“Their patients from 2-3 decades ago look back at their own lives and wonder if they were victims,” says former patient Marianne Curtis.
Today, I read the stunning news that retired child psychologist Dr. Gary Anthony Shady appeared in provincial court and admitted to possession of child pornography, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of six months in jail. The Winnipeg Free Press article states that Shady has to wait until May to be sentenced. After admitting to the images, the seventy-two-year-old man could be looking at some jail time.
Reading social media forums, people are outraged that a former therapist (who only retired due to the investigation) would use his position to take advantage of the children he was charged to treat. I was unable to confirm who his victims were or where the images came from. One news article stated that it was unlikely the images were of patients. But who really knows who his victims really are? What if his victims don’t even know?
Let me take you back briefly to 1984-1986.
At the time, as a ward of CFS, I was an inpatient at the McEwen Building, which is part of the St. Boniface Hospital campus. The building had two adult psychiatric wards (1 and 2 floors), and in the basement was the adolescent ward. On average, the facility contained eight teenagers recovering from physical and sexual abuse, on suicide watch, addicts, or violent. Once leaving the inpatient program, outgoing patients (myself included) were never fully discharged until we participated in a daily outpatient program. A program that was led by Shady. I was under his care for about a year.
Was I a victim? No. Not that I can remember.
However, there was an incident, that I now question based on these recent developments.
We were on a coffee break, and one of my fellow patients and I went for a walk. Out on the street, we were randomly greeted by a gentleman who offered us money to pose for pictures. Now you have to realize, that I was in treatment to aid my recovery after being severely abused and sexually assaulted numerous times. At sixteen/seventeen I was a mess and my choices were less than stellar. I was prime for re-victimization. Needless to say, my friend and I agreed to meet him at the Holiday Inn downtown for a few hours for pictures. Looking back, I recognize how lucky we were. I would never have gone if she had not been so adamant that it would be “okay”. Even though there were two of us, we met a complete stranger, to pose naked “for a magazine” for $50 each. All we saw was $$$. We posed (nothing too sexual, but definitely suggestive); took our cash and left. When we got back to the facility, my cohort admitted to what we did to Shady and the rest (everyone wanted to know where we got the money from) and all hell broke loose (as it should have). I don’t know whatever happened to those images. I was later told they appeared in a magazine, but I have never seen them myself so I do not know whatever actually happened to them.
So why do I remember this incident now?
With Shady’s recent admission, I would be lying if I did not question if the entire incident was a setup. During the photo shoot, I never felt danger or anything, because my friend seemed so comfortable with the photographer. Was it a setup? Could she have been part of it? This was actually common in the 80’s. When you think about sex crime rings, and how predatory adults sent teenagers to groom other teenagers – based on that, the entire scenario is plausible. Add in the “crazy friend” factor, the events become even more possible.
This friend, popped up in my life about two years ago I left to care. By this time, I was married and recently had a baby girl. I thought it was an innocent reunion, but I found out later that she hunted me down, hoping I would testify on the behalf of her family in family court. Her sister was now placed in my former foster home, her family was trying to regain custody. She showed up on my doorstep, hung out for a few hours, then threatened to call CFS and lie, saying I was abusing my daughter so she would be taken from me if I did not lie and tell the judge that my foster mother was abusive too. The only reason those kids were in CFS care in the first place, was that my “friend” had lied and told CFS her father was molesting her, all because they had a fight. That is why she was in McEwen. She used to brag about this; that all her siblings ended up in care because she was getting back at her dad. When I got on the stand, I did not lie, and I told the judge what she did. Their case was tossed out, and the kids remained in care. While in care, she also stalked one of our other therapists. Add in the factor that she’d just aged out of CFS care; was living on her own; so the $ mattered. I know she did other things for money and drugs. In my opinion, if she is capable of all that (and I am sure much more), she was perfectly capable of luring unsuspecting teens in for a photo shoot for a few extra bucks, by an adult that we both trusted.
At first glance, this may seem like a huge leap. I admit that my writer and journalist brain is trained to look at what is behind the scenes; I am trained to investigate.and look for red flags. I could be completely wrong and not none of these things are connected…
However, there lays the problem – when a former therapist gets arrested for something like possession of child porn, it makes former patients look back (sometimes from decades ago) and forces them to scour their memory banks for any clue they may have missed. It makes them question their own treatments.
In my case, there are enough threads in the story, that could turn a stupid life choice into a whole different scenario. Unfortunately, I will never know and I am okay with that – I don’t need another trauma to deal with. I get to sit here in shock, like the rest of his former patients, and pray that his victims find peace and healing in their lives. I can’t think of anything worse than being destroyed by someone charged with helping you heal.
In my case, I am choosing not to dwell on this further. I choose to be okay – because I know God has this, and Shady’s final judgement lays in His capable hands.