Denist Defends Sexual Assault of Patients as Medical Treatment

Trigger Warning

Since I’ve been blogging, I’ve come across a whole slew of excuses for rape and other sexual assault, made both by perpetrators themselves and their supporters.  The stream is almost never-ending, and they’re usually pretty easy to recognize.  There’s the “what did she expect dressed/acting like that?” defense, the “well, she didn’t say no” defense, the “oh, it was a joke!” defense — you get the picture.

But while not entirely unheard of, the “I was just providing medical treatment” defense is relatively new.

That’s precisely the defense used by a dentist convicted of sexually assaulting a dozen female patients during their visits to his office. Check it out (emphasis mine):

In an emotional statement, Anderson said he was sorry that the women he’s convicted of molesting didn’t realize he was simply providing treatment.

Anderson wept during his sentencing hearing before some of his victims and Judge Mock.

The prominent dentist, who once had a thriving practice and loyal patients, was convicted by a jury March 10 on a dozen counts of sexual battery for molesting female patients.

Anderson, 49, has been free on his own recognizance since his arrest in 2007.

In a courtroom packed with his victims, supporters and media in the historic Woodland courthouse, Anderson made his tearful statement to the judge. He insisted that what he had done was treatment for the women’s pain.

Anderson’s defense at trial was that he had touched the women’s chests as treatment for TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, a painful jaw condition.

“What I did was an honest attempt to help my patients,” he said today.

[. . .]

During testimony at Anderson’s trial, victims said that Anderson reached into their bras and made comments about their breasts. Candis Barajas, 30, said Anderson had violated her trust and used his patients’ vulnerability in the dental chair for his own sexual gratification.

Later on in the article, Anderson’s actions are described as “fondling.”

Now, admittedly, I’m no doctor.  When trying to figure out what kind of treatment Anderson might have conceivably been trying to administer, I mostly came up with articles about, well, him.  But I did find at least a few pieces of evidence that massaging an area that is experiencing pain due to TMJ may be helpful.

So, since I’m not a doctor, I’m just going to go ahead an assume for the moment that there is a reasonable chance that for someone with TMJ, massaging a painful area on the chest could help to relieve that pain.  But, even if accepted, that still leaves us with quite a few problems:

1. I’m pretty sure that massaging the chest and massaging the breasts are two completely different things.  With the exception of the very top of the breasts, I imagine that in most women, rubbing there isn’t really going to get down to where the pain is.  There’s just generally going to be too much fat in the way.

2. I’m even more sure that even if I’m wrong and massaging the breasts was somehow useful, it would, like a breast exam, be remarkably different from what one might call “fondling.”

3. I’m absolutely positive that massaging a woman’s chest to relieve pain as medical treatment is radically different from making comments about her breasts.

4. Most importantly of all, I could not possibly be more sure that there is absolutely no excuse for this dentist, or anyone else, to reach into a woman’s bra and touch her damn breasts unless she is told why it might help her and has given her informed consent. Not for any fucking reason, and that includes medical treatment.

I also think that it’s important to note that the good dentist in this case claims his innocence while making quite a peculiar and telling additional defense (emphasis mine):

Anderson said his family had been through a horrible ordeal and he would have never have done anything to jeopardize his marriage of 28 years. He said he already has been punished by the loss of income.

Right.  Because obviously the best reason to not assault women under your care is because it might jeopardize your marriage!  Not because it’s wrong, or traumatizing to the women who you’re victimizing, or sexual assault or anything.

Anderson has been sentenced to 6 years in state prison.  No word on whether or not he’ll be allowed to go back to practicing once he’s out.  Let’s hope not.

Thanks to Renee for the link.


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24 Responses to Denist Defends Sexual Assault of Patients as Medical Treatment

  1. debbie says:

    Huh. I was just diagnosed with TMJ two hours ago, and amazingly, it didn’t require any touching below my neck, let alone my breasts. What an arrogant asshole to imagine that people would believe such a bullshit argument.

  2. KathyMarie says:

    The massive self-pity behind his tears and open weeping make me want to vomit. Yes, this is all about him. What he’s going through. What he believes happened (or is trying to convince us of). Fucker.

