All Fall Down
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following personal account of a group
therapy program was written by one of the group members and is based upon a
journal he has kept. All of the names have been changed. This
account illustrates several things. First, the type of group described is
not unusual. We have heard similar descriptions about group therapy for
sex offenders in different parts of the country.
Second, the power of the individual group leader in
setting the tone of the group is graphically demonstrated. Research on
sensitivity groups indicates that group leaders whose leadership reflects their
own hostility and pathology are extremely harmful and produce not only
ineffective therapy but actual harm to the group members (See Lieberman, Yalom,
& Miles, Encounter Groups: First Facts, New York: Basic Books, 1973).
This appears to be what may have happened under the leadership of Mike Boggs.
Third, the difficulties presented to a group, the
therapist, and the individual when an innocent person is ordered to attend a sex
offenders' group is seen. Not only Frank Lee and the other
"deniers" but the leaders and the entire group struggle to adapt to
In 1989 I was falsely charged with sexually abusing a
troubled eight-year-old neighbor boy whom I had befriended. I was twice offered
a nolo contendere plea bargain which I refused and was ultimately found guilty of
aggravated assault on a child and jailed. I was sentenced to ten years'
probation, fined $10,000 and assessed 300 hours' community service.
I had no experience with the business end of the legal system
and some of what I learned stunned me. An entire floor of the county jail overflowed
with men convicted of child abuse; estimates by the most cynical
prisoners were that about half were guilty of nothing but affectionate hugs,
applying medications or having vindictive ex-spouses.
I suppose my opinions were formed by Hollywood and the pulp
writers; I expected my probation officer to be a squatty man who chomped cigars and
tried to entrap me. Actually, he hurt me little — except in the one area I expected
The probation terms dictated that I attend a sex therapy
program. Knowing the psychologist who testified for me was an honorable man, I
requested his program. However, the officer insisted on one run by a major
university — one I'd heard (during my trial) required an admission of guilt.
phoned, the coordinator assured me that was true. "What about those who are
wrongfully convicted?" I asked.
"That's virtually impossible," she replied.
But I was ordered to attend this treatment program and I
decided to cooperate. As I took the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality
Inventory), which was part of the screening procedure, I thought, This will make
these people understand I am no sex criminal.
The screening interview was conducted by Mike Boggs. I
arrived early and knocked on his door. It opened quickly. Dr. Boggs said,
"This is the right place and you're early," then slammed the office
door in my face.
When Dr. Boggs finally admitted me, I was verbally assaulted. In foul language, he asked how many times my wife and I had been married, how
many of those were "legal" marriages and if I thought I'd (sexually)
"had (my) share of the women. "When I said I'd been a disc jockey he
snapped, "Don't tell me about your job; tell me about your sex life!"
When I inquired about his religion, he exploded, "It's
not fair to ask me that; I didn't ask you!" I reminded him that the MMPI
asked about religious faith several times in different ways. "Oh that, I
never look at those" (though I was charged for the test).
I told him I was not guilty and had a report from the
thorough psychological evaluation which had been done on me. He smirked,
"I'm sure you do" and refused to accept it.
I told him the school's coordinator had said admission of
guilt was necessary for successful completion of the program and he accused me
of slandering that fine lady. (When my probation officer asked Dr. Boggs that
same question, he denied that it was a policy.
I told him that I twice refused a nolo contendere plea. Rather
than validating my integrity, he said that made him suspicious. He then gave me
a lecture about denial. According to him, since all child molesters deny guilt,
denying guilt proves guilt.
He baited me. "So would it be safe to conclude that you
emphatically, adamantly deny this thing?" When I agreed it would, be said,
"Methinks thou doth protest too much" (though those had initially been
his own words).
When I asked about the extravagant on-campus parking fee, he
was uncivil, "I pay, you pay, God pays!"
I left that university office feeling so brutalized and
filled with dread, I put off my first group session for several weeks. In the
interim, an acceptance letter arrived. The letter assures participants that if
they attend and cooperate during three out of every four meetings for a total of
50, they will be advanced to "follow-up" (monthly rather than weekly
sessions) and eventual "graduation."
By the time I did attend a meeting, I had convinced myself
that even though I'd committed no crime, it would be a relief to discuss things
like the sudden and enormous financial debt and loss of reputation I'd just
encountered and my feelings of helplessness in controlling my own destiny.
I arrived for the first session early. Mike Boggs was absent
and the assistant leader, an intern named Sue, was fifteen minutes late. Sue
collected fees, marked an attendance sheet, and gave receipts, then each member
introduced himself, stating his name, the crime of which he was accused, and
Bart, age 62, molested girls for years, then married a victim
when she came of age. He spent seven years in prison, attends AA meetings (and
any others he can) and is sure he has the solution to everyone else's problems.
Because he continually praises group therapy (calling the groups his
"family"), in my journal, I labeled him the group-addict.
John, also an AA member, was caught molesting his
step-daughter when he threatened to blow his brains out in front of her if she
didn't submit to his advances. After his first encounter with Mike Boggs, he
took cyanide, alcohol and a "Jim Jones Kool-Aid" to a motel room to
end his life. Though he has one of the foulest mouths in the room and espouses
both lying and adultery, John claims, now, to be a Christian.
Marion is a young homosexual who wears pink sneakers and
gay-liberation buttons, and rides a ladies' bicycle to class. He and his
"mate," Gil, plan to have children (through a surrogate mother).
doesn't work for Marion because he does not believe in religion and AA contains
too much "God stuff." Since he was both victim and perpetrator, he
considers himself the world's leading authority on the rape of young boys; he
sides 100% with alleged victims of abuse, no matter what.
