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Posts for February, 2013

Canadian Ex-Gay “Shock Doc” Therapist Sentenced To Prison For Sexually Assaulting Patients

Jim Burroway

February 5th, 2013
Aubrey Levin being taken into police custody

Aubrey Levin being taken into police custody, 2010.

Aubry Levin, 74, a South African national who relocated to Calgary, Canada in order to resume his ex-gay therapy in the post-Appartheid era, has been sentenced to five years in prison for fondling his male patients. His wife, Erica, was also charged with “defeating the ends of justice” for trying to bribe a juror in her husband’s case.

“Your patients came to you for help. Instead, you were responsible for creating more problems. This was a horrible violation of trust,” court of queen’s bench Justice Donna Shelley told Levin during sentencing.

Levin was found guilty on three of nine charges against him. His Canadian offences came to light in March 2010 when the original complainant showed two videos, taken on a spy camera, which showed Levin fondling his genitals.

Longtime BTB readers may recall that when Levin was first arrested in 2010, his work for the South African military during the apartheid era drew considerable attention. In the 1980s, electric shock therapies had mostly come to an end throughout the world, but it was still employed in apartheid South Africa right up until the fall of the regime. Levin was one of the more notorious practitioners in South Africa , so much so that he was known as “Dr. Shock”:

Among the allegations levelled at Levin was that he used severe electric shocks as part of “aversion therapy” that was supposed to “cure” homosexuals. “Political deviants” who refused to bear arms in the apartheid forces were also referred to Levin, who commanded the major psychiatric wing of the military hospital at Voortrekkerhoogte in Pretoria and rose to become the apartheid government’s head of mental health.

Levin fled South Africa just before its transition to democracy, and settled in Calgary where he became a Canadian citizen. He refused to testify before South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where it was alleged he had been guilty of gross human rights abuses. According to South Africa’s The Daily Maverick:

Ward 22 of 1 Military Hospital at Voortrekkerhoogte, near Pretoria, was where he operated. That’s where suspected gays in the army were sent to Dr Aubrey Levin for “treatment”. Levin was positively evangelical about curing homosexuality: in 1968 he wrote to Parliament asking to address its members on potential changes to the laws on homosexuality, noting that he had “treated many homosexuals and lesbians and enjoyed some measure of success in therapy.”

This “therapy” took the form of drugs, electro-shock therapy and hormone treatment. For those who didn’t show signs of responding, it is claimed that chemical castrations or sex-change operations were in store. Most of Levin’s patients were young, white and male, and they were referred to him by military officers, chaplains and doctors.

Once settled in Canada, Levin became an expert witness, performing court-ordered psychiatric assessments of convicted offenders awaiting sentence.

According to press reports at the time of Levin’s arrest, a 36-year-old former patient had been accusing Levin of sexually abusing him, but he couldn’t get authorities to believe him. The break came when the patient went to an appointment with a hidden camera in order to obtain evidence. The videos, which were played in court during the trial, showed Levin undoing the man’s belt and jeans and appearing to fondle him. The patient, identified only as R.B. in court, was on probation and had been ordered to see Levin twice a month. Two other accusers were also patients of Levin’s while under court order.

A support group of former patients has been established online.

Rekers’ Legacy Includes Attempted Suicide

Jim Burroway

May 17th, 2010

Before discredited anti-gay activist George Rekers was found to have hired a rentboy to “lift his luggage,” Rekers had been one of the major so-called “researchers” into the ostensible causes and cures of homosexuality. Rekers research, however was anything but impartial, taking as it does an a priori assumption that all homosexuality is disordered, and that, according to Rekers, it is always caused by improper parenting despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. Those theories have led to Rekers’ adoption of abusive “therapies” and at least one attempted suicide.

