The New York Times (on August 25, 2008 and November 24, 2008)reports that pediatrician and author Dr. Melvin D. Levine “is facing five lawsuits accusing him of molesting young boys during physical examinations” (Accused Pediatrician is Leaving Institute, Nov. 24, 2008). Levine co-founded the All Kinds of Minds Institute, whose mission is “to help students who struggle with learning measurably improve their success in school and life by providing programs that integrate educational, scientific and clinical expertise”.
He is famous for the PBS documentary about learning disabilities, Misunderstood Minds.
In reading about the case(s), what disturbs me most is all the people defending him by saying, basically, that he couldn’t have sexually abused children because he ” had a remarkably good rapport with children,” (Dr. Paul H. Dworkin, “Star Pediatrician Fights Accusations of Sex Abuse”), or because his educational theories are so revolutionary. I suppose such shock is a normal response, but it doesn’t prove that allegations of abuse are untrue. (I’ve had trouble believing someone who abused me could “do something like that,” and the something-like-that happened to me).
Which reminds me of something that really disturbed me in Pam
Tanguay’s book Nonverbal Learning Disabilities at Home:
Picture the ten-year-old NLD child whose friend, angry with his parents for whatever reason, confides that his parents are mean, don’t love him, beat him, and confine him to his room. The neurologically typical child would consider all of the facts–that she knows the parents quite well, they seem kind and loving, and she also knows her friend has a tendency to exaggerate. If there is any question of truth in the child’s mind, she will talk it over with her parents. However, the NLD child, taking these statements at face value…tells the school nurse, who is then required to report suspected parental abuse to the state authorities. The poor NLD child gets in trouble with her parents… (p. 138).
While talking about a friend’s allegations of abuse over with one’s parents may be a good idea, Tanguay assumes that people can judge the accuracy of such claims by how well one knows the alleged abusers and if they “seem kind and loving.” It’s ironic that Tanguay would consider such a thing a fact–many convicted abusers “seem kind and loving” not only because they act “nice,” but because there are things about them that we associate with “niceness” or “not doing things like that”: because they are family, because they
work with children, because they’ve won awards, because they don’t fit the stereotype of what an abuser should be. If Pam Tanguay’s hypothetical NLDer was my child, she wouldn’t get in trouble with me. If the abuse allegations were a lie, the fault lies with the kid who lied. (You don’t prank call 911 and you don’t lie about being abused).
I don’t know if the allegations against Dr. Levine are true or not,though I certainly will be following the case. But I don’t think some of the “evidence” used to prove they are true (“he voluntarily gave up his medical license. I don’t know any doctor who was innocent who would have done so” ) or aren’t (“For a man who has spent his entire life trying to save troubled families…these are the worst type of allegations”) proves anything.