Glenn is a wild, young contractor. When a young lady angered
him, he asked her to kiss a certain rounded part of his anatomy. At her request,
he bared his backside. Months later he was over $3500 in debt to the treatment
program and this debt was a focus of discussion in several of the group
Joe also is in therapy for publicly exposing himself while on
amphetamines. He was sexually abused by a brother for years and harbors much
Jake, a divorced retiree in his 60s, sits in a corner and
speaks as little as possible.
Russell was accused of fondling by both his nine-year-old
step-daughter and seven-year-old daughter; he denies it.
Te-Lu is from South Africa and was accused, after an argument
with a cousin, of molesting the cousin's daughter. He firmly denies guilt and,
though he was persuaded by a court-appointed attorney to plead nolo
says before he'll admit to the deed again, he'll return to prison.
Chris says he was framed by family friends. Chris is friendly
and outgoing, but wants group approval badly.
Through Dan attended for nearly four months after I started,
he spoke little and I didn't know him well.
I also hardly knew Billy. Seeming to be a slow thinker, he
attended irregularly, making excuses about money and transportation
The First Session
As I arrived, someone announced, "Fresh meat!" Since Dr. Boggs was absent the intern, Sue, asked for my story.
During most of
that session, I was on the "hot seat," relating my woes eagerly and
I told my story as concisely as possible, noting the
inconsistencies and impossibilities, and stating that I was completely innocent.
Even though no one in the group could criticize any detail, they accused me:
"Everyone gets amnesia when they first come here." When I said I was not inclined toward physical
violence, I was accused of "arguing semantics." When I described why the position alleged for the abuse was physically
impossible, Marion, the self-styled expert, said, "It's difficult, not
impossible." Anything that supported my lack of guilt was dismissed in
search of one clue to the contrary.
After the session, a couple of the group members made
suggestions about parking and warned me not to cross Mike Boggs. They said that
he doesn't just professionally question, he "picks on you" in a manner
that is brutal. They told me that "he has the strings to your life in his
hands" and that he often threatens members with a negative letter to the
probation officer and "putting (them) in prison." Dan added that Dr.
Boggs is not just thorough, "He is brutal," and "Everybody wants
a piece of the new guy; don't give them any ammunition to use against you —
only way to divert an attack upon yourself is to lead one against a fellow group
Dr. Boggs returned the next week and the tenor of the session
was angry and violent. He began by asking me. "What did you do?"
I responded that I had done nothing, he reminded the group of George, a member
who had cooperated and completed the necessary meetings but had, instead of
follow-up, been unsuccessfully terminated for not admitting guilt. Dr. Boggs
insinuated that that man (and all other "deniers") would be
imprisoned. Though he said, "I'm not threatening (me) but ..." it was
obviously a thinly veiled threat to me and two others who deny guilt. (Later I
spoke with George; he was successfully released early from probation.)
Much of the evening was spent in trying to browbeat a
confession from me but old Bart was also ordered to have sexual intercourse with
his (female) apartment manager. From the discussion, I gathered Joe had, in
times past, followed those same directives.
Chris seemed upset at the expulsion threat. After the
session, I told him and Te-Lu of another program, which does not demand
admission of guilt for participation.
Before the next weekly meeting, I posted on a cork bulletin
board a cartoon that mocked the absurdity that denying guilt proves guilt.
Dr. Boggs began by announcing that the program would no
longer accept deniers. (I asked expectantly if that were retroactive.)
entire meeting was dedicated to ridiculing and threatening prison for those who
continue to deny guilt.
Admittedly from fear of the threats, Jake
"confessed" to tying a young neighborhood girl to a bed (to make her
realize her self-destruction) and for "poor judgment." While drinking
he allowed her and some friends (about 13 and 14) to photograph him in
"muscle-man" poses. While he modeled, one pulled down his shorts and
another photographed him. He was sharply criticized for trying to be a
"peer" to teenagers.
Bart was also criticized for failing to have sex with the
apartment manager. John accused, "Faith without works is dead."
Bart said he was not sure he could perform sexually, Boggs told him, "I've
never known a woman to be mad for someone blowing her head off by (performing
Russell was harshly questioned about his alleged offense and
bitterly mocked when he said he had not asked his wife (or daughters) for
details about the accusations.
When the group could not refute my story, Marion demanded,
"Make him bring that report" (as though such a group had legal
authority). But since I'd wanted the details introduced anyway, I complied,
though I was beginning to have doubts about the title, "therapy."
I offered to read the detailed paper at the next session. It
was, instead, handed to Marion (a young man I soon learned was illiterate) to
"scan." After several pages of reasons why I either probably didn't or
could not have committed the deed for which I was convicted, he summarized,
"This is just some accusations about the other people."
With the report was an original poem that suggested that the
heartbreak of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane was caused by the
treachery of his ex-friend, Judas. The group read such compassion and concern as
sexual lust, and considered it positive proof of guilt (when, indeed, it
suggests a social caring that precludes such iniquity). I finally began to
understand why Dan had warned against giving ammunition.