  3. Sheelzebub says:

    Yeah, Debbie, me too. I’ve got a nasty case of TMJ (serious clicking and facial pain at times) and the treatment will be a mouth appliance, not a grope. Go figure.

  4. Abyss2hope says:

    This is another case where the defendant reveals his rationalizations. He wanted to fondle women’s breasts and he found what to him was a plausible reason for doing what he wanted to do — without getting in trouble with the law or his wife.

    Thankfully, in this case his rationalizations weren’t accepted as evidence which nullified his crime and the violation of his patients.

  5. XtinaS says:

    In an emotional statement, Anderson said he was sorry that the women he’s convicted of molesting didn’t realize he was simply providing treatment.

    I… am… agog.  Wow.  What a thoroughly self-centered asshole.  I am impressed.

  6. preying mantis says:

    I too cannot think of anything past the clavicle, short of acupuncture/acupressure, that would even theoretically do a damned thing for TMJ.

    “Anderson said he was sorry that the women he’s convicted of molesting didn’t realize he was simply providing treatment.”

    You know, I’d think that having a dozen patients who just didn’t seem to realize that you were providing medical treatment when you did x would be a pretty clear sign that, even if you actually were providing medical treatment by doing x, it did not clear the bar for the informed and consenting parts of what make medical treatment not-assault.

  7. Renee says:

    Thanks for writing this up Cara. It troubled me very deeply when I read this story and I just did not have the words to do a take down on it.

  8. Antigone says:

    Even if he was trying to deliver medical care, it’s STILL sexual assault if he didn’t get informed consent. That’s no defense at all.

  9. Chris says:

    “Anderson said he was sorry that the women he’s convicted of molesting didn’t realize he was simply providing treatment.”

    Yeah, it’s not like he has some magic box in his head that produces sounds that can be interpreted to mean things. There was just no way for him to make them realize!

    Of course, he’s obviously lying, so that’s kind of a moot point anyway.

  10. amandaw says:

    I have been to many, many doctors in my life.

    With one exception, every doctor who has to touch me in any way will indicate what they are going to do, and if it’s anything more questionable than pinching my big toe, they ask. Even when they listen with their stethescopes. Even when they feel my spine. Even when I have to lie back and let them check the gut area.

    They explain what they are going to do, and if it’s not standard, they explain why it’s beneficial — what it is going to tell them or what it is going to do for me. I mean, it’s very short. They don’t sit there and verbally recite a five-page article on this testing method or that treatment.

    But they always
    1) inform the patient and
    2) confirm their consent.

    Treatment requires consent. Period, end of story. Just the same as sexual interaction. Treatment requires the consent of the treated. I haven’t been through med school myself, but I will bet you the contents of my savings account that they emphasize this strongly when they are going through ethics. I guarandamntee it. No medical professional ever touches a patient without the patient’s consent. Even the nurses explain what they’re going to do before they check your gdamn pulse.

    All of this is meant to drive home the point that this doctor knew damn fucking well what he was doing. He wasn’t “treating” the patients, and if that is what he meant to do (very doubtful) it is still a major violation of professional and commonfuckingsense ethics.

    So even own his defense condemns him.

  11. RD says:

    No medical professional ever touches a patient without the patient’s consent.

    O/T…if you are in a psych ward they do… :(

  12. OK, I had really severa TMJ issues a while back. Bad enough thatthe muscle pain did extend past my head & neck. You know where it went? Down my *BACK*. Because that’s where that particular bunch of muscles goes. As if TMJ itself didn’t suck enough on its own….

    [Mod note: Trigger Warning]

    Sometimes, I find myself hoping guys like this end up someone’s “bitch” in prison so they can find out what it feels like to be so deeply violated. But then I realize that they’ll never believe that what they did was that bad.

  13. evil_fizz says:

    Sometimes, I find myself hoping guys like this end up someone’s “bitch” in prison so they can find out what it feels like to be so deeply violated. But then I realize that they’ll never believe that what they did was that bad.