A couple of weeks ago, Jeremy Hooper at GoodAsYou discovered a 1976 newspaper article describing UCLA’s “Gender Identity Clinic” which was jointly run by Drs. Ivar Lovaas and Rekers while Rekers was at the Fuller Theological Seminary. The article describes a series of aversion therapy experiments which were conducted on pre-pubertal elementary school-aged boys who showed signs of effeminate behavior and mannerisms. One four-year-old who entered the program in 1974, was identified as “Kraig.” That “treatment” had this effect after only “ten months of behavior modification which included spankings for wrong choices”:

He was, at the start, passive, non-assertive, allowed others to tease him. Now, he “regularly returns aggressiveness in his male-peer interactions.” In fact, the researchers write, Kraig’s mommy was alarmed at her son’s transformation into “a roughneck” — so reckless in play that he was hurting imself and damaging the furniture. The psychiatrists reassured the mother that her son’s “mild delinquent” behavior would be far easier to overcome in later years than effeminacy.

A competent therapist would have seen “Kraig’s” aggressive behavior as a classic warning sign. Abused children often become aggressive to the point of “delinquency.” But Rekers was no competent therapist, and instead held “Kraig” up as a poster-boy for his abusive treatments. The Miami New Times today reports that in 2001, there was a follow-up of “Kraig,” which showed the results of the abuse that he suffered.

At age 18, shamed by his childhood diagnosis and treatment, Rekers’s poster boy attempted suicide, according to Gender Shock, a book by journalist Phyllis Burke.

Rekers recently resigned from the National Association for the Research and Treatment of Homosexuality (NARTH), where he was also a member of NARTH’s “Scientific Advisory Committee.” Another former member of NARTH’s advisory committee, Joseph Berger, in 2006 endorsed bullying and teasing of transgender children as a legitimate form of treatment. In a message posted to NARTH’s now-defunct blog, Berger wrote:

I suggest, indeed, letting children who wish go to school in clothes of the opposite sex – but not counseling other children to not tease them or hurt their feelings.

On the contrary, don’t interfere, and let the other children ridicule the child who has lost that clear boundary between play-acting at home and the reality needs of the outside world.

Maybe, in this way, the child will re-establish that necessary boundary.

Birds of a feather…

Electric Shock Therapist Arrested in Canada

Jim Burroway

March 27th, 2010
Dr. Louis Max’s diagram of his electric shock averson therapy device, as it appeared in March 1935 edition of The Psychological Bulletin

Dr. Louis Max’s diagram of his electric shock averson therapy device, as it appeared in March 1935 edition of The Psychological Bulletin. (Click to enlarge)

At one time, a relatively common method to try to “cure” gay people was to administer painful electric shock aversion therapy. This barbaric method was first used against gay men in 1935, and it continued, by some reports, up through the 1980′s. NARTH recently issued a report defending reparative and other conversion therapies which cited dozens of papers touting the benefits of aversion therapy.

By the 1980′s, most efforts to “cure” homosexuality using the barbaric and punitive method had largely come to an end. But not everywhere. It was still employed in apartheid South Africa right up until the fall of the regime, and one of the notorious practitioners was Dr. Aubry Levin. He was so famous for his use of electric shock therapy that he was known as “Dr. Shock”:

Among the allegations levelled at Levin was that he used severe electric shocks as part of “aversion therapy” that was supposed to “cure” homosexuals. “Political deviants” who refused to bear arms in the apartheid forces were also referred to Levin, who commanded the major psychiatric wing of the military hospital at Voortrekkerhoogte in Pretoria and rose to become the apartheid government’s head of mental health.

Levin fled South Africa just before its transition to democracy, and settled in Calgary where he became a Canadian citizen. He refused to testify before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission where it was alleged he had been guilty of gross human rights abuses. Once settled in Canada, Levin became an expert witness, performing court-ordered psychiatric assessments of convicted offenders awaiting sentence.

Aubrey Levin being taken into police custody

Aubrey Levin being taken into police custody

This past Tuesday, Levin was arrested and charged with sexual assault by Calgary police after a 36-year-old former patient alleged he was abused while under the doctor’s care. The patient reportedly had made complaints before, but couldn’t get authorities to believe him. The break came when the patient went to an appointment with a hidden camera in order to obtain evidence.