That night, I wrote in my journal, "I have begun to
ponder what I perceive as a major failure of the sex therapy program. ... (The
falsely convicted) have undergone tremendous trauma involving public scorn,
legal restrictions and loss of civil rights, loss of control over their own
lives, loss of their family, friends, finances, jobs or businesses, reputation
and in some cases, their own self-esteem and self-confidence, and don't even
have the burden of guilt with which to rationalize what has happened to them.
cannot help but wonder what is being done to the psyche of these
already-traumatized people when they are constantly bombarded with, 'We can't
accept you, we can't listen to you, we can't believe you, we can't befriend you, we can't
help you until you admit you did it! ' ... I cannot help but wonder at the
failure of any 'therapy' that must reject and eject guiltless and needy victims
of a system gone awry in their quest to 'help' the guilty, especially when that
'help' (rather than self-control) involves channeling the sex drive into
masturbation, fornication, homosexuality and other forms of perversion."
(I later wrote the intern, Sue, before she left, "Like
the jokes about those who see 'all those dirty pictures' in a Rorschach test,
even a poem that expresses social concern and caring about others was
interpreted as lust by Mike Boggs' pet circus.")
The following week, Russell noticed (apparently for the first
time) that Dr. Boggs walks with a severe limp from a permanent handicap. When he
asked, "What did you do to your leg?" Boggs snapped, "Aw, shut
Dr. Boggs began session with, "Let's talk to somebody we
can help instead of wasting time on someone we can't." I and other
"deniers" were ignored all evening.
Bart said he still was "not comfortable with" the
apartment manager. Dr. Boggs told him all he'd ever be "comfortable
with" was molesting little girls but "your job is to force a round peg
into a square hole," whether he liked the woman or not "even if she
had sex with jackals." He ordered, "Everyone in this room says you
must (have intercourse with) her."
When Bart said she was still married, I tried to protest the
unethical and immoral edict, but Dr. Boggs cut me off: "That's right, he
could get shot but then, so could you, so could I," portraying my
conscientious opposition as fear.
When Jake said he was "seeing" some women at bingo
games, Dr. Boggs said it's not enough to "see" women; he would never
have gotten into trouble if he'd had a woman living with him. "Even if she
weights 800 pounds and has no vagina, you can't spend the rest of your life
sitting in your room talking to kumquats."
In trying to browbeat a confession, Dr. Boggs said if a
patient with a hurt knee won't admit it, the physician can't render aid. That
logic is, of course, absurd. If the knee is purple and swollen, and an X-ray
shows a fracture of the patella, it makes no difference whether the patient says
he's in pain or not. By the same token, if the knee is normal, the X-ray clear
and the patient has no trouble walking, hypochondria won't change that, either.
But by then, I was learning to keep my own counsel.
The next week, Bart said he perceived that I was "in
love" with the boy who lied about me, which he could understand because he'd been "in love" with
his victims. John said he found my poem "very revealing." Others tried
to impute their own weaknesses onto me. Marion announced that he
"knew" all the deniers were guilty. (I thought, how wonderful to have
such a talent; we can now stop development of the polygraph!) When I refused to
take the bait, Bart pled with "deniers" to "listen." I told
him we heard him just fine. Boggs said, "F
it — don't waste time on
By then, I'd lost all hope of any support from the group. "Therapy" had come to mean punishment to be endured but I'd survived
boot camp and Viet Nam. When Dr. Boggs asked what I would do (about confessing
guilt), "Roll with the punches?" I answered, "I always
Billy was severely berated and ridiculed for erratic
attendance and lack of participation (and payment) when he was there. The
backward youth said by the time he had a question, someone else had already
posed it so he just listened. Dr. Boggs said there was no use wasting time on
young Billy because "He's out of here, anyway."
Dr. Boggs mentioned his impending departure and John, who had
completed the required 50 weeks of group treatment, was anxious to get Boggs'
recommendation for release so he could meet with the department head. Dr. Boggs
promised to supply it.
The dependent Marion, however, who had also completed the
necessary requirement, wouldn't talk about release from mandatory attendance,
though Dr. Boggs explained that he could continue forever as long as he pays.
Dr. Boggs announced that in his new-job interview, he had cited Marion — the
hostile, effeminate, alcoholic doughnut cook who uses therapy sessions to
"get even" with a society that mocks him and talks of "having our
baby" with his homosexual lover — as an example of a "job well done,"
the subject he was "most proud of."
Bolstered by such flattery, Marion (who despises all things
Christian) initiated a new attack upon me. "Didn't you say you grew up in
a religious home or did some missionary work?" I answered, "My dad was
a pastor and I have done missionary work." Dr. Boggs snapped, "That's
right, don't mince words, short and sweet." I added, "And it's five
minutes to (dismissal)." When Joe questioned the time's accuracy, I told
him I reset my excellent digital watch at least weekly with NBC. Dr. Boggs
quipped, "Such accuracy is frightening."
In an attempt to win Dr. Boggs' favor, Chris asked if, though
he refused to admit guilt, Dr. Boggs did not think he had received benefit from
the group. Dr. Boggs said, "If you don't have cancer, the chemotherapy doesn't help."
I thought to myself that in
truth, it can severely damage healthy cells without cause but the patient's
admission or denial of cancer has nothing to do with treatment. Should we assume
that a cancer patient should be locked in a room, then bullied and browbeaten
until he or she admits to having cancer before treating? However, any comment
can cause an avalanche of vindictiveness and not wanting to endure another
attack, I said nothing aloud.
Dr. Boggs closed with a reminder that the group has the
"right" to eject those they feel are not making satisfactory progress.
