Judianne Densen-Gerber (November 13, 1934 Manhattan, New York - May 11, 2003, Manhattan) was a psychiatrist, lawyer, and moral entrepreneur who “dedicated her professional life to fighting substance abuse, child abuse, battery of women and pornography.” She is thought to have been a pivotal figure in the emergence of Child Sexual Abuse as a concept and professional discipline in the 70s, spreading many misconceptions about stranger danger, unfounded scare-numbers ("billion-dollar" industry) concerning the scale of child pornography at the time, and a resurgence in "white slavery". Obituaries tell of "a conspicuous figure at public hearings, society balls, and ghetto demonstrations with her bouffant hairdo, rhinestone-studded glasses and cigars", whose "theories suggested that drug-abuse was only symptom to an underlying psycho-social spiritual pathology." Despite her success in getting government funding for her project, Odyssey House, in 1983 she resigned her position as executive director after a state investigation found financial irregularities.
Born to parents Gustave Gerber, a chemical engineer and Beatrice Densen, an heiress, she graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1956, Columbia Law School (JD (1959), and New York University (MD 1963). Considered a pioneer in the area of the Therapeutic community, she founded Odyssey House while working as a resident psychiatrist at Metropolitan Hospital. Odyssey House became hugely successful, with facilities in thirteen different states (and one in Australia) and a budget in excess of three million dollars a year. Curing addicts, however - seems not to have been big enough business for her. She and Odyssey House jumped into the Paedophile Witch Hunt at its inception around 1977, turning it into her own crusade of moral enterprise.
Impact on CSA and MAPs
Densen-Gerber was a go-to establishment expert on pedophilia in the mid-late-70s, frequently testifying before the U.S. Congressional Judiciary Committee investigating child pornography. She also appeared on CBS 60 Minutes, wrote books, pamphlets, even papers appearing in respectable professional journals. Highly quoted, she contributed little in the way of light to the debate, infecting most around her with fear of the unknown and outright hysteria. Psychiatrists and researchers who disagreed were often shouted down or threatened with censure for straying too far from the new doxa, with even the powerful and influential Kinsey Institute staying silent. She visited Australia; working with Mary Whitehouse, raising fears of child pornography in the media. In 1978 she came to England and again teamed up with Mary Whitehouse, helping force the 'Protection of Childhood' Act through Parliament.
On August 9th, 1978, the New York Post revealed that she had been accused of financial fraud by a former executive of her Odyssey House, which subsists solely upon government funds and private charitable donations. In addition, her husband Dr. Michael Baden was fired under suspicious circumstances as New York City's Chief Medical Examiner by Mayor Edward Koch. John Malik (Odyssey House controller) during 1974 and 1975 publicly charged that during those two years:
- Odyssey House paid over $ 15,000 for Densen-Gerber's unsold books.
- It paid more than $ 2,200 for her parking violations.
- Densen-Gerber authorized a $500,000 insurance policy for herself paid for by Odyssey House but didn't inform the board.
- Odyssey House paid out over $100,000 for Densen-Gerber's personal expenses, which included such items as furniture repair, tuxedos, birthday parties, massages, cheese baskets, candygrams, social directories and hairdos.
Odyssey House deducted taxes and insurance expenses from employees' salaries but did not pay them. Densen-Gerber pressured two senior Odyssey House executives into 'lending' her $6,000 each in order to meet the down payment on a Connecticut shorefront estate for herself, and then raised their salaries by the same amount. State Attorney General Robert Abrams launched an investigation, finding that former staff members of Odyssey House came forward with bizarre details such as JDG ordering male staff members to parade around in their bathing suits and have their waist sizes measured by her for the winning prize, which was a jock-strap. When a patient at Odyssey House committed suicide, Densen-Gerber reportedly ordered 'Jingle Bells' to be sung at the funeral. When a black male resident was accused of fondling a white female resident while she slept (a charge he denied), he was said to have been forced to sit in a chair for 30 minutes while a group of white women were ordered to spit on him. Others claimed that the census of patients was tampered with to inflate reimbursements from state and local agencies; that patients were kept in filthy conditions and sent to beg for food at supermarkets; that residents were forced to wear paper donkey ears and tails or made to scrub the floor with toothbrushes to learn humility. Densen-Gerber was also accused of using patients as personal servants, asking staff to light candles to pledge their loyalty to her, punishing them for such things as holding hands.
She died in her sleep from cancer. Until 1997, she was married to pathologist Michael Baden. At the time of her death, she was a resident of Westport, Connecticut.
- "The use of the child as an adjunct or tool in fulfilling the parent's aberrant personal desires or needs is a form of child abuse distinguishable from the traditional formulation, yet often more devastating to the child."
She claimed to have jointly coined the term "sexploitation" as:
- "physical or emotional harm to the child arising from 1) use of the child by the parent or someone in loco parentis for his or her own sexual needs, and 2) the use of the child in explicit sexual performances, whether for the purposes of prostitution, sexual exhibition or the production of pornographic materials."
(Both from: Sexual and Commercial Exploitation of Children: Legislative Responses and Treatment Challenges - 1979 Article in Child Abuse and Neglect).
- "Pre-pubertal sexual activity is highly destructive to the child's psychological development"
- Teen-age identity crisis - 1970.
- Drugs, sex, parents, and you -1972.
- Who else in the world can help us? : a sermon - Unitarian Church of All Souls - 1972.
- We mainline dreams : the Odyssey House story - 1973/74.
- Odyssey House: A Structural Model for the Successful Employment and Re-Entry of the Ex-Drug Abuser - article, 1974.
- Walk in my shoes : an odyssey into womanlife -1976.
- A woman doctor talks about rape (recording) - 1976.
- PAN 03 - in which JDG was featured as "Witch of the Week".