Recently I received a heartbreaking message from a woman who was once a child being sexually abused by her father. She told on him. At the treatment centre where she had been sent to receive therapy because she was acting out, the experts supported her “nice” father and treated her as a liar and a troublemaker.
This was back in the 70’s before the Women’s Movement forced the issue of child sexual abuse out of the nation’s closets.
I wonder ….. how many of today’s 50 year old men and women went through this terrible experience? How many tried to tell and were labeled by a professional world as mentally ill, disturbed or just plain malevolent This was a time in our history when the psychiatric literature proclaimed that child sexual abuse was so rare – one in a million families – that psychiatrists would be unlikely to meet it in the course of their careers.
Here is her email to me.
Dear Ms. Armstrong,
In your book Confessions of a Trauma Therapist you write about Dr. Angus Hood, supervisor at the Hincks Treatment Centre in Toronto. On pp. 89 you relate that “…fourteen-year-old Shirley Turcotte…was a suicidal teenager who revealed to…(her therapist Harvey) the sexual horrors of her childhood. Fortunately both Harvey and his supervisor, Dr. Angus Hood, were open to believing the unthinkable. Before long Harvey was treating a handful of youngsters who had been sexually abused in their homes.”
This was the same Dr. Angus Hood who, only shortly before, had assured my parents that I had imagined the precisely documented sexual horrors of my own childhood. The same Dr. Angus Hood who had assured them that these must be psychotic ravings against my ‘nice’ father. The same Dr. Angus Hood who refused to believe a word I said, who dismissed my physical pain, who did not respect my testimony, who filtered everything through his prejudiced assumption that a father like mine would not sexually abuse his daughter through formative years, ruining her life.
Well, Dr. Hood certainly contributed to ruining that life. He certainly did his bit to support the status quo. Along with my parents’ advisor, a woman by the name of Jaffe who told them sympathetically that their ‘crazy’ (must be crazy) daughter would occasionally act out – like slaves on southern plantations who just ‘went crazy’ every once in a while, then succumbed to suppression and settled down – but that this childish behaviour should be treated with zero tolerance by her mature, self controlled and responsible parents.
My name was Shelagh Watson and I was admitted to Hincks when I was 15, in 1970. I am now 57 and guess what? I still say what I said then, that I was habitually and systematically abused by my father for years. What a life I had. A life that was made worse by the abject failure of Dr. Hood and everyone at Hincks under his supervision who allowed it to continue with the official support of the psychiatric establishment in Toronto. And was it Dr. Hood who told the Clark Institute to refuse lie detector tests on the grounds that they don’t give correct results? Very likely, since my request to the Clark Institute had to go through Hincks. Maybe it’s true that lie detectors are no good, but the 60 million dollar question (guessed it yet?) is: Why, then, did the Clarke Institute have them?
I was a gutsy young person. I called a policeman in the middle of all this. But he didn’t believe me when he found out that I was in treatment. And why was I in treatment? Maybe – radical thought – just PTSD from being abused. No, make that TSD, since it was still going on. Dr. Hood could have supported me, and he didn’t. Good going, Dr. Angus Hood, enabling incest. Ms. Armstrong, it’s about time you knew the whole truth about this man.
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