When he looked at me to wish "good luck" to everyone — "even those
who are coasting" — I was unable to return the blessing upon the vile,
manipulative therapist who uses human suffering to bolster his own damaged ego.
By then, I considered him an enemy and an opponent. I was glad to see him go.
The following week, Billy did not return and was, of course,
expelled. Though he did not (and probably could not if he 'd tried) express it,
I cannot help but feel he had decided that the punishment of prison cannot
possibly be more dehumanizing than the torment of the inquisition that carries
the misnomer of "therapy."
Sue, the intern and the only remaining therapist, did not
attack with the same vigor or satisfaction Dr. Boggs demonstrated but the
technique was the same: Slash and stab to get a confession, then offer no solutions
Glenn arrived slightly late and it was necessary to take a
vote about whether to retain or expel him. (The vote was unanimous to keep him.)
When he thanked us, I teased that in voting to retain, we had all voted against
Jake reported that the girl who accused him had shot the
glass from his woodworking shop windows. He began by calling her "my little
girlfriend," suggesting quotation marks with his fingers. John and Marion
labeled that a "Freudian slip." When I said I heard sarcasm and
factiousness, Jake said that was his intent but having tasted blood, the wolves
would not relent until they were sated. Marion, particularly, relished a chance
to inflict pain, waxing eloquent about the helplessness of the young girl
strapped to the bed against her will. (I thought that Jake must have experienced
the same feeling of helplessness they said traumatized the girl; he hasn't
spoken in group since.)
Chris tried to divert the attack against Jake and came under
fire himself. Marion informed him that compassion was a character flaw and "taking sides"
with someone under attack delayed the "process" (whatever the process
Sue said because Te-Lu was so quiet, she didn't know what
report to give him. Very calmly, with his resonant accent, he said he still had
the same "gal friend" and job, and no major problems. He had accepted
a nolo contendere plea to get the matter behind him but if therapy meant he must
confess to something he did not do, he would go back to prison. When asked how
he felt about being in a "room full of rapists and child molesters,"
he said he'd had apprehensions at first but then realized they are people, too,
and was comfortable.
That caused a volcanic eruption. Bart said, "That's a
false impression. You're stealing my G
-d time; I want to talk about
me!" John said, "If you're comfortable, it ain't working; we're
supposed to tear you apart and then build you back, again. You're just sitting
there saying what you want Sue to hear."
Later that night, I wrote, "I don't know why it has not
occurred to any of them that a few healthy role models with normal ideals and
family life might have a positive influence on the ... group but while
fornication, promiscuity, homosexuality, masturbation, pornography, lying,
deception, and profanity are encouraged, being normal ... seems to be the worst
sin possible because normal people can't 'identify' with their feelings of
Bart offered oblation to therapy groups and announced a plan
to host a reunion of his prison therapy group.
Russell was again roasted about his lack of interest to know
exactly what was accused. Marion again announced that he "knew" the
man was guilty.
After dismissal, I told Glenn — whose only offense was
"mooning" — the sessions reminded me of the old physicians' practice of
bloodletting with septic leeches — in the interest of the patient. He related that
when he first joined, Mike Boggs had pinned him against the wall and called him
a bastard and a m
." Glenn had run away from the harshness. When he returned (under duress), he was admitted only on the condition that he never miss
a single meeting. Mike Boggs told him the only excuse he would accept was
"when the neurosurgeon comes into this room with his fingers still dripping
with your blood."
During the session, John had again brought up my poem. I told
Glenn all good poetry is reflective; the same poem John and his associates
interpreted as twisted lust had been read by several other people, including my
wife, a federal judge, attorneys and a therapist, and they saw only human
compassion and social concern. When he suggested I bring it up in group, I
said I'd learned my lesson on that. The group doesn't want truth, they want only
to condemn others to sharing their own personal torment.
Another entry for that evening: "The underlying premise
that therapy is a barbaric game in which the only objective is to force or trick
or browbeat a confession of guilt is obscene. The assumption that fear, hatred,
ridicule and hostility are healing tools is too absurd. The very profanity used
by the group and its leaders is a forced assault upon civilized ears ... From the start, I have doubted that any real help can be
obtained from a hostile inquisition in which every statement is automatically
assumed to be a lie, in which every fact is labeled 'fabricated' or distorted,'
in which any detail supporting innocence is inadmissible, in which social
compassion is twisted into lust and sympathy is condemned, in which every
sarcastic expression of bitterness is interpreted as a 'Freudian slip,' in which
members are berated for not speaking, then when they speak, are called liars,
threatened with ejection and told they are stealing time from 'more serious'
(admittedly guilty) participants, in which mention of the serious questions of
loss of confidence and control of lives, loss of reputations, family problems,
dire financial disaster, fear of further realization by accusers and other
genuine burdens are not permitted, in which the only successful way to escape is
to mimic the sadism of the group leader. Now I seriously wonder if such
malpractice is not doing irreparable harm to the more immature and
impressionable members. Many have run away from the destructive bombardment and
knowing they are under court orders and the alternative is prison, some never
return, choosing incarceration over the traumatic devastation (euphemistically)
called 'therapy.' I wonder if such inescapable abuse will not directly lead to
suicide or unnecessary imprisonment. ..."
The following week, Jake announced that his middle-aged only
son had been decapitated in a motorcycle accident the previous Wednesday. When
asked why he was at the meeting, he said it was due to fear of Dr. Boggs'
threats. "I'm not going to prison, no matter what!"
