I’m not driven to tears often. I see myself as staunch and stoic. Last night, however, I found my face bathed in that salty fluid as I listened to myself assure a victim of a crime that justice would now be done.
“They know about him now,” I said. “They’ll do something.”
It is an interview I taped on 9/28/1992. I listened as life occasionally interrupted the conversation I had with Judy. My sons came in and out of my room, and my beloved dogs barked. Judy choked back tears as she told me her story—a horrific one in my eyes. An eleven-year-old girl fearing for her life as she was sexually assaulted; her young brother hunkering down with her in what they called their fort in the attic telling tales of assault, too. Her mother, addicted to prescription drugs by the offending doctor, proclaiming to the doctor that he would have to help them now. He didn’t.
I had not yet developed a more professional journalistic approach. I was amateurish. But I dug to get the details and am ashamed and proud of myself for doing so. It was a beginning for me. What I hadn’t put together yet was that the case had already ended.
The man frequented schools and home for disabled children in his capacity as a doctor. Judy told me he had a large photo of a Mongoloid girl-child dressed in a transparent negligee on his wall.
(There are documents and newspaper articles under the links.)
I had collected a mish/mash of records, documents, and newspaper articles. I would pour over them in the coming years—connecting one dot after another. I would suffer for it. Little did I know, I was a threat, and threats are taken out. I was a ringleader—a voice. A very loud one at that. I have a vivid recollection of sitting across from a police detective and having him say to me,
“You’re quite the little crusader, aren’t you.”
It was a statement rather than a question.
As I said—the case had already ended. Agencies, hospitals, and even the DA’s office had known about this child predator for years, going forward with prosecution would reveal that fact. The DA had declined to prosecute Judy’s case in 1977. Her mother had nearly stabbed a doctor to death in his office in 1977, over her daughter’s sexual assault. The article referencing the stabbing is here.
WhenTed was stabbed, two colleagues from the adjoining children’s hospital rushed to the ER to be with him as doctors attended his wounds. Dr. Phillip Lazeroff and a social worker. I asked Ted, 4 years after he was stabbed, to help me get this guy off the streets.
He looked me full in the face and said, “No.”
I could see fear in him.
I’m sure my jaw must have hit the floor as I sputtered, “How can you look at your own children and not want to do something?”
I didn’t understand why he was afraid until much later. I suspect it would have been professional suicide. He rallied 6 years later and went gung-ho on stopping this man.
I swear Ted Sheftel was one of the bravest men I have ever known. A year or so after he helped, He moved out of Massachusetts. I suspect he burned all his bridges by taking Friedman out. Knowing what I now know, I suspect his colleagues–his longtime colleagues–may have ostracized him. He’s old and sick now, but I hope he doesn’t regret what he did.
In 1977, the Court psychiatrist (Dr. David Swenson) listened to Shirley Chouinard reiterate her story and her daughter, Judy’s. This document was produced in subsequent years. I interviewed Dr. Swenson. He was a kind, old man. He told me he had urged the DA to prosecute Friedman, and the DA had declined. Scratch Judy’s case. The DA had already declined to prosecute it. But it proves that the DA knew about a dangerous sexual predator years earlier. (This was probably communicated to the police prosecutor, which means the police knew about the man.)
A number of us came forward in the late 80s. Those articles are here.
Earlier, in 1975, a child’s aunt took her to a local children’s hospital. They made this report documenting the sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl. So doctors at a local hospital knew. Mandatory Reporting was in force at this time, and laws were broken in order to keep this hush-hush. In subsequent years, they simply stopped recording allegations.
In the late 60s/early 70s, Catholic Charities ran 25% of all outpatient mental health clinics in the state of Massachusetts. Children that came from troubled families often ended up in this type of care. The building the offending doctor worked in was owned by The Boston Archdiocese. I had a conversation with a woman who told me she had been on the Board of Directors of the organization located in that building, and a Father Hart had urged them to write letters demanding the offending doctor’s resignation. When she asked why she was told just write it. The doctor resigned and moved on to another state. Sound familiar? Better still, the Father who solved their problem was shoved up the ranks 6 months later. He received a promotion.
I had reported the man in 1969. So by 1992, professionals had known about this man for 23 years.
The system failed these children.
The system failed me.
About the Author: Joyce Bowen is a freelance writer and public speaker. Inquiries can be made at firstname.lastname@example.org
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