilberg, #EliNewberger, #PhillipKaplan, #JudgeLyndaMunro, #TimStelloh, #AlJazeera