Joe expressed anger at the brother who raped him for years
but when asked why he'd never exposed him, said, "Why mess up whatever
years my mom and dad have left?" Sue said the anger was appropriate but the
loyalty was not. I told him if he ever needed to just scream at someone, we were
there and we cared. Perhaps because of the subdued atmosphere due to Jake's
tragedy, no one challenged that.
Bart was disappointed in the reunion of his old prison therapy group. "Everyone wanted to tell old war
stories about prison" but he could "see problems" in their lives
that he wanted to help with. Someone pointed out he likes to interfere in other
people's lives entirely too much.
John was absent the next week. He'd had an appointment with
the department head so we assumed he'd been "graduated."
In my journal notes written that week, I compared the
behavior of the two group members who had been in group the longest with that of
Patty Hearst, who sympathized and empathized with her kidnappers, taking on their
own characteristics, values and causes. Like her, they mimic their captors'
I also compared the therapy group to "a quasi-religious
cult." The department head is the pope; speaking of him without awe is
tantamount to blasphemy. Instruction given to those rewarded with a personal
audience warns not to (incur his wrath) because if he hears one (unfavorable)
word, he may banish them forever. Mike Boggs is the high priest, who chastens
and rewards (according to personal whim) for compliance with the Commandments of
the Program (foremost of which is 'Thou shalt conform to group standards
regardless of personal conviction or beliefs') ... If any subject does not behave
as he sees fit, the priest may scream 'pedophile' or 'baby-raper' to reinforce
his superior, sanctified position over the sinners and threaten excommunication
(which, according to him means automatic banishment to the hell of prison and
unspeakable torments of eternal rape and abuse) to assure blind obedience.
Weekly tithes and confessions are taken, and specific penance of sexual acts —
assigned by the priest — must be performed and duly reported. One evening,
there was even (joking) talk of ... stained-glass windows."
The next week, Marion announced that since he and Gil had
found a home near Gil's work, he could take a job making less money (than frying
doughnuts) because of the money Gil would save on bus fares. Why anybody wants
to move down in the world was not explained.
John returned and Sue expressed surprise. He described his
interview with the program head. When that man asked why he had done such a
despicable deed in the first place, John answered "bondage to self"
(apparently a stock AA principle). When asked why he thought he was ready to
leave, he said "prayer and a higher Power." When asked why he wanted
to leave, he mentioned the fee, gasoline and parking costs. John felt that even
though he had been highly recommended for release by both Dr. Boggs (who called
his progress 'phenomenal') and Sue, the program head decided to deny on the basis of two questions: "How long did you
spend in jail?" and "How long have you been on probation?" It
seemed that even though he had complied with every requirement of the program
(including eager confession and brutality toward other members) the program head —
who had known him only for that ten-minute period — decided he hadn't been
Sue said nothing but her face showed hurt that her
professional opinion was considered worthless. Bart said his terms of parole
didn't specify any particular program; since he was legally and financially
able, he'd resign the group because of the broken word. Dan said nothing but
A discussion followed that compared the therapy group
unfavorably with AA. Bart said he'd been dissatisfied for some time.
criticized those who "run interference just when things are getting
emotional." Bart and Marion both dislike being with members who deny guilt.
Since there is no anonymity, real child molesters don't feel free to express
themselves in front of the others.
Marion described the only two types of members as those who
admit guilt and those "in denial." I said there is a third
alternative: those who really aren't guilty. He snapped, "There may be some
who are not guilty but I don't believe you are one of them." I said,
"I don't much care what you think; I know what happened and what didn't,
and that's all that really matters, isn't it?" Sue stopped our debate by
informing me it does matter what the group thinks.
Russell said he might have unconsciously been
"indecent" with his daughters, setting them between his legs on the
floor while he combed their hair. Bart and others ridiculed that there was no
such thing as unconscious indecency. He said he'd never been sexually aroused at
such times but was usually dressed only in undershorts; he didn't think so at
the time but upon reflection, perhaps it was improper. He was mocked again.
he said he bottled his feeling inside, John said, "All child-molesters
do." John also informed him he was in "subconscious" as opposed
to ''conscious'' denial.
There followed (without my participation) a discussion about
the characteristics of a child-molester. They were listed as: (a) being abused
as a child), (b) a dependent, addictive personality (alcoholism), (c) inability
or refusal to communicate or express feelings and (d) severe guilt or
depression and thoughts of suicide.
Sue announced there would be no meeting the following week,
then at the next, she would introduce the two new "therapists"
(interns). After that, she would be gone.
That night, I wrote, "If any victim of the therapy
meetings ever imposed the kind of torment inflicted upon them during 'therapy
sessions' upon spouses or offspring, they'd be (rightfully) imprisoned for
mental and emotional abuse."
In a letter to Sue soon after, I wrote, "In
one-size-fits-all therapy, all participants are assaulted equally, without
regard to personality type or test results. Even I can see that guilty group
members have certain traits in common, which the innocent lack, The guilty (and
proud of it) are dependent, psychologically addictive, repressive and depressive
(even suicidal). They are indecisive, needing group approval or guidance even
for minor decisions. Most are divorced; many are alcoholics. They are not being
transformed into independent, decisive, forceful human beings; these cripples
merely swap their dependency upon alcohol, drugs, deviant sex, etc. for
dependency upon group therapy meetings (AA, weight watchers, sex-addition groups
etc.). Old Bart sang the same hymn to his god for weeks and couldn't even decide
to date someone until the group gave him a directive. Marion doesn't want to try
for graduation; he needs his weekly 'fix'."
