St. Joe’s: One Flight Up (Part II)

I waited several weeks for a reply, then tried to call the Holland Hospital rehabilitation director three times.  He neither accepted nor returned my calls, so I wrote to the executive director of the hospital:

Dale Sowders, President

Holland Hospital

602 Michigan Avenue

Holland, MI 49423-4999


Dear Mr. Sowders,


“PHILADELPHIA — Msgr. William J. Lynn, the first Roman Catholic Church official in the United States to be convicted of covering up sexual abuses by priests under his supervision, was sentenced Tuesday to three to six years in prison.”

“. . . The [Penn State] former university president Graham B. Spanier, who was forced out last fall . . . A former Penn State senior vice president, Gary Schultz, and Athletic Director Tim Curley face criminal charges . . .”

Several weeks ago, I notified your Director of Rehabilitation Ken Puruleski that there was reason to believe that you have a sexual predator on your staff.  Consequent phone calls to Puruleski went unanswered.

Richard Gottlieb, MSW, is a psychotherapist on your rehabilitation staff.  He has sex with his patients.

[Summation of evidence against Gottlieb.]

I think it probable that after I spoke with Puruleski, he spoke with Gottlieb and Gottlieb convinced him that I’m a poor, sick, bitter woman who he—Gottlieb—only tried to help.  Gottlieb does not usually lie; he distracts the questioner so the questioner doesn’t realize his questions have not been answered.  He is extraordinarily charismatic, and adept at manipulating people.

If you do not initiate a full and fair investigation, and provide me with written information satisfactorily documenting that you have done so, then I will notify so many other entities—medical, legal and media—that you won’t be able to sit down for years. 

And I want Ken Puruleski fired for failing to follow up. 

You have been notified and you are now responsible.

Sincerely, [ACW]

Several weeks later, I received a one-sentence letter from Holland Hospital stating that the matter had been referred to some Michigan state government office.  The letter was not signed.

Then Don told me that about twenty victims have now been identified, including students back when Dick was teaching at the college level.

Last Friday I was admitted to St. Joseph’s hospital for treatment of urinary tract infection, diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus.  I am on the second floor, one flight down from the psychiatric unit where I was hospitalized about twenty-five times for a total of about a year and a half.  There I was abused.  I was humiliated, degraded and disrespected.  I have post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the time I spent locked up on inpatient psychiatry.  This surfaced at the Empathic Therapy Conference where I met Dick and he spent weeks talking me through it.

Now I am back in the hospital, one flight down from hell.  The PTSD resurfaces and I am suffering enormously.  Dick was a splendid fellow, kind, generous, understanding, compassionate—dare I say loving?  What—do you think sexual predators come in shabby clothes with long dirty fingers and green snot dripping from their noses?  How would they get any victims?  Jerry Sandusky was a good guy, wasn’t he?

Longing for the comfort of Dick, I call to listen to his voice mail message.  This time, instead of getting Dick, I hear a woman’s voice say that he no longer works there.  I have gotten him fired.  I call Don and he reports that the case against Richard Gottlieb, our friend and a splendid fellow who has been sexually violating students and patients for decades, is now in the hands of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.

Why do I tell you all this?

I wake in hell because of the abuses heaped upon people with psychiatric diagnoses by the treatment system.  I need you to know that.  It is within your power to change the system.  I call you to act.  In the name of God, please change the psychiatric system.  I should not have to go through hell just because I am hospitalized where the psychiatric unit is one flight up.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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1 Response to St. Joe’s: One Flight Up (Part II)

  1. Feminist Rag says:

    I am very saddened by this news about Dick. I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around just how often sexual violations between client/therapist happen; it’s deeply troubling to say the least. Mental health professionals have power, and with this power comes great responsibility to always keep ourselves in check. Some therapists may develop romantic feelings towards their patients because they’re just human, but they must never act on them, and instead consult with colleagues to process those feelings and NOT follow through with their impulses.

    Re. changing the psychiatric system: I personally think its entire foundation is rotten and therefore can’t be fixed, not to the extent it needs to be. That’s why I will not work within this system, I feel my hands would be too tied to do good work. Most especially around electroshock — no way in hell I could stand by and watch psychiatrists electrocute people, and my dissent would result in me getting fired, so why enter the system in the first place? Instead I want to work with clients outside psychiatry, and discourage them from ever, ever entering into it as patients to begin with.

    I applaud your fierce activism around psychiatry, you are doing a great job fighting this beast, and people are listening.

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