Therapist’s sexual abuse case reveals dark past and ethical concerns | Top stories

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CONCORD, NH (AP) — Two years after accusing her former therapist of sexual abuse, she plugged her address into an online directory and came across an unknown alias. A search of that name turned up newspaper reports about the death of a 10-year-old girl.

“What does this have to do with Peter?” she wondered.

A pair of obituaries she later found pointed closer to a connection. Sitting at a public library computer in January 2020, she scrolled through several small, blurry photos on a newspaper archive site until a larger one appeared.

Bingo, she thought. “It’s him.”

His next thought?


New Hampshire is one of 10 states that allow people to change their names while incarcerated, but the public has no way of knowing someone’s previous identity unless they go to the courthouse. of justice where the change was approved or does serious research. It was the latter that led to the discovery that Peter Stone was once Peter Dushame, a drunk driver convicted of manslaughter more than 30 years ago.

What happened in the meantime raises complex questions about the right to forge a new life after incarceration and what patients can or should know about a mental health provider’s past.

“How much do we want to tar someone for the rest of their life?” said Albert “Buzz” Scherr, a professor at the University of New Hampshire’s Franklin Pierce School of Law. “Should every therapist be required to disclose to any incoming patient that they have been convicted of a crime?”

Stone, then named Peter Dushame, was 33 years old and drunk when he crashed into a parked motorcycle in Nashua, New Hampshire on October 1, 1989. Lacey Packer, a fourth-grade student who was returning home to Massachusetts with her father, died two days later.

He held a valid driver’s license despite five previous drink-driving convictions, and this was his third fatal accident – although the others did not involve alcohol. Massachusetts and New Hampshire responded with new laws, and the Boston Globe called him “the most notorious drunk driver in New England history.”

But over time, he dedicated himself to helping people recover from addiction, earning a master’s degree in counseling psychology, and leading treatment programs behind bars.

Two years later, he legally changed his name to Peter Stone. He was released from prison in 2002 and eventually settled down as a licensed drug and alcohol counselor in North Conway.

“I am proof that people can change,” Stone wrote to state regulators in 2013.

Last July, he was charged with five counts of aggravated sexual assault under a law that criminalizes any sexual contact between patients and their therapists or healthcare providers. Such behavior is also prohibited by the American Psychological Association’s Code of Ethical Conduct.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, the 61-year-old said she developed romantic feelings for Stone about six months after he began treating her for anxiety, depression and alcohol abuse in June. 2013. Despite telling her a relationship would be unethical, he eventually initiated sexual contact in February 2016, she said.

“‘It crossed the line,'” the woman recalled after pulling up her pants. “‘When do I see you again?'”

While about half of states have no restrictions on name changes after felony convictions, 15 have temporary bans or waiting periods for those convicted of certain crimes, according to the ACLU of the United States. Illinois, which has one of the most restrictive laws.

Stone appropriately disclosed his criminal record on license applications and other documents, according to a review of records obtained by the AP. Disclosure to clients is not mandatory, said Gary Goodnough, who teaches counseling ethics at Plymouth State University. But he thinks customers have a right to know about certain convictions, including homicide while driving a vehicle.

“One of the principles that underpins the counseling profession is the notion of truthfulness,” he said. “We should tell the truth.”

According to court documents, Stone told investigators that the woman once fondled him, but he did not know how her DNA ended up on his shirt. The state suspended his counseling license in December 2017 and he voluntarily surrendered it four months later.

Stone declined to be interviewed by the AP and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment. The prosecutor declined to comment on any aspect of the case. A hearing to determine Stone’s fitness to stand trial is scheduled for September.

Donna and Gordon Packer, who became advocates for tougher drunk driving laws after their daughter’s death, were told by the state about Stone’s name change but only learned of his recent arrest only when contacted by the AP.

Donna Packer said after her husband offered his forgiveness in a letter years ago, Stone responded by asking for help getting out of jail early. It struck the couple as manipulative, she said, even so she had hoped he had changed.

“I hate that he keeps victimizing people,” she said. “It didn’t have to be like this.”

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