    I’m not saying that wanting someone truly comprehend what it means to be assaulted and violated isn’t an understandable urge or desire, but framing it like this is incredibly problematic for a number of reasons: the element of exploiting homophobia, the added perceived dirtiness of anal sex, the misogyny necessarily inherent in the idea of being someone’s bitch, etc. Wishing for vengeance isn’t per se wrong on its own terms. Wishing for vengeance like this is.

  14. Cara says:

    Wishing for vengeance isn’t per se wrong on its own terms. Wishing for vengeance like this is.

    Thank you for saying it, evil_fizz. I mean, I have hugely severe issues with seeking revenge in the form of rape period. To the point where if that comment had gone to mod, I likely would have deleted it. (I’ve already added a trigger warning.) So.

  15. Cara says:

    Which is to say (very quickly because I’m headed out the door):

    1. Murder is sometimes justified, while rape never is. That’s not to say that murder for vengeance is a good idea or that I’m promoting it. But that at least cases where killing someone is justifiable exist

    2. Prison rape isn’t a joke. At all. Rape is rape, and while it’s incredibly difficult to feel bad for a rapist, we have to remember all of those non-violent criminals who have been raped in prison, and also remember that no one ever deserves to be raped and to pretend otherwise only undermines victim-blaming and hurts our own arguments.

    3. Many people, primarily women, actually are raped in what they are at least told is an act of “revenge.” I think the idea of rape as revenge is actually a part of rape culture. Not the biggest part, but certainly a part.

    Which isn’t to say that I don’t understand the desire for vengeance — oh trust me, as a rape survivor, I sure as hell do — but that comments about hoping someone is raped in turn for their rapes/sexual assaults, and especially those about being raped in prison since that’s actually a not distance possibility, are never cool in my mind. I see them a lot, but I always find them upsetting.

  16. amandaw says:

    RD, point def taken.

  17. Kathryn says:

    “1. Murder is sometimes justified, while rape never is. That’s not to say that murder for vengeance is a good idea or that I’m promoting it. But that at least cases where killing someone is justifiable exist”

    i know it’s off topic, but I wondered what instances you were referring to as I can’t think of any?

  18. Jill says:

    Kathryn, self-defense would be one.

  19. Pingback: links for 2009-04-28 « Embololalia

  20. Cara says:

    Yes, self-defense.

  21. brista says:

    “Anderson said he was sorry that the women he’s convicted of molesting didn’t realize he was simply providing treatment.”

    Sounds like the ol’ non-apology apology “I’m sorry if your feelings were hurt.” “I’m sorry you misunderstood.” Not, “I’m sorry I did something wrong.”

  22. Cara & evil_fizz, you are completely right. I didn’t really think of it that way at all & I should have.

    Guys like the dentist described here get me angry beyond the point of rational thought- and in this case especially because my own experiences with TMJ tell me that he’s *really* full of crap. There’s no way rubbing someone’s breasts would be considered a treatment even for severe TMJ (see the first part of my previous post- Back & shoulders? Yes. Breasts or chest area? No. It’s a different muscle group).

    It isn’t so much that I want vengeance exactly; it’s that I want these guys to understand just what kind of hell they cause.

  23. stacy says:

    I am a patient advocate who personally has had TMJ disorder for 15 years, and helps many patients who also have it. Groping is NEVER a treatment for this (obviously) and VERY, VERY rarely is massaging anywhere below the neck. Usually dentists will refer to a massage therapist or physical therapist if other treatment is necessary. This guy is a criminal, there is no doubt about that.

  24. Andrew Dobbs says:

    For a similar case, but involving a family practioner check out Jack Olsen’s Doc: The Rape of the Town of Lovell. Olsen was maybe the best crime writer who ever lived, and the story will remind you of why Mormonism is an assault on women. Before anybody jumps on me for being a Mormon basher, I’ll attack each and every religion on general terms and terms specific to each. As for the LDS, most of the women raped by the doctor in this book were LDS and thier church leaders tried to convince them they were at fault or were now unpure as a result and barred from the sacraments.

    Joseph Smith compared himself to Muhammad. Looks like his followers took a page from those of the other.

    Six years huh? Too bad he wasn’t a drug dealer…

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