By Andrea Redman, HAVEN Therapist
As a victim advocate and counselor for adults and child victims of sexual abuse I am more than doubly disturbed by the points Laura Berman has made in the article, “Peeping Case Doubly Troubling” which appeared in her column with the Detroit News on December 8, 2011
Laura Berman’s article focuses on Dr. Weinblatt, who was accused of repeatedly watching a 12-year-old girl (who was also his patient since birth and next door neighbor) undress in the safety of her own home.
Ms. Berman chooses to focus on the actions of the child and her mother, detailing how they should have acted to prevent being peeped on and what they should have done in response to that crime. Ms. Berman, to put it simply, you are blaming the victim. Your article devalues the mother and child in this case and shifts the focus of the reader from the real issue, which is a very established and trusted doctor in the community was caught on video watching his 12-year-old neighbor and lifelong patient undress in her own bedroom on at least four different occasions.
Laura Berman chooses to refer to the alleged perpetrator as the “good doctor” and a “respected community figure” detailing how his life and practice (which gives him unlimited access to minor children) have been suspended, while he must “fight these charges” and minimizes the serious nature of the alleged crime by describing it as just “inordinately creepy.” Ms. Berman goes on to examine and critique the mother’s choices upon noticing her pediatrician and next door neighbor watching her 12-year-old child undress. Ms. Berman’s exact words are:
“I don’t know the good — or not so good — doctor. But no matter what the court verdict or truth is, his reputation is sullied and his career derailed. These are neighbors, remember. But rather than confronting him directly, or suggesting her daughter dress elsewhere, a mother allowed her daughter to willfully disrobe in clear view of the neighbor’s window. That was a strategic move and a choice, not that she had any easy choices to make. In the complicated world in which we live, it can be both simpler and more proper to shatter a man’s life than to close the blinds. “
Ms. Berman I have several questions for you:
1. By suggesting the child dress elsewhere or that they close the blinds are you meaning to imply to the reader that the problem lies with the temptation that a 12-year-old girl gives to a grown man and that if he happens to see her naked, well, he can’t help staring and lingering at the window?
2. Do you realize you suggested that the other option (and more reasonable as it could be inferred by your semantics) was that the mother pull the blinds or confront her neighbor and as you put it well-respected good doctor she believes to be peeping on her child? How safe did you assume a woman with a young child would feel confronting such an established member of the community on his own doorstep?
3. What exactly should she have said to her daughter? In case you aren’t sure I took the liberty of writing a script:
“Honey your doctor, the nice man who lives next door, well, he has been watching you undress through your window and I think that it is because he is tempted by your 12-year-old body and it makes him aroused. Please, for the sake of his name and reputation, can’t we just close the blinds? I will go talk to him and ask him if he would be able to refrain from watching you undress and lingering in his window to see your naked body. Okay honey, well go outside and play and remember, please be nice to Dr. Weinblatt if you see him outside.”
4. In light of the Sandusky case that has been ever-present in the news it is hard to imagine that you really suggested this mother look the other way after noticing inappropriate criminal sexual behavior from the next door pediatrician, is that what you were intending to suggest? To further clarify for our readers, were you suggesting that the victim’s mother protect the alleged perpetrator over the hundreds of children he comes into contact within his practice?
Ms. Berman, you may not have intended to so blatantly blame the victim in this case. You may even defend your story by saying that the “good doctor” is innocent until proven guilty. It is possible to preserve the dignity and rights of the victim while also respecting the presumption of innocence until proven by guilty without dissecting the actions of the victim and her mother. What is there to gain by defending an accused child predator before his trial has even begun? I prefer to protect the rights of children and their caregivers, assuming their innocence in their own victimization and refrain from suggesting what I would have done in their position, because the truth is, it is not possible to know. It is my hope that you never do know what it’s like to be in the victims position Ms. Berman, but if you or someone you love is I will be there to defend your rights should some writer put the blame and judgment on your shoulders.
If you feel the same as Andrea, please feel free to leave a comment on the Detroit News article, or contact Ms. Berman directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (313) 222-2032.