Bart returned to the next meeting; though he'd enrolled in
private therapy, he didn't want to "lose touch" with the group so he
requested permission to attend only monthly. The departing Sue refused to commit
for future therapists.
Russell was the evening's first target. He was challenged for
his vagueness and on some seeming contradictions, then John said everyone in the
room knew he was lying.
Sue asked if I ever see the pair who accused me. I said since
I live across the street, I see them almost daily. John asked, "How does
that make you feel?" I told him I could have moved a year ago; I want to
stay where I am so that woman must face her own guilt every day of her life.
John said, "It sounds like you have some hidden resentment in there."
I told him, "No, it's not hidden at all." He answered, "Well, you
haven't let it out." I said I let it out almost daily. "Well, you
haven't been able to let go of it." I said anger seemed normal and
appropriate enough to me. John had "never seen it help."
Marion could not resist joining in. "Maybe seeing nothing
happen to you for what you did is hard on that little boy." I repeated I
had done nothing, and said he won't always be a child; when he realizes the
truth (because of physical evidence, if nothing else), the fact that I was not
imprisoned may be his greatest salvation.
Marion said, "Well, I think you did it." I said,
"I know, you always immediately jump to a hasty conclusion and no facts will sway you from it."
if I thought he was wrong about Russell. I said, "Yes. You feel it's your
obligation to bully and abuse him into a confession. He should be allowed to
share what he wants, when he wants, how he wants; it isn't your duty to beat it
out of him."
When John claimed no one would ever admit guilt without
pressure, he was reminded that both he and Marion had done so. John said he'd
been under pressure for seven years before he got to the group, so he was ready
Te-Lu interjected that since some members are guilty, they
assume everyone is and if one who does not admit guilt speaks, he is told to
shut up, that he is stealing time.
John said he wasn't sure about Chris or Te-Lu but (indicating
me), "You brought that poem in." I replied, "that poem" was
read by many people who saw only compassion and concern; not one had ever seen
what he saw. He smirked, "Experience." I said, "That's exactly
what I mean (like the ink-blot test), what you see is coming from inside
yourselves — not from the poem itself."
Sue tried to interrupt, "Everyone is here because at one
time or another, they've admitted guilt." I pointed a finger and said
"You're wrong; I did not accept nolo contendere. I have never said I was
guilty because I'm not." She amended, "You're here because a court was
convinced of your guilt." I was cut off before I could say the audience and
guests of an Oprah Winfrey show that very week were people who were remorseful
that they had convicted innocent men — including several for murder, one of whom
I asked Marion why it matters if he shares feelings with the
guilty or non-guilty, if they are understanding. Is the reluctance because,
rather than genuine remorse, they seek a fish-story swap or vicarious thrill
sharing in a private for-perverts-only club? Marion sarcastically snapped,
"Maybe this should be a support group for those who were wrongfully
convicted." I said, "I'll buy that."
That night, I wrote, "(The) therapy sessions are much
like college fraternity initiations in which through seniority, guilty members
earn the right to cruelly haze pledges for their own sadistic pleasure except
that the consequences for failure are more dire than just non-membership. It
seems the lack of human compassion that makes guilty members capable of such a
heinous offense in the first place also makes them so vicious in
Before the next session, Bart, complaining that he didn't
want to "get so involved" with women (who immediately wanted to move in with
him), joked, "Old
Marion over there is looking better all the time." Marion then bragged
about a bartender who brought him free drinks and of the many men he had to
"beat off' each week. To Bart, he added, "And some of them like older
men." Though "gay-bashing" is a serious offense in group, I'm
sure I winced.
The New Therapists
When the meeting began, two new therapists, Nancy and Linda,
were introduced. When Joe said he hoped (something I can't recall) didn't give
them any trouble, one of the young ladies said, "I hope it doesn't give you
any trouble — you're the one with all the problems!" To myself, I said,
we go, again. Both new interns then left.
When Joe talked about his anger at his brother, again, Sue
reminded him that the anger was appropriate (although at the immediately
previous meeting, my anger at having my life ruined without cause had been
John and Bart discussed at length how they coped with a continuing lust for
children. John spoke of a time Dr. Boggs had used
"visualization therapy" on him, forcing him to visualize his daughter
with a pistol in her mouth and her brains splattered all over the wall; he said
when he feels sexual desire for girls, he recalls that image. Though he is still
fighting those urges, he had attended a high school football game that week.
Although Marion has insisted he never feels such desires (for boys), anymore, he
assured John the feelings would never go away. Bart (who is 62) said,
"Trust me, both the desires and the guilt will fade with time."
The only thing everyone shared was a discomfort around
children. John said, "It's too bad, I really loved them."
John bitterly inquired about "how many more years"
he must attend; Sue did not know. (The program head promised to tell her.)
said, "It depends upon the mood 'he' is in at your meeting." I said,
"The word is arbitrary." She said, "Thank you for that."
The next week, the two new therapists, Nancy and Linda,
handed out copies of progress reports. I do not "admit guilt" or
readily accept help (yield to peer pressure) from the group, so mine was
unsatisfactory. Since Glenn had paid his $3500+ debt (ransom?), he was
successfully terminated from the program.
Bart asked to attend monthly because he needs the group
"input" to guide his life and because "several of these guys are
headed for prison; I need to let them know what they're in for." After a group vote,
permission was granted.
