BRUNSWICK, Maine — A Bath woman has reasonable grounds to claim that she was subject to a hostile environment in public accommodations when her therapist allegedly subjected her to sexual comments and unwelcome touching, according to an investigator with the Maine Human Rights Commission. The counselor is denying his former patient’s allegations.
The psychiatrist in question, Dr. John Matt Dorn of Brunswick — who now goes by the name James Hitchcock Ochiltree — had his license suspended in April 2011 after the Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine determined in a separate matter that his practice of medicine presented threats to his patients’ safety.
In the matter before the Maine Human Rights Commission, a patient of Dorn’s named Renee Mayer alleged in a complaint filed in June 2011 that the psychiatrist began sexually harassing her shortly after she began individual and marriage therapy sessions with him in October 2009. Some of the objectionable behavior including long, unwanted hugs, other touches and sexual comments, according to the April 19 report by investigator Robert Beauchesne.
Mayer said that over the months until she stopped seeing him for good in December 2010, he told her about his sexual prowess, asked when she would go to bed with him and made other overtures — including putting his hand between her thighs and telling her he could please her anyway she wanted.
Mayer said she ended individual counseling sessions with Dorn in September 2010, but continued to see him with her husband until that December, when the psychiatrist told him in a joint session that he had “tried several times to seduce your wife and she wouldn’t have anything to do with me,” according to the complaint.
After that session, Mayer and her husband both quit seeing Dorn for counseling. She said that Dorn then called her several times to ask if she was planning to press charges, and also sent her a package with quotes from scripture about the sanctity of marriage and a picture of Dorn with his wife. She believed this was the psychiatrist’s attempt to discourage her from filing charges against him.
Mayer filed her complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission a month after Dorn’s medical license was revoked.
In the psychiatrist’s response to Mayer’s complaint, he said that at no time was there inappropriate contact or communications between them, and that he did not send the photograph of him with his wife.
“While Dr. Dorn acknowledges that he hugged all of his patients as a gesture of support and comfort, he was not sexually aroused by these hugs, as the complainant has alleged,” Beauchesne wrote. “While Dr. Dorn also acknowledges that he sent scripture to the complainant on one occasion, this was consistent with his standard practice of incorporating religion into treatment when his patients expressed a desire for him to do so.”
Additionally, the psychiatrist said that Mayer’s allegations do not constitute a charge of discrimination.
“She contends that Dr. Dorn violated personal and professional boundaries in the context of their physician-patient relationship. This is not a ‘denial of public accommodation’ based upon the complainant’s sex,” the investigator wrote about Dorn’s response. “In sum, the allegations made by the complainant are untrue. However, even if they were true, they do not constitute evidence of discrimination.”
In his analysis of the complaint, Beauchesne wrote that in order to find that Mayer’s case has “reasonable grounds” of prevailing in a civil court case, the commission must determine that there is “a fair preponderance of evidence” to prove unlawful discrimination.
He said that both Dorn and Mayer cannot be telling the truth about what happened in his office, and that because of the “he said, she said,” nature of the case, the parties’ credibility is crucial. And while Mayer was willing to participate in a fact-finding conference to have her credibility assessed, Dorn was not, Beauchesne wrote. The psychiatrist also provided no explanation of how Mayer would have received a photograph of him and his wife if he never sent it.
“The complainant is not required to prove that she was denied any and all treatment in order to establish that she was denied equal access to a public accommodation,” he wrote. “The fact that the complainant may have received adequate or even exceptional psychiatric treatment does not alter the fact that she was entitled to receive such services without being subjected to unwelcome inappropriate touching and/or sexual comments.”
If the commission agrees and finds reasonable grounds on the part of Mayer, the commission then offers mediation to resolve the dispute. If the dispute is not settled, she can then sue in Superior Court.