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Was Stubblefield “playing both parts?” – A Further Exploration of the Anna Stubblefield Case

Maria Hodermarska, Co-Principal Investigator/Collaborator – Rulebreaking

So many intersections and collisions in this sad event around professional ethics, mental illness (hers?), criminal behavior v. agency over their own bodies for people living with severe disabilities, around ableism, classicism, racism, gender, etc. Additionally, collisions and intersections around the protector/persecutor binary (See Donald Kalshed’s Inner World of Trauma).

The persecutor/protector binary is evidenced, for example, in a statement by a mother of an adolescent female who implores her daughter, “Don’t have sex. You’ll get pregnant!”

A big question here about how advocates can become abusive or the protector becoming the persecutor.

Ethics violations don’t occur all of a sudden. They occur through a gentle eroding of ethical practice over time. These boundary violations start with isolation, not seeking supervision, and the narcissism that those of us who advocate can cultivate so quickly and must always keep in check. We think we know what is best or better. Our agendas take over. We forget to ask or think we have asked when maybe we haven’t.

I wonder if Stubblefield was “playing both parts” – looking into a mirror and playing his role and hers?

I am reminded of the writings by psychoanalyst, Andrea Celenza Disavowed Aggression:The Hated Aspect of Sexual Boundary Transgressions.  She writes often about treating other analysts who have had sex with their patients. She believes that it occurs when therapists are secretly angry with their patients, when progress is stalled, when we hit a wall. She suggests, ironically and sadly, it is aggression that brings about the ethical violations and seduction.

Consider, too, the possibility that other people who were given access to communication through her FC training, may have had their lives permanently altered for the better. Can we say she is evil? – or is there room for her to be a hero and a villain having developed a “mind blindness” around her own ethical practice?

The story itself is a cautionary tale for me in how on-going clinical supervision is required in any human service field, lest we become part of the oppression we seek to disassemble.

I am left thinking about his peer note taker/tutor who reported that his notes on the University class were consistent with those of other peers in the class. Did a window open for him that has now been closed forever?

How is it that his liberation potentially becomes his oppression? This is true so often in the world. I think about Trans people when I think about this liberation-oppression.

It’s abuse if there is no ability to consent. That is the law. But what if there was assent on his part? Does that alter the events at all here? Is he entitled to pleasure – if indeed, that is what and how he experienced sex?

Where is DJ in all of this? Who speaks for him?

We have thought a lot in our process about how entering the margins with people who are marginalized does take us into quasi-ethical spaces with them. We are so careful about our boundaries. We use our aesthetics and distancing tools from the theater to ensure safety for all.

But, in the end, can someone challenge us in this process that we have not been ethical? Are we making ethical therapy or good theater? Does our process stand up to questions of “How shall I act?” and “For whom am I acting?” Do we offer reasonable answers? Or are we only serving to further marginalize the people and the experiences that we seek to bring onto the stage and before the public?