Mike Boggs was discussed. John said when the group first
began, it was just men with Boggs and "we got down in the gutter."
Sue arrived, they felt restrained but it soon passed. I added that the level of
aggression had subsided when Dr. Boggs left. John described Mike Boggs as
abusive, abrasive and an " hole."
Marion (the only one to defend Dr.
Boggs) explained that after his first meeting, John had run away and tried to
commit suicide. The new therapists asked if he now felt such measures were
helpful. John said he did not and that if his suicide attempt had been
successful, it really would have helped nothing.
Marion said, "Well, it worked!" John denied that
abusive behavior contributed to any progress. Marion said Dr. Boggs had a lot of
insight into who was "bull
ing" and added that, on balance, he did
more good than bad. Bart said, "No, on balance, he was still an
When Nancy and Linda asked if Dr. Boggs' job wasn't to
confront members, I said, "Perhaps, but there was no reason to do it in
such a sarcastic, backhanded way." Marion said Dr. Boggs believed I had
committed a violent act and wouldn't accept responsibility for it. I said,
"Whatever his reasoning, it was very unprofessional." Others said they
refused to open and share because of Dr. Boggs' attacks and that they dreaded
coming because "it might be my turn to be put on the spot."
When it was suggested that Marion and John had adopted the
same hostile behavior, John said, "I learned it from them." Perhaps
because there were several accusers and only one defender, one intern asked if
everyone had been familiar with Dr. Boggs. (They had.)
When asked about goals for therapy, Bart suggested
"education," saying in prison, members studied library books and made
weekly reports. John said he found plenty about victims but little on abusers.
Marion said since victims grow up to be perpetrators, they were one and the
same, so keep reading.
There was another conversation about the foremost attributes
of a child-molester (inability to communicate and alcoholism). John said an
unwillingness to talk proved there was something to hide. Bart disagreed, saying
alcoholism, inability to communicate, and child molestation were all symptoms of
a deeper problem. He said, "You can't kill us, you can't lock us up for the
rest of our lives so you'd better start trying to understand us and help
When Nancy asked Russell how he felt at being questioned, he
said, "On the spot." When he was told that was not a feeling, he added, "Uncomfortable."
She asked if he didn't feel better after questioning. "No."
Sue had repeatedly asked my opinion of sessions. After
several unpleasant confrontations, I learned not to answer these questions.
However, at her departure, I gave her a lengthy analysis. Among the points I
made are the following:
Group members who merely memorize stock question-and-answer
routines or play expected roles in a structured environment to please jailers
and thus escape further torture have not experienced heartfelt repentance.
found it enlightening that John was so quick to accuse another of "saying
just what you think (she) wants to hear." Was he not judging from his own
heart and mind?
The guiltless are constantly assaulted with "confess or
be thrown out; compromise your integrity or be punished" but as an innocent
victim, I have no hope for anything positive from the group. The innocent are
offered only a menu of (a) violating their consciences by surrendering or (b)
being punished with failure (and thus prison). Why should we be eager to
participate? Where is the incentive?
I see no redeeming virtue in (that) therapy program. The only
value the program may have is as a deterrent. Anybody who has been forced to
endure it should go to great lengths to avoid a second sentence. But that's not
therapy, that's punishment.
The crime of rape is not that two people have intercourse
(millions willingly and eagerly engage in sexual relations daily). The harm is
that human dignity and personhood are violated and victims are robbed of
decision making and control over their own lives.
That is exactly what happens to me every week. By court
order, I enter an inquisition chamber with people whose opinions and judgment
(based on perverse experience and values) and motives (to divert attention from
themselves by focusing it on others) I do not respect to be assaulted and
insulted because I won't acquiesce to their need to drag me down to their level,
then ultimately be sentenced to expulsion for the crime of innocence — for not
compromising my integrity by admitting to something I did not do.
In a quest to find the worst in fellow inmates, the group
will discuss any topic — no matter how farfetched — to establish guilt or motive for
guilt. But anything that illustrates innocence is "outside the scope of the
group" or "for the courts — not us — to decide."
There is something unjust about a therapy group in which all
pay exactly the same fee to attend but only the guilty are deemed worthy of help
and attention while the guiltless are ostracized and ignored, except to be threatened and accused of lying.
There is something abnormal and unsettling about any
environment in which the guilty are encouraged to browbeat, bully, abuse,
threaten and sit in judgment on the guiltless.
There is something perverse about a situation in which guilt
is praised, innocence punished and compassion considered a character flaw.
And there is something stupid in a logic that says continued
abuse can produce respect, trust and confidence.
Them Against Us — Admitters and Deniers
With the departure of Mike Boggs, the new regime, under Nancy
and Linda, grew gradually less suppressive and hostile. Though the vicious
personal attacks decreased and group members grew more open about sharing
feelings, there remained the problem of what to do about those who deny guilt.
A few weeks after joining us, Nancy and Linda were given a
presentation about the attack mentality instigated and promulgated by Mike
Boggs. I said I was told after the first session that the only way to escape
being attacked is to join an attack on someone else; I refuse to live that way.
I added that even though I'd come to the group with needs, I'd been given the
clear message that because I won't admit guilt, I am the scum of the earth, not
worthy of help, and that while the entire group leans toward a cut-and-slash
mentality, the longer the association with Dr. Boggs, the more his tactics are
Te-Lu repeated what he'd been told about "deniers"
wasting the time of the guilty when we speak. When Marion and John complained
about the deniers' failure to empathize with their feelings, Te-Lu asked how
innocent men telling lies to win approval would help that. I added that we could
sit around making up stories but how would that benefit anyone?
