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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

When Is A "Sexual Assault" a "Sexual Assault"?

Like all who read the news, I was shocked to learn that a former head of the Center for Disease Control, an eminent public servant, had been charged with sexual assault in New York City. What equally surprised me were the details as reported.

The doctor had allegedly squeezed the buttocks of a woman in his apartment while their spouses weren't looking, She was a family friend of thirty years who, despite his apology, filed charges ten months later. But first, my story.

I was a newly arrived graduate student and Teaching Associate (TA) at Ohio State University. A TA who I had never met, walked into the otherwise empty office, threw her arms around my neck, and thrust her tongue into my mouth. She was beautiful and, of course, must have been REALLY smart since she desired me. But I wasn't in the mood and brushed her off. I was terrified about teaching (which I had never done) and of a widely feared, required, advanced statistics class. Years later, I learned that this woman's clinical specialty was sexual problems. Perhaps I was her first patient.

To return to the news report. The doctor may have been drinking, this being when dumb things tend to happen, and he certainly shouldn't have behaved as he did. And while my "assaulter" touched me above the waist, the doctor allegedly touched the woman below hers if this makes a difference. Having said this, I can't help thinking that her reaction should have been to angrily state that his behavior was inappropriate. Was police action really justified for this apparent miscommunication between long-term friends? You be the judge.

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