So far, it is unclear how many patients Levin handled under the courts. Police are reviewing current and past cases now, looking for further evidence of abuse. He was suspended by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta the previous Friday when the allegations first surfaced, which means that he can no longer practice in that province.

Levin is listed as a clinical professor in the psychiatry department at the University of Calgary, but the Calgary Herald reports that University officials say he is no longer teaching.

Levin will appear in Provincial Court on April 8.

This Month in History: “Aversion Therapy for Sexual Deviation”

Jim Burroway

February 29th, 2008

Attempts to cure homosexuality have taken many forms, many of them cruel. Perhaps the cruelest might be the use of electric shock aversion therapy. This method was first described in the academic literature in 1935, and reports of its continued use persisted through the 1970′s and even later. Two of sixteen participants at a Brigham Young University program committed suicide in the mid-1970′s, and there are similar reports of suicide and long-term psychological and physical damage elsewhere.

There are literally hundreds of reports of various forms of aversion therapy in the literature between 1935 and 1980. Thirty-five years ago this month, one such report appeared in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology by two researchers from the University of Vermont. Dr. Harold Leitenberg and Ph.D candidate Edward J. Callahan wrote the following in an article titled, “Aversion therapy for sexual deviation: Contingent shock and covert sensitization“:

Treatment Procedures
Contingent shock: …Shock levels varying from “pain” to “tolerance” were then randomly selected for administration as part of a punishment procedure which made shock contingent upon erection. These shock levels ordinarily ranged from .5 milliampere to 4.5 milliampere, and shock duration was varied randomly from .1 second to .5 second. Erection was monitored by a penile strain gate. Five slides of deviant material and two heterosexually oriented slides were presented for 125 seconds apiece in each session while the subject was instructed to imaging whatever was sexually arousing with the person on the slide. An attempt was made to obtain slides appropriate to each person’s idiosyncratic sexual arousal. If during the “deviant” material slide, the penile circumference increase exceeded a level of 15% of full erection, shock was administered through electrodes on the first and third fingers on the subject’s right hand.

Covert Sensitization: This technique involves the presentation of verbal descriptions of “deviant” acts and the description of aversive consequences, such as nausea, vomiting, discovery by family, etc. … For example, a man might be asked to imagine going to the apartment of a homosexual contact, approaching the man’s bedroom, initiating sexual activity, feeling increasingly nauseous, and finally vomiting on the contact, on the sheets, and all over himself. A variation of this scene might involve the patient finding the homosexual contact rotting with syphilitic sores, or finding that the contact had diarrhea during the sexual encounter.

Subject 4
This was a 19-year-old homosexual with no prior sexual or dating experience with girls. … Sexual contacts [with other men] led to guilt feelings and vacillation over whether he wanted to learn to accept homosexuality or to change his pattern of sexual arousal. After discussing his dilemma with a few friends and relatives, he decided to seek treatment.

Phase 1: Contingent shock was administered for 10 sessions. Penile circumference changes were reduced during slides of males and females initially; however, this suppression during slides of females was only transient. There was an increase in average daily homosexual urges to slightly more than two per day and a slight increase in frequency of daily homosexual masturbation, while homosexual fantasies were slightly decreased. The patient was somewhat disturbed by the experience of shock, but was willing to undergo it in order to change his sexual arousal pattern. He had one homosexual contact late in this phase.

Phase 2: Covert sensitization was administered for seven sessions. Penile circumference changes to slides of men reduced greatly, and penile circumference changes to slides of women continued to increase. Rapid progress was reported by the subject in this phase. … After seven sessions, the subject reported he was progressing more quickly than he could stand “physically.” He felt his progress was strong enough to drop treatment and continue to make adjustment alone. After 3 months, however, he returned to treatment because of “unwanted” homosexual contact which unnerved him about the stability of his progress.