Nancy closed by saying, "Well gentlemen, there you have
denial in action; that's the way it looks." Such rash statements show why
this program can never win the trust and respect of people who actually are
The next week, Nancy and Linda began by telling us they
wanted to deal with business and clarify some "misconceptions" they
had detected the previous week. They first named all those members who were
behind in payments, saying regular payments are part of taking responsibility,
as were attendance and tardiness. Any participant who is more than 15 minutes
late must give a good excuse and the group must vote about whether he may stay and receive credit for that
meeting. If he is absent more than once consecutively, he must provide an excuse
and the group will decide whether to retain or expel him. After 25 group
meetings each group member must schedule an individual session with the program
director (though since there is no hope of change of status at that point, no
one knows why). Nancy and Linda emphasized the importance of
about what goes on in the sessions.
I asked Nancy to describe her method of confrontation. When
she could not, I suggested that she "coaxed" thoughts from people
rather than hitting them in the head with a club. I added that the
"them-against-us" mentality (a term by Marion the previous week) that
had dominated group was destructive and that calling each other names and
attacking personalities was counterproductive; after such stone-throwings, none
of us left the meetings a better person. I said that we need to confront issues
and emotions and motivations rather than each other. Nancy asked the group if
they felt the same "them-against-us" attitude and all agreed that they
Three weeks later three new group members were admitted. The
meeting began with each person introducing himself and giving some background.
All three of the new group members readily admitted guilt.
Jake reported on his after-25-sessions meeting with the
program director and said he'd been "stepped on like a bug." Though he
admits to indecency and tying a neighbor girl up, he denies sexually assaulting
her. The director said he "wasn't buying" that story and told him to
deliver a message to the "other deniers" in the group. The message was
that they wouldn't be with the group much longer and he threatened that he'd be
seeing them "very soon." Jake said he seriously considered confessing
to something he hadn't done just to escape the constant, vindictive attacks.
One of the new members said he had met the program director
four times and that he is a kind, gentle, understanding man. But several others
warned, "Just wait 'til he doesn't get the behavior he wants (which
includes a full admission of guilt). He can turn (instantly antagonistic)
Several members noticed that John had become increasingly
bitter over the past few weeks and asked him about this. He said it is partly
the way he'd been treated by the program director but that he also resents the
way Nancy and Linda run the group, "analyzing everything to death."
His harsh feelings seem to center on the fact that with Mike Boggs, he was
programmed by the hostility and abuse and looked forward to getting even by
abusing newcomers. When Nancy and Linda began doing more probing and inquiring than assaulting, he
felt cheated. He called the initial sessions with Dr. Boggs their "Upper
Room experience where (they) were all baptized in the Holy Ghost."
My next progress report was very different from the first. I
didn't see that I had changed my behavior, but the group atmosphere had improved
drastically. The report said:
"Mr. Lee's attendance and payment have been excellent. While he continues to deny his offense, his recent participation has been more
appropriate and instrumental to group process. It is encouraged that Mr. Lee
continue working as he has in the past few weeks to be open to other group
members and their feedback."
The group continues to grapple with the problem of
"deniers," with the them-against-us mentality, and with the program
director's threats. When the arrival of the new members was announced, the first
question was, "Have they admitted guilt?" (In other words, would there
be more "them" or more us"?) One new member complained that he
"isn't comfortable" with those in the room who do not admit guilt and
Te-Lu countered that he often does not speak because "they"
(admitters) might not like it.
Concerning Te-Lu's question of how to resolve the conflict of
not getting thrown out without violating his conscience, one new member said
that as long as he knows the truth, just go along to satisfy the program's
demands and stay out of prison. Te-Lu asked how concocting lies is therapeutic
or beneficial to himself or others. Marion said that he would be offended at
such an empty ruse. Jake added that although they'd been told that no
information ever leaves the room, if he told such a tale, it would leave the
room because he'd carry the lie inside him as long as he lives. I said that
after all the advice, the solution must come from within
himself; only he can make the decision and only he must live with it.
Under Nancy and Linda's guidance, group members gradually
grow more self-disclosing and supportive. When confrontation does occur, it is
less abusive and hostile, more appropriate and helpful. Instead of sarcasm and
verbal abuse, one way Nancy and Linda try to encourage members' contributions is
a 'round-robin" policy of letting each member give a brief summary of
"where you are" at the beginning and close of each session. The
splinter of the deniers continues to fester but it is not resolved.
I recently commented, "We keep hearing about denial. Want to know who's in denial.
The university. They refuse to acknowledge someone
can be falsely convicted and put in here unjustly, and that's denial. I added,
"I'm fed up with my word being given no merit when we (deniers) bring our
money, ourselves, our feelings and emotions, our ideas, suggestions and help,
and even though we contribute just as much as the guilty, all we can look
forward to is being thrown out."
At the end of this session, Nancy deliberately thanked
"everyone" for their attention and interest, and for the
Unlike my peers, my after-25-session meeting with the program
director lasted some 40 minutes during which I shared the highlights of what had
happened to me. And unlike them, the department head did not try to impute guilt
to me or express disbelief in my words. However, I am retained in the program
because, "No one could have gone through such a trauma without having
strong feelings" (even though it has been forbidden to share those
"strong feelings" without first admitting to nonexistent guilt).