Divorce file insufficient evidence for big story

I was shocked by Courteney Stuart’s April 4 article titled “Broken Trust: Sex allegations against therapist prompt investigation.”

My shock did not have to do with the reality of sexual misconduct. But more that the Hook would choose to run an article which calls a professional's conduct into question based entirely upon allegations of a divorce suit.

Granted, Howard Vidaver, LCSW, the subject of the article, had been previously sanctioned for sexual misconduct by the Virginia Board of Social Work, but your publication also claims his license to practice was fully reinstated following compliance with two years of probationary supervision.

The only basis of current misconduct cited by your publication entails his wife's allegations. In light of this, it would appear that your publication is taking the position that claims of an individual suing for divorce should be assumed to be factual.

Do we not often see a wide range of aggressive and inflammatory accusations against the backdrop of intense acrimony surrounding marital divorce? If Mr. Vidaver is engaged in current sexual misconduct with patients, such is entirely unacceptable.

I say this not just as a reflection of ethical standards but more as a reflection of my own professional experience. During the 1980s while in private practice on the West Coast I developed a specialization in the treatment of victims of therapist sexual misconduct. I fully appreciate the damage that such behavior does to patients in psychotherapy.

But until the allegations against Mr. Vidaver are reviewed and adjudicated by the Virginia Board of Social Work, I think that the Hook’s choice to write about these allegations represents bad and potentially destructive journalism.
Russ Federman, Ph.D., ABPP
Director, Counseling and Psychological Services
Department of Student Health, University of Virginia