… An attempt was made to return the subject to contingent shock treatment. The subject became very upset by this and misapplied the electrodes during the first scheduled shock session in order to reduce the shock. At the next session, he explained that the felt shock had not helped him and that he did not want to go through the painful experience since he felt it had not therapeutic effect. At this stage, he said he would have to quit treatment rather than go through contingent shock again.

Source: Callahan, Edward J.; Leitenberg, Harold. “Aversion therapy for sexual deviation: Contingent shock and covert sensitization.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology 81, no. 1 (February 1973): 60-73. Abstract available here.

Today In History: A Simple Technique To Cure Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

January 18th, 2008

On January 18, 1964, the British Medical Journal published this article by R.J. McGuire and M. Vallance:

Aversion Therapy by Electric Shock: a Simple Technique

Aversion therapy has been used for many years in the treatment of alcoholism. Apomorphine and emetine are the usual drugs used as the unconditioned stimuli for nausea and vomiting, with alcohol as the conditioned stimulus. More recently the same procedure has been used in the treatment of sexual perversions — for example, fetishism, transvestism and homosexuality.

There are several disadvantages to the use of drugs in conditioning procedures. The time between the stimulus being presented and the nausea being produced is uncertain. The patient may not even feel nausea; and, further, the cerebral depressant effect of the drug may interfere with the patient’s ability to form conditioned responses. In addition, the treatment may have to be terminated prematurely because of its dangerous side-effects.

Alternative unpleasant responses can be used to produce aversion. In experimental psychology electric shock has been widely used both in animals and in humans. In clinical treatment, however, it has been less often used. The technique is simpler, more accurately controlled, and more certain in producing an unpleasant effect than drugs. This article describes a simple apparatus designed by one of us (R. J. McG.) and its use in the aversive treatment of sexual perversions, alcoholism, smoking, and neurotic symptoms.

Apparatus. — The components are cheap (under £1) and fit into a box approximately 6 in. (15 cm.) square and 2 in. (5 cm.) deep (Figs. 1 and 2). It is powered by a 9-volt battery and is therefore completely portable. The shock is administered through electrodes on a cuff around the patient’s forearm. To construct the apparatus requires no special skill, and the technical details are given at the end of the article.

A Simple Apparatus

This isn’t the first time a device for administering electric shock has been described in the medical literature for treating homosexuality. Electric Shock Aversion Therapy has been discussed since at least 1935. But as modern science entered the space age, at least a few therapists had managed to acquired the idea that there was a demand for an inexpensive home version. And so forty-four years ago, two researchers from Glasgow came to the rescue.

Reorientation, Old School Style

Timothy Kincaid

September 27th, 2007

peteprice.gifPete Price is a radio personality in the UK. The Liverpool Echo has an extract of his autobiography Pete Price is a Namedropper. Price describes some of the methods used on him to cure his homosexuality:

In the morning I was shown into a windowless room with a male nurse. A crate of Guinness arrived, and I was given a stack of dirty magazines showing body builders – not the sort of thing that would have turned me on in a million years.

The nurse started playing the tape of my conversation. I sat and listened, flicking through the books with a pint, not knowing what the hell was going on.

Then he gave me an injection and suddenly I started feeling sick.

“I think I’m going to vomit!” I yelled out. “I need a basin.”

The doctor smiled. “Then be sick.”

“I think I’m going to go to the toilet.”

“Just do it on the bed.”

I screamed: “You’re joking.”

All the while the tape of the doctor’s questions was playing in the background, over and over: “What you do is disgusting.”

It continued for 72 hours – the drink, the injections, the vomiting and excrement – hour after hour.

All I could think was that I wasn’t going to get out alive.

When it ended, I lay there sobbing, the doctor came in.

“Now you’ve got to have the electrodes … ” he said.

That’s just a little something to think about whenever anti-gays start missing the good ol’ days of “homosexuality is an illness”.