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Ethical Treatment for All Youth
Email: etay@ethicaltreatment.org

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Sex Therapy 'Nightmare' Or Cure?
By Alison Young, Arizona Republic, Sunday, July 26, 1992, Final edition, page A1.

The program is cloaked in secrecy, thanks to laws requiring confidentiality for juveniles and medical patients...The Republic learned that more than 100 children, more than one-third of them 10 to 12 years old, go through the program each year...

Many are tested for deviant sexual responses by a penile plethysmograph, a ringlike device slipped around the penis to measure changes in circumference as a patient views nude photographs. The program includes use of aversion therapy, in which patients inhale ammonia to prevent inappropriate arousal, along with group therapy and counseling. Critics, who say such treatment is tantamount to child abuse, allege that Phoenix Memorial and the state are using confidentiality laws to protect the program from scrutiny...

Although Phoenix Memorial maintains that these are dangerous sex offenders, critics point out that these children, almost invariably, first were victims...

"I'm furious about what that hospital has done," said the mother of a 12-year-old girl who spent six weeks in the program. "My daughter was the victim of sexual abuse. They never once focused on that, but they definitely nailed her as a child molester, as a pedophile."...

Therapists insisted that the girl was a rapist. The girl wouldn't admit that, but her therapists persisted until one day she tried to kill herself, the mother said. "They found her in the bathroom with a plastic bag over her head," she said.

"At the beginning of the (group-therapy) meetings, they'd make her identify herself as a perpetrator. To this day, she's traumatized by it, she cries about it. They kept telling her she'd do it again and there was no way she could prevent it."

The girl's treatment included ammonia aversion therapy...The hospital had told the girl to record a sexual fantasy. "Then every time she listened to it, she had to use that ammonia," the woman said. "It wasn't really a fantasy, it was just really bizarre. On the tape she was talking about hurting this child (in a violent, sexual manner). My daughter is very passive; she's never been violent."

The woman is convinced that the fantasy came from the minds of therapists. "They told her she had to make this tape. She had to rewrite and rewrite until they were sure she'd get sexually aroused to it."...

A 17-year-old boy credits Phoenix Memorial with saving him. A year ago, he was molesting other children, even taking pornographic pictures of them. Now, he said, his problems are over and he's looking ahead to college...Nor was the boy bothered by the ammonia treatment. "I'd try to make it fun, I'd try to make my eyes water as much as I could," he said. "I was the best at it on the floor."... "By the end of the month, after all the ammonia capsules, I had no arousal to anything," he said...

[In another case,] the parents thought they were doing the right thing. They had found out that their two sons, then 13 and 11, had "experimented with oral sex" after seeing photos depicting the act in pornographic magazines...They were referred to Phoenix Memorial...

The father said, "Since (the older brother) was so much bigger, they thought (he) must be the aggressor and (the younger brother) was the victim. That's the only way they would look at it." Therapists would not accept the younger boy's denials that he had been forced into oral sex, the father said.

[During plethysmograph tests, he was shown photographs of people and asked questions about them.] ...the questions became more explicit, the family said...The family contends that the questions were designed to elicit deviant responses...

When family members sought to place his son elsewhere, they said hospital officials threatened to recommend that Child Protective Services take custody of their younger son... "It was our worst nightmare," the mother said. "If what they did to our family is any example, they're destroying families, not mending families."

Four years ago, another mother was relieved to have her 14-year-old son in Phoenix Memorial's locked ward on the fifth floor. By all measures, he was out of control, she said. He was abusive, dealing in drugs...He had tracked a 6-year-old boy walking home from the store, forced him to take his clothes off, robbed him, then molested him...

The boy, now 18 and in college, said, "When I went in, I wasn't aware of some of the things I was doing, that they were wrong. It made me aware of what I was doing and led me on a path of being cured."

Therapy Made Boy Violent, Grandma Says
By Alison Young, Arizona Republic, Thursday, July 9, 1992, Final edition, page A1.

When Phoenix Memorial Hospital admitted an 11-year-old Valley boy to its sex-therapy program in April, he wasn't considered dangerous. Two months later, the hospital contends that the boy is violent, has homicidal fantasies, and is a threat to society, court records obtained Wednesday show.

The boy's grandmother blamed hospital staff and the controversial treatment for his behavior..."Any rat can be pushed into a corner and will come out fighting."...

As more details have come to light, critics allege that Phoenix Memorial and the state are using confidentiality laws for juveniles in an attempt to cloak the entire program and this case in secrecy. These same critics point to the boy's case as an example of a child put into the program without cause, who was treated with inappropriate and potentially dangerous methods, and who may have become violent as a result...

The grandmother said the state used two incidents to justify the boy's admission. The most recent involved "trying to play with a dog's testicles." The other occurred a year ago in Tucson when officials discovered her grandson and another boy "playing with each other." The woman said the boys only looked and touched each other and that no penetration occurred. "It was mutual," she said...

The boy has been tested once with a penile plethysmograph, a ringlike device that was slipped around the middle of his penis to measure changes in erection when he was shown a series of nude photographs.

The grandmother said the boy told her he briefly underwent ammonia aversion treatments about a week after being admitted to the program. "He said he had to take the ammonia three times a day," the grandmother said...The therapy involves having the child view or listen to material deemed sexually deviant. If the child becomes aroused, he must inhale from an ampul of ammonia.

Hospital officials have said the boy was not involved in ammonia therapy.

Some of the grandmother's contentions seem to be supported by court filings. In April, according to a Child Protective Services memorandum, it was "collectively perceived by all parties that (the boy) is not currently seen as a serious danger to harm himself or others."...

But after three days in the program, the boy was judged to be dangerous, the documents show...The boy's grandmother said the boy had not been violent previously. If the hospital's claims are true, she said, the boy is reacting only to the way he has been treated...

12-Year-Old Taken Out Of Sex Therapy Court Slaps 'Gag' On Parties In Case
By Alison Young, Arizona Republic, Friday, July 3, 1992, Final edition, page A1.

A 12-year-old Valley boy who has spent several weeks undergoing sex therapies at Phoenix Memorial Hospital was removed from the program Thursday afternoon. Information about why the boy was moved, where he went and who instigated the transfer was ordered to be kept secret by Juvenile Court Commissioner Robert Budoff, who "gagged" all parties in the case.

Juvenile proceedings usually are cloaked in confidentiality to protect the identity of the youngsters. But Budoff did not return telephone calls to explain why no information at all, even procedural matters that would not hint at the boy's identity, could be released.

"This is perhaps the smartest thing the state can do," said Louis Rhodes, executive director of the Arizona Civil Liberties Union. "What it does is to try to close the lid on the dark chasm of a program they have up there. It may make the case moot, slam the door and raise the veil of secrecy."...

Budoff issued the initial order for the boy to undergo treatment at Phoenix Memorial Hospital 's sex-offender program May 21, after the boy allegedly molested another child. Presiding Judge James McDougall of Maricopa County Juvenile Court denied a request by the boy's mother and the ACLU to halt the treatment.

On June 22, the ACLU took the case out of the realm of the Juvenile Court and sought a special action through the Court of Appeals to stop the treatment. The next day, after reviewing more than 100 pages of arguments that the hospital's sex-therapy program is unproven and potentially dangerous, the appeals court ordered the hospital to stop using the penile plethysmograph on the boy. Under the appeals court order, the hospital also was barred temporarily from treating the boy with